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March 22, 2004

That article in Salon
Posted by Teresa at 04:12 PM *

As I just now said in the Slushkiller thread, “I knew my readers were brilliant, but this is the first time you’ve started commenting about something before I’d finished posting about it.”

The subject that’s cropped up is this article in Salon. Read it, even at the cost of having to watch today’s more-tedious-than-usual admission advertisement. Inane articles about publishing we have with us always, but this one do beat all.

I’m going to post this much, to give the commenters a thread, then come back and keep writing.

Comments on That article in Salon:
#1 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2004, 04:16 PM:

The posts from Slushkiller:

James Angove ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2004, 02:59 PM:

So, has anyone taken a look at this Salon piece yet?

It's written in a style I find extremely difficult to read, but it seems awfully topical.

James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2004, 03:56 PM:
Yes, I saw the mind-numbingly stupid Salon piece. Is Salon the same place that publishes Caleb Carr's ramblings and David Brin's blather?

See my comments on it here, and John Scalzi's comments on it here, and some other folks' comments on it here (and following).

I also wrote a sharp letter to the editor at Salon, but I don't know if it'll be printed.

#2 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2004, 04:21 PM:

Well, my first reaction upon reading the article was to wonder what you or Patrick would have to say on it and to check your sites to see whether you'd blogged it already.

Thought of emailing the link to you, but didn't consider pre-emptively commenting about it on another thread...

#3 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2004, 04:26 PM:

The set of comments I wish I'd heard were Beth Meacham's. As Patrick said to me in chat, "I phoned Beth. She was yelping and whooing as she read." There is no one more fun to tell publishing gossip to than Beth Meacham.

#4 ::: James Angove ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2004, 04:43 PM:

James: Yeah. Salon did the first (George Lucas is a Space Tyrant!) David Brin piece, which I don't really agree with but kind of enjoyed, and the Caleb Carr piece, about which I remember exactly nothing beyond its existence. I can't even remember if there was more than one peice, or if I'm interfiling a book review or two. They then followed up with David Brin's Tolkien piece, which I think we can mark as patient zero in a strange new Brain Eater plague.

This most recent bit seems the oddest though. I can't believe that the editors don't expect scathing responses to this stunning display of inferiority complex.

And its just so incoherent. It was like reading something by someone who's read too much David Foster Wallace, but failed to grasp that DF Wallace is best when he is writing prose that is least like archtypical "DF Wallace prose," which prose starts, after a few unrestrained paragraphs to resemble nothing so much as the text blocks spammers are attempting to use to bypass my spam filters.

Its not just me, right? Salon really has gone to shit, yes?

(note: Teresa, I tacked in a thought that finished gelling after I posted this in slushkiller. I think I'm safe in assuming you don't mind, but I thought I'd be even more safe and ask).

#5 ::: Travis Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2004, 04:50 PM:

Jessa "Bookslut" Crispin has a response here

#6 ::: Beth Meacham ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2004, 04:54 PM:


"A short story collection!" "$150,000.00!!!!" "Her average advance is $80,000 a book. How she suffers!" "I bet Charles Dickens had the same complaints about the iniquities of publishers. I know Herman Melville did."


#7 ::: Zarina N Docken ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2004, 05:01 PM:

Well, I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels this way.

#8 ::: sharyn november ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2004, 05:04 PM:

i read that article and was appalled. who on earth is this woman? what a whiner.

#9 ::: Varia ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2004, 05:08 PM:

Did anyone notice the links to POD publishers at the end of the article?

Appalling, muckraking, lurid prose.

#10 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2004, 05:18 PM:

Nick Mamatas has a very funny piece about it on livejournal

I'm in awe at that woman. Not just the money -- imagine never having done any job harder than writing.

#11 ::: Elizabeth Bear ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2004, 05:20 PM:

Toby & Nick did some math:

I have to say, if I could clear 40K a book, I'd quit my day job.

I think what I love most is the characterization of this as a "tragedy." No, dear heart. King Lear is a tragedy. This is a farce.

#12 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2004, 05:34 PM:

I've expanded my thought, above, on my journal:

#13 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2004, 05:35 PM:

I am inexplicably reminded of a phrase current on a decade ago --

Nice guys do get laid. It's guys who whine a lot who generally don't.
#14 ::: sharyn november ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2004, 05:38 PM:

you know, i thought this woman might be julie hecht, who also wrote an article for the observer -- but i'm sure i'm wrong.

#15 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2004, 05:45 PM:

At least two of the suggestions in the last part, "You can save the endangered midlist author," are actually more about saving the endangered independent bookstore, which is a good cause, too, but not really quite the same as promoting lesser-known authors. People can buy Harry Potter just as easily at Joe's Bookstore as at Megachain.

