Romance By Catherine: Top Ramen or Steak?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Top Ramen or Steak?

It's been awhile since I wrote a blog about the business of writing... and today I though I'd give a bit of insight into the life and business of a new author trying to make it in a big sea or books.

Some of you who know me have heard me use the terms - Top Ramen or Steak - For those who don't know me, let me 'splain! LOL

When you first start writing... 'really writing'... which to me means you actually finish a book and go through the effort of editing said manuscript and writing a synopsis and start to query agents or publishers... you actually think that when you sell your one-of-a-kind story you're going to be eating steak and signing autographs! Right? Well, hold on... There are some great articles put out by writers all over the Internet who give the good, the bad and the ugly about the actual paycheck of an author. I'm not going to give you numbers... I'm simply going to use food as a barometer.

When an author receives a e-mail accepting their manuscript for a contract... chances are the author will be able to spring for Top Ramen for dinner. Chances are an e-mail means they are being contracted by a small e-press who doesn't offer any advance of any kind. Once their royalty check comes in... McDonald's may be in the works for a small family of four. Not all e-presses are alike however... sometimes a royalty check can mean a nice dinner out at a trendy restaurant (omit any adult beverages) but be sure and order the special!

Now... if a "call" is received to tell an author that they have sold their masterpiece... Steak Baby! And please order that bottle of wine! For whatever reason, the only publishers who really call their new authors to tell them they want their book are the big NY houses who put their books out in mass market or trade in book stores everywhere. I want to stress here that a celebratory dinner will be in the works... but a every night spree isn't going to happen. An advance is just that, a payment to the author that the author has to earn after the fact.

Most authors I know don't 'count' on their earnings from their stories to pay the rent. Otherwise this blog would be more about the size of cardboard they're living under as oppose to what they are eating.

I recently read a book that was simply awful. And NO, I'm not going to tell you the name of it. I don't do that here! But the entire time I was reading this book I kept saying... "This author ate steak!" UGH! It amazes me sometimes what books make it to the big houses... and why some authors are still eating Top Ramen when they have Steak quality writing.

I know a lot of authors who LOVE their e-publishers to death! I think I will always write some stories for the smaller presses, regardless of when I'm eating steak. (notice I said when? Positive thinking... not cocky) The autonomy of writing for a small press who doesn't hold an author in a small box is worth a lot. I've heard of several steak-eating authors who would love to stop writing historical romance and start writing about vampires... but their steak-calling publishers have tied their hands. Which isn't always a good thing. So hence, I'll take my Top Ramen on the side with my Steak, thank you very much!

So, when the day comes (notice I said when again?) that I write a blog saying- "I'll have my steak medium rare please"... just know that means that I'm earning an advance.

I'll try and order that steak on a cruise ship, too.

So, authors... What are your thoughts? And what did you order when you received "the call" - or cook up when you opened your inbox?


Angel Martinez said...

What's the difference between a pizza and a fiction writer? A pizza can feed a family of four.

Seriously, Catherine, great post. It's like being in college all over again in some ways. You have to eat a lot of Ramen before you can afford steak...

Catherine Bybee said...

I don't know, Angel... My 14 year old can eat a whole pizza by himself! Just

Kaye Manro said...

I like the pizza thing. Even if 14 year olds can eat a whole one!

Great post, Catherine!

Lynne Roberts said...

Great post, Catherine.

You not only deserve the steak, but a bottle of wine to go with it.

Pizza is somewhere between Top Ramen and steak, I'm thinking.

LOL Feeding my family pizza almost costs me the same as buying a steak dinner. : )