My agent sent me an e-mail yesterday with one word in the subject line: Check. Seems my very first check (cheque) is finally ready, and I should receive it in a week or so since it has to wend its way from Manhattan, New York to MyTown, Trinidad.
It's a tiny check. The advance is so small that after the agent deducts her commission and a few hundred for expenses there won't be much left.
In terms of significance, this cheque is a heavyweight. It's my first for fiction, and it marks the transition from 'aspiring' to 'author' for me. I'm gettin' paid, people! Seeing my novel on Amazon was a high, but seeing the cheque will make it... real.
Why is it a reality check? Because of its size, for one thing. The stats indicate that only tiny percentage of fiction writers can live off their work; they all have supportive spouses and/or other jobs that pay the bills. We all hope to beat the stats but the industry wisdom is that you shouldn't give up the day job until you've got a backlist of four or five royalty-earning novels under your belt.
The check underscores another reality: the snail's pace at which things happen in publishing. Take my timeline, for instance.
- September '05: Snail-mailed a handful of queries to agents. Agonizing wait while SASEs trickled back to me over the next four months.
- January '06: Discovered AgentQuery.com. Sent out a bunch of e-queries to agents. Got several requests for partials and one for a full.
- March '06: Agent with the full called to offer representation.
- April '06: Signed with agent.
- April '07: Got 'the call' from agent; novel sold.
- October '07: Got draft of contract.
- November '07: Editor called; ready to discuss changes.
- February '08: Received signature copies of contract.
- May '08: Advance check mailed to agent (days after I e-mailed publisher and asked 'What's goin' on with da check, people?
- June '08: Agent e-mails that check is ready.
- September '08: Proposed release date of novel.
- September '09: First royalty statement due. (A blogging buddy of mine received her first royalty check recently - for the staggering sum of 9 dollars!)