And to promote my own favorite book-related cause:
I wish she'd mentioned libraries, which are excellent places for readers to find books by authors they don't already know and may not be willing to shell out $20 a pop for. (Hint: many public libraries, the one I work at included, are woefully underfunded and need all the help they can get in promotions and finding creative ways to get both people and books into their buildings.)

#16 ::: gthistle ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2004, 05:59 PM:

I'm finding this issue interesting on two levels-- the plexiglass window into an industry I care about, and the reactions of people who Know Things; and the fact that people think this is new. :) Back in 1999, Salon published an anonymous article by a then-colleague of mine which "exposed" the hypocritical racism of grad students at a premier US public research university. Guess Salon's subscription sales have dipped again.

#17 ::: gthistle ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2004, 06:03 PM:

The race article is still up (sorry for commenting twice; wasn't sure I'd find my hd saved copy).

#18 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2004, 06:04 PM:

Let's all pile on -- here's my response.

#19 ::: Moira Russell ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2004, 06:39 PM:

I really admired the comments about advances (but I guess the story "My agent made a big mistake" doesn't win out over "Midlist publishing is a tragedy!"). I'd have to say that what seems to be the underlying theme of the article -- and why so many of the responses I've seen are dismissive -- is that she seems to expect writing to give her a stable, guaranteed, protected income. Like....a job. As a would-be writer raised by a pianist and a freelance newswriter, I grew up with You Don't Do It For The Money dinned into my ears. The gig you thought was a sure thing for next month falls apart next week. The boss who loved you Monday is fired Friday. The agent who loved your book won't return your phone calls. It happens. Not that it's impossible to make a living as an artist -- far from it, if you're willing to do things like play in a piano bar, which my mother, a Julliard-trained pianist, did -- but it is not stable. And if any artistic family member or friend had ever come into $150K, they'd have realized within a New York second what a windfall it was and squirreled it away accordingly.

But it goes beyond that -- she seems to be saying that if it can't all be like it was with her first book, when she got $150,000 -- she doesn't want to play at all. Without a writer's foolish fantasies -- envisioning Book 5 piled in stacks of 50 in every airport bookstore, its carefully chosen title appearing on the Times bestseller list, my agent calling with breathtakingly, indisputably, non-euphemistically good news -- how can I face the otherwise overwhelming prospect of a book waiting to be written? Say what? Sure, every writer I've known dreams of bestsellerdom -- including me -- being invited on a network morning show, selling hundreds of thousands of copies, suddenly no longer having to worry about juggling the damned bills. But if you sit down to write expecting that to be the only reason you're writing? Madness.

Besides all that, the article seemed riddled with stuff that was just plain, well, wrong, like -- follow up a flop of a first novel with a collection? Not take on some kind of regular column or freelance work to support novel-writing? Or this, the worst klunker in the piece --

By the end of this story I will have broken the most sacred rules of modern authordom. I'll tell you how much my publishers have paid me for the books I've written. I'll tell you how many copies each of those books has sold.

((rolls eyes so far back into head they stick there, and require medical manipulation to work again))


#20 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2004, 07:17 PM:

Beth, Sharyn -- am I missing something, or does that article truly never mention whether her books are fiction or nonfiction? There's a big difference between a story about a first novel that didn't turn out to be as commercial as the editor thought it would be, and a proposal that sounded hot when it was auctioned off, but wasn't nearly so attractive when it was delivered as a finished book.

If the article is a specimen of the writer's nonfiction style, I can see where there would have been problems. It's a complete mess. It looks like three different starts that have been jammed together, but never woven into a coherent narrative.

#21 ::: Mike Kozlowski ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2004, 07:32 PM:

A while back, I blogged about a similar Salon article. That time, it was a pair of programmers who'd been making $200K a year with nothing more DeVry degrees, complaining that they couldn't get jobs like that any more.

While neither those ex-programmers nor this ex-writer deserve much in the way of real pity, I can't help but feel some twinge of sympathy for their shared problem. Because even if you didn't really earn your initial phenomenal success, you probably did get used to it, and it still sucks when the success stops and you go back to struggling like most everyone else. Better to have loved and lost, maybe; but definitely not better to have held the nice six-figure income dream job and lost it.

#22 ::: Charlotte ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2004, 07:53 PM:

Teresa -- the elision of fiction/nonfiction bothered me too. I published my first novel with your parent company four years ago (and my gratitude to George Witte is boundless) for what at the time I thought was a terrible, tiny, awful advance -- as things shook out, I'm grateful that Picador took a chance on me and gave me an advance I could actually earn out. It means my next book has a chance, *and* it means I wasn't tempted to dump my very wonderful day job -- a job that pays enough to allow me to support myself. Sigh. I guess I'm going to have to write a real blog entry ....

