For Readers & Writers

from Susan Dennard

January 16, 2015
So, I might be a WEE bit obsessed with the show Galavant. For one, it's hilarious (think Princess Bride meets Monty Python). For two, Joshua Sasse (who plays Galavant) isn't too bad on the eyes... ;)

Are you guys watching this show? What do you think?

For the Misfits:
Events and Latest Musical Jams

First off, I'll be in Detroit this weekend for ConFusion! My first panel kicks off at 5PM today (with Joe Abercrombie!! EEK! Cue fangirling!!!), and I'd love to see y'all there. :)

Next up, there was a new Starkillers chapter! If you didn't get it in your inbox last Monday, then stay tuned--it'll be up on Tumblr next Monday. And of course, be sure you subscribe so you can read the chapters before the general public.

Now, onto my current musical jams! It has been quite a while since I last shared any playlists, and I've both discovered some new stuff and rediscovered some old.

In the "old" department, I have lately fallen back in love with (for the ten bazillionth time) the movie scores for the Lord of the Rings. If you HAVEN'T listened to the incredible Howard Shore compositions, then go. Now. I think my favorite track (from all three movie scores) is "Knife in the Dark" from Fellowship of the Ring. I just love how it covers so many themes in one piece of music!

In the "new" realm,  one of my most favorite composers of all, Trevor Morris, recently released a new video game score. Holy WHOA. The music for Dragon Age Inquisition is downright INCREDIBLE, and it's perfect for writing to!
  • The Theme Song -- This THEME SONG! I cannot stop listening! Seriously, this has been on repeat lately. So epic and so classic fantasy.
  • A World Torn Asunder -- This is the music from the trailer, so no surprise that it packs a WALLOP in a short amount of time!
  • Return to Skyhold -- This has a very LOTR feel to me--but in the best possible way. I love the slow build, and I really think the you can feel that this is a "returning home" sort of song.
I also discovered another score from one of my other favorite composers: Steve Jablonsky. I have to say that I never would've thought a parody of fantasy films would have an epic soundtrack, but in fact, it's the perfect balance of badassery and lighter moments! Seriously: do not miss this movie score.
  • Let us Quest! -- I love the slower development of this song. Then it breaks into an almost sea-faring style at the 2:08 mark. Since my WIP is about pirates and the like, this piece is just perfect.
  • Not In My Castle -- I'm not sure what it is about this piece that has me listening to it on repeat. The darker tones? The synthesized epic tune later on? The soft flutes in the background? All I know is that at the 0:55 mark, I fall deep into daydream land. Cue the travel montage! ;)
  • Heroes Unite -- BRING IT! That's what this piece feels like. Short, but filled with the kickass.
Along with my usual Two Steps from Hell and Thomas Bergersen jams, these soundtracks are really ALL I've been listening to for the past few weeks.

What about you all? What are you jamming to? I'd love to hear in the forum or else in an email!


Please Don't Quit Your Day Job

Quickly: Last night, I did a Webinar for NaNoWriMo (along with the talented SF author, Jason Hough). It was all about revising your novel, and you can watch that video here.

Now moving on: Last week, I got an email from a concerned aspiring author who wanted to know if he could make enough money from writing to quit his day job. Then, if he could do that, how long would it take him? Like, could he plan to be a full-time writer in ~2 years?

I get this question (or some variation of it) a lot, and it's a topic I think is REALLY important for aspiring--and already-published authors--to approach realistically.

Because the short answer is: No, you shouldn't plan on quitting your day job. Ever.

Actually, I always think of the Flight of the Conchords song, "You're So Beautiful," when someone asks me this. Specifically this part, about having to keep your normal job...

Because this industry is TOUGH.

I don't want to sound like Debbie Downer here, and yes, I tell you guys all the time to dream big, work hard, and never give up. I still believe that...

But how long your publication journey will take isn't only dependent on how hard you work or how high you shoot. 90% of publishing is SOMEONE ELSE deciding they like your book.

Like, just because you finish a book doesn't mean you'll get an agent. Just because you have an agent doesn't mean you'll land a book deal. And just because you got one book deal doesn't mean you'll ever get another.

Publishing is wildly, wildly unpredictable.  But let me break this down just a little bit.

To begin with: I don't know how much money you might need to support yourself or your family. What I need to live isn't what you need.

And this brings me to my next point: Authors don't actually get paid very much. There's a pervasive (and I think insidious) belief that authors are ROLLING in the dough, but at the end of the day, the average published author makes $1,000-5,000 per book. Let's say you're a fast writer and can hammer out a book a month...Well, $12,000 a year STILL isn't enough to push you over the poverty line!

Plus, in traditional publishing, the payment schedule is incredibly infrequent. There aren't monthly checks coming in. You'll be lucky to get two checks a year along with royalty statements (assuming you've earned out your advance--which is a conversation for a different day), but if you're like ME, then you could have an entire year with ABSOLUTELY NO INCOME.

Yeah, you read that right. Despite having a trilogy out and a 4-book series on the way, I will not get a single check from my publishers in 2015. This has to do with how publishers schedule payment--and as you can no doubt imagine, it requires some very careful planning on my end.

The next thing to consider is that there are no guarantees. I've had friends who have been writing longer than I have (and have written INCREDIBLE books), but they're still un-agented. Their genre just isn't selling right now, so though agents might like the book, they can't risk taking on a book that won't sell.

I have other friends who have been agented for years yet haven't sold to a publisher. This is neither the writer's nor the agent's fault, but again a reflection of the current market trends. Your book has to hit the right editor's desk at the EXACT moment when that editor (and the entire publishing team) wants a book like yours.

SAD STORY: I have exactly THREE friends who have managed to sell to a publisher...only to have their books cancelled before release. One of them had to return her advance. The other two were able to keep their money, but it was a poor consolation prize.

I have two very close friends who've had their series cancelled after books 1 or 2, so those sequels that they turned in were a waste--and now their readers will never know how the story wraps up!

Heck, until my book 3 was published, I lived in terror that my own series would get cancelled. It happens a LOT more frequently than you might realize.

Finally, I have friends who have sold a book...and then never sold another book again. Even if you're talented and have a published manuscript under your belt, if the timing/genre/market isn't in your favor, then your career could already be over.

Right about now, though, I bet you're thinking that self-publishing sounds like a pretty great option. No gatekeepers, right? Well, there are some MAJOR things to consider right now with self-publishing (scroll down on that link for more info), and these days, the chances for success are just as slim as with traditional publication.

Again: I don't want to be a Debbie Downer who rains on your parade. I also don't want you to be living under a bridge this time next year after your incredible story hasn't sold. Or perhaps it WILL sell, but then the advance isn't enough to cover your mortgage payments. Or you don't sell another book after that, and now you gave up your awesome day job for nothing...

Moral of the story: Dream big, work REALLY hard, never give up...and be as realistic and practical about it all as you can. ;)

Now here are some writing/publishing links to wrap up your week:

And as always, if you have any questions about ANYTHING, drop by the forum to ask. AND REMEMBER: I'm "detoxing" this January, so I won't have another newsletter out for 2 more weeks. Thanks, guys! 

photo by Emily Rae Photography

Copyright © 2014
Susan Dennard
All rights reserved.

110 West 40th St., Suite 410
New York, NY 10018

I'm a misfit, a daydreamer, an animal-lover, and a (now gluten-free) cookie-eater.