by Annette Lyon
In today's post, I'm listing 10 things I've discovered over the years that a lot of writers learn over the years but are generally stuff you pick up along the way and aren't things you learn in your typical workshop class.
#1) Fake phone numbers always start with 555. In fact, no state in the U. S. will give out a phone number with this prefix for this very reason. It's reserved for fake numbers in TV, movies, and books. You'll notice it everywhere. Anytime a guy or girl on a show is giving out their number, it's 555-whatever. Sometimes they try to hide that fact by using the letters on the keypad (like "My number is JKL-4378," but JKL is still 555).
I'm just guessing that this came about after that song in the 80s that kept singing the number 867-5309 (you remember that song, right?). Whoever had that number surely had to change it.
#2) If a book is found in a book order (a happy day for any author, right?), then it's been sold at a huge discount. That means that even though the author will likely sell thousands, they'll get pennies per book. In one author's words, they get paid "in paper clips." And keep in mind, their agent gets 15% of those paper clips.
#3) Most books that are optioned for movies are never made into movies. An option means a person or company has paid the author for the rights to be the one to make the movie over a specified period, say three years. If that time runs out and they haven't made a movie, then the movie rights are up for grabs again. Options can be renewed by the same person/company or bought by someone else, and I've seen that happen. Hollywood is great at optioning. Not so good at actually making movies. That said, I'd be happy with getting an option. It would probably be more than I've made on royalties for a single novel.
#4) Most authors never meet their editors. Even if they live near one another. I lived within thirty minutes of my editor's office for my first two books and never met her. For my next three, I lived in the same city as her office, and finally met her around, oh, book five, I think. We had plenty of e-mail interchanges and phone calls, but there was really no reason for us to meet. We just didn't get around to it. We've seen each other several times since (ironically, usually at social events since she's left the company), and I find that's pretty typical.
#5) With some exceptions (usually at small houses), authors have no say in regards to their cover or title.
#6) As a corollary, sometimes (at least with the huge writers) you can tell how big someone is by how big their name is on the cover. With Danielle Steele and John Grisham, for example, there are times you have to hunt for the title because their names are so big on the cover. That's because of the authors' huge fan base. They don't really care what the book is called; they just want the next one.
#7) Grammatical bloopers, typos, and even factual errors can be put into a book without the author knowing it. This is done by well-meaning but idiot copy editors or others along the line who should be flogged, because the author is blamed for them, but he or she didn't get to see the final proof before the manuscript went to press.
#8) Some lucky writers get ARCs, or Advance Reader Copies. These are uncorrected galleys, meaning that it's the full story, and it looks like a full book, and it may or may not have the actual cover on it--but it hasn't been proofed yet, so it probably has typos and it may even have minor inconsistencies (Sarah's eyes might accidentally turn brown on page 218) or whatever.
ARCs are sent out to reviewers, particularly to large magazines like Publisher's Weekly and Kirkus Review, places where book reviews mean a lot. They require review copies 3 or 4 months before a book hits stores, which means they need it before it's actually gone to press. Hence the ARC, which isn't perfect, but it's as close as you're going to get it before the book is actually on shelves.
#9) There's a good chance your publisher will expect you to do 90% of the marketing and publicity. Just expect it. It's exhausting, and there's really no way of knowing what areas of your efforts are making a dent, but you keep plugging along hoping that something is working, because of:
#10) In publishing, they figure that the past predicts the future. If your last book didn't sell that well, then your next one won't either, they figure. That can mean a rejection. Or that can mean a new release date, during a time in the year when you'll have less competition against heavy-hitters. Or it can mean a gentle nudge to try a different genre. Or, again, it can mean a rejection.
On the flip side, if your last book was a whopping best-seller, then your publisher might be your new best friend, wondering what you can give them next and how fast. It's all a numbers game, a difficult road to travel. One not for the faint of heart.
Wow--didn't expect to go from something as light as fake phone numbers to something so serious.