#23 ::: Pamela ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2004, 09:25 PM:

Fabulous comments (especially from Charlie Stross).

I was interested in her sidebar, which seemed to suggest that the coming of Amazon and B&N etc. hurt midlist authors. Now, I can see how those stores hurt small independent bookstores (as Lois Fundis points out above), but I don't see the connection to midlist authors.

At least in my own buying experience, big stores (chain or independent) come in very handy when I've just found a new midlist author, because they'll have the author's backlist. I would have thought that would serve to keep older books in print and earning royalties. And even if they're small per book, ten or fifteen books each earning a little have to be worth something, don't they?


#24 ::: Stef ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2004, 09:43 PM:

An excellent illustration of the truism that the perception of poverty is relative.

#25 ::: Beth Meacham ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2004, 09:57 PM:

We do not know for sure if the books in question are fiction or non-fiction. We do not know the sex of the author, either, for that matter.

I suspect non-fiction, because of the reported media bookings. But there's that pesky reference to book 2 being a short story collection. It's quite a muddled account, really. But someone with a collection of mid-90s Publishers Weekly magazines should be able to figure it out, if it's fiction. A $150,000 advance for a first novel would be noted. A writer who got that kind of notice publishing his/her next books with a different publisher every time would also be notable.

Of course, the editors in question know who it is. I suspect the "secret" will be out, at least within the industry, in a week.

#26 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2004, 10:02 PM:

someone with a collection of mid-90s Publishers Weekly magazines should be able to figure it out
I'll confess, I've probably killed more time than it was worth taking the clues given in the article and using Google and Lexis-Nexis to try to piece together who it might be.
We do not know the sex of the author, either, for that matter.
Well, the author has used a female pseudonym and references her husband several times. While the article also says some details have been obscured, I think the gender sounds genuine.

#27 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2004, 10:09 PM:

At least in my own buying experience, big stores (chain or independent) come in very handy when I've just found a new midlist author

One feature of Amazon that really helps midlist authors is the recommendations. I've found some very interesting authors through Amazon who I would never have noticed in a book store. And if I'd noticed them, the cover design was so horrible that I would not have been tempted to pick up the book and see if I'd like it.

Her sidebar just seemed to be taking potshots at large companies for the sin of being large, which is something Salon is particularly fond of doing.

#28 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2004, 10:34 PM:

Charlotte -- this is most politely meant, but Bertelsvölkerwanderung is not Teresa's "parent company." She is, as we all know, closely held.

Slightly more seriously, talking about saving the midlist (and its authors) without mentioning Thor Power Tool shows a certain lack of . . . well, something that was adequately shown lacking.

(Brief recap, which many of you won't need: A number of years ago, tax law was changed to make unsold inventory a taxable asset. Now, this may make sense for power tools, where everyone involved in the production has already received full recompense by the time they get to the warehouse. For publishers, however, it meant that backlist books had to sell at a rate that paid not only for their storage, but the taxes on the stock. So books that might otherwise have sold slowly for years, earning small but spendable royalty checks, were disposed of. Various Congressoids -- particularly the all-purpose phony Gingrich -- made small noises about modifying the law, but nothing's happened.)

#29 ::: Charlotte ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2004, 10:40 PM:

John -- interesting note on the tax issues -- no wonder my book is out of print (or rather "out of stock indefinitely" which means the rights don't revert to me) after three years! I knew it had something to do with storage/inventory issues, but didn't understand the nuances ... as a final indignity, the 200 copies of the paperback I ordered not only never arrived, but were pulped. Thank goodness I ordered a lot of copies of the hardcover when it was remaindered ...

#30 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2004, 10:46 PM:

I read somewhere that the effects of Thor Power Tool on the SF backlist are overstated.

#31 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 12:19 AM:
Beth, Sharyn -- am I missing something, or does that article truly never mention whether her books are fiction or nonfiction?
I got the distinct impression that the first book, at least, was fiction. The pitch line ("Welcome a fresh new voice!") sounds more plausible for fiction, and so does the bit about her fans (which could happen for non-fiction as well, but makes me think fiction).

Of course this assumes those details were not invented.

#32 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 12:37 AM:

Avram -- when you got provenance, you got provenance.

#33 ::: Ogre-Eyed ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 12:41 AM:

>What will we lose if writers like me stop writing?

Not a lot, I'm afraid. Noisy articles, mostly.

