Sunday, 8 June 2008


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 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!)
Friend E. confided in me that he was thinking of writing his memoirs and making some quick money. Ha. I handed him a check. A reality check.


Yvonne said...

Congratulations! And thanks for the reality check. I knew things moved slower in the publishing business but I had no idea how slowly! It's good to know.

pierre l said...

I am not a writer (I don't have a blog, but do write quite a few comments). Friend E should write his memoirs and have fun doing so; if he gets lucky and his memoirs are published, and he gets some money for it that would be a great bonus.
In the meantime, "good for you" getting that advance cheque; September isn't that far away.

Guanaguanare said...

Congratulations and best wishes for the future. From strength to strength you'll go!

KAREN said...

Oh blimey, that is a bit of a reality check! It's good job we write because we love it really :o)

Congratulations, though. You definitely, really are a Proper Writer now!! Can't wait to read the novel.

wordtryst said...

Yvonne, welcome to the blog! I also knew that things moved slowly. How slowly has been a revelation, however.

Pierre, good to meet you! That's exactly what I told Friend E.

Guanaguanare, welcome! And thank you for the good karma!

Hi Karen! It's sobering, isn't it? The weird thing is that I'd do it anyway, money or not. Proper Writer sounds pretty good to me...

Flowerpot said...

well done! I'm not published in fiction YET (agent requested full ms last week) but I am also journo and I love getting that check/cheque. It really makes you think it's worth it!

kim said...

Yeah, but your an author!

I love it. Congratulations.

kim said...

you are

Anonymous said...

Was that 9 dollars US or TT? If it was 9 US then your friend could have bought a gallon of gasoline and some fries. Well, at least some fries. - Just joking :) I am not sure what you can get for 9 TT anymore.

A check in the mail is always happy news even if the sum is not princely by Bill Gates's standards.

Congratulations to the author are in order and no doubt the check will also be photographed and framed :)

SpiralSkies said...

Well, the cheque might be small but since when did size matter?

How awesome to finally start earning money from the words you heaved from your mind and put on a piece of paper. Slow or not, it's completely fab.

wordtryst said...

Flowerpot, thank you! That's great news re the agent request. Crossing my fingers for you...

Thank you, Kim. I am, am I not?

akalol, maybe the fries, definitely not the gas, I think. Maybe one gallon? A friend who's visiting Miami just told me he's amazed at how few cars are on the road right now. He said it's so quiet in the city that he almost doesn't recognize it. Thank you for the congrats, and for the idea of photographing and framing that cheque. Now why didn't I think of that?

Spiralskies, of course size matters! Come on, you gotta have something to work with! :) But yeah, fab is the word, and the next one (!) will be bigger, I'm sure.

Debs said...

It may not be millions but it is a cheque (check) you must be so excited.

It's also nice to know that this writing business is slow and it's not just me.


wordtryst said...

Debs, it's not you. This must be the slowest business ever!