This article was vastly annoying on several levels, but the sense of needy entitlement that shines (or oozes) through seems the most annoying of all. How colossally foolish! Most writers I know would love to get a 25k advance. Heck, most writers I've met would be well-pleased with a 5k advance. And EVERY writer I've ever met would probably have a heart attack of joy at a 150k advance. (Every writer I've ever met, without exception, has a day job, wife/husband, kids, car insurance...and no time or money for this lazy luxurious bohemeian lifestyle Ms. Doe seems to prefer).

And here's another thing: it's possible her book didn't sell because *it wasn't very good*. After all, if she populated her book with the sort of pompous needy windbag characters in the salon article, no wonder it wouldn't sell well!

#34 ::: sharyn november ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 01:32 AM:
Beth, Sharyn -- am I missing something, or does that article truly never mention whether her books are fiction or nonfiction?

well, the first one sounded like a novel; she mentions doing research on the second, iirc, which sounds more like n/f to me. remember, she may have messed around with more than a few things, including pub dates.

#35 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 01:45 AM:

I got the impression (rereading the article I'm not sure why, but it was the impression wot I got) that book one was fiction and that the ghostwriting gig was non-fiction.

I dunno. If she thinks she's so harshly used by a Publishing World that Refuses to Keep Her in champagne and Godiva chocolates, perhaps she should get out of the business and decrease the surplus population. More for the rest of us, sez I.

#36 ::: Cassandra Phillips-Sears ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 02:25 AM:

When they say: "Americans read trash, not meaningful books like yours. You'd need to worry if your books were commercially successful."
What that means: "Your next advance -- if there is one -- will be half the size of your last."

What I think: Hey, they're paying me to write, which is something I'd do anyway. How'd I get away with this?

When they say: "Your career is building slowly but steadily."
What that means: "Time to look for a day job."

What I think: Well, she's not reading books, newspapers, or magazines anymore, and she's not watching TV. What else is she going to do with all that spare time in which she's not writing? And if she gets a boss again, it might make her feel more "in control of [her] finances...schedule...priorities and...well-being." It's stupid to work for yourself after you have realized that you are no good at working for yourself, but it's worse to complain about it.

She baits her readers with hints--"I can't tell you who I am, but go find out if you're clever enough!"--and then says telling the truth about my life as a writer is one risk I can't afford to take. It sends the message: "readers and fellow writers, I purport to care enough about you to tell you how it is, but don't care enough about you to tell you who I am." How insulting.

And so I wait. And I wait.

I don't know if she didn't count it as real writing (Salon articles are not deathless prose), or if the idea of authors selling articles on the side didn't fit into her "woe is me" theme, but she failed to mention that she's apparently getting paid for writing the occasional piece while she waits.

#37 ::: Christina ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 02:29 AM:

Perhaps I'm conditioned from too many years of industry discussions on rasfw, but I expected an article on the perils of the midlist to delve into the effects of purchasing heuristics at the big chain bookstores. There was no mention of how midlist authors work around chain buying patterns by using psuedonyms (cf. Kate Elliott, Robin Hobb, David Farland, Rosemary Edghill, etc.) -- for that matter, I kept wondering why Jane Austen Doe's agent didn't simply try to sell her later books under a new name.

I'd like to read an analysis of how the reading preferences of the individuals who buy for the chains affect how manuscripts are bought, edited, and marketed. I'd like to read about the methodology and biases and long-term effects of both the bookstores' and publishers' market research. I'd like to see real numbers for how publisher consolidation has affected the number of working editors, and books published per year, and first novels published per year. I'd like to know what kind of effects, if any, bookstore appearances and local publicity have on sales.

And I'd like to start with benchmarks that identify a midlist author: How many copies printed? How many copies sold?

But I'm kind of a book geek.

#38 ::: Vera Nazarian ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 02:44 AM:

What I'd like to know is, what kind of bizarro world does this Jane Doe Author live in, that getting a $150K advance and then an $80K, etc, is to her an indicator of midlist?

If I were to be offered a $20K advance per book, I'd be well satisfied. Now that's what I'd call nice, solid, maybe even upper midlist!

#39 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 03:35 AM:

Certainly Julie Hecht matches a number of things in the article:

1. Is a married woman
2. Wrote a novel, a short story collection, and a celebrity bio (I think we can call Andy Kaufman [R.I.P.] a celebrity).
3. Touches on a number of the subjects mentioned in the article in her work, which is often autobiographical.
4. Is a whiner par excellence--in fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that much of her work is about whining.
5. Has had some critical success; don't know much about her sales.

But the celebrity bio was under her own name, and many of the stories in the collection were first published in The New Yorker, which I believe still pays pretty decently.

Anyone have any other candidates? It would be fun to know. And perhaps it would be interesting to know some things like: How was the author to work with? Just today, I learned that the editor of a nonfiction book I worked on {which is actually, I think, a good and comprehensive book on its subject) won't be doing any books with the author again. (The author may not know this yet.) Not because the book is bad, and since it's not out yet, there are no sales figures. But the author was such a pain in the neck to work with--demanding round after round of changes, even into blues (which he may end up paying for), while being supercilious and unresponsive to important queries--that I think the editor just doesn't give a damn.

And I continue to bang my head against the wall over another nonfiction book that is incredibly badly written (I mean, like, did-you-write-this-on-acid-or-what? bad) and full of factual errors--but will get fixed up (after driving everyone involved with it nuts) and will probably sell pretty well because of its glamorous subject matter.

So: How was JAD when dealing with her publisher?

#40 ::: Justine ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 06:22 AM:

Christina, it's not book geeky wanting to know "the methodology and biases and long-term effects of both the bookstores' and publishers' market research . . . [the] real numbers for how publisher consolidation has affected the number of working editors" etc. etc.

What you describe would have been a wonderful, useful article. I'd buy any book that covered all those areas. The majority of writing I've read on contemporary publishing are like this Salon one: long on anecdote and misery and short on economic and social research and analysis as to why publishing works the way it does.


#41 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 07:29 AM:

Gee, I wonder if Salon would pay money for a whiney article about the death of independent bookstores....

Poor little rich girl syndrome?

#42 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 07:32 AM:

Mike K. wrote:
A while back, I blogged about a similar Salon article. That time, it was a pair of programmers who'd been making $200K a year with nothing more DeVry degrees, complaining that they couldn't get jobs like that any more.

Locally, without extensive verifiable experience, or direct recommendations from the Ghods, no one with a DeVry or ITT Tech credential is going to get an interview for "decent" jobs...

Our helpdesk at work is full of people who realized too late they wouldn't get anywhere finishing ITT Tech credentials....

#43 ::: Pete Darby ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 07:41 AM:

remind me... did she blame the public yet?

Oops, sorry, she just implied that they were buying the wrong books at the wrong places.

#44 ::: Rebecca Elsenheimer ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 08:28 AM:

My friend Jen has this guess to make:

ETA I want to go on record here as saying that I think the author of the article is Lydia Davis. She was hailed some time back as being one of America's better short story writers, but her first and subsequent novels came out at the same time the author claims her books were published. Furthermore, the author says one of her books got a nice write up by Time Magazine, which Lydia Davis's Samuel Johnson Is Indignant did get during that particular year, and finally that book, which would be Lydia Davis's most recent, was ranked 56000 by today, and since the sale of one book can jostle a ranking by up to 20000, it's entirely possible it had a ranking of 40000 when she wrote the article.

#45 ::: jane yolen ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 08:44 AM:

If the author winges and whines as much in her novels as she does in her Salon piece, I for one will not be buying her books.


#46 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 09:38 AM:

Interesting side-note there about qualifications...

Here in Britain there are all sorts of official certificates you need for jobs, required by a combination of law and insurance. Start with a Food Handling Certificate, which essentially is proof that you know to wash your hands...

Well, maybe a bit more than that.

At least you don't yet need a certificate to be a writer.

#47 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 10:02 AM:

Dave, yes you do need a certificate to call yourself a writer: it's called a finished manuscript.

#48 ::: Tamara Siler Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 10:11 AM:

While I read the article I shrugged at her misfortunes (yep, crappy promotion, lackluster sales, heard it a million times - yawn) but I nearly choked on the advances. Good golly, she's complaining about the money??

I recently sold my first novel and I couldn't be happier. My advance (befitting a genre newbie) was about what I expected. Although she would have surely wiped her nose with it I'm perfectly happy and I'll almost surely earn out. I love my agent, adore my editor, and so far both seem to be very happy with me.

But then again I don't whine. My main questions tend to be variations of "What can I do to help?" She mentioned talking to her editor on a daily basis. Gosh, didn't she ever let them WORK?? I don't bother mine unless I have a reason to and even then it's via email. She has enough on her plate without dealing with my insecurities, and has plenty of other writers to take care of. Same thing with my agent.

Maybe I'm weird but I don't want "mega bestseller" status. I just want to tell interesting stories. I want to enjoy what I do. I want to torture my characters and keep my readers turning the pages. If I strike it rich, so be it. If I don't, that's fine too.

Who with any sense gets into this for the money??

#49 ::: karen leonard ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 10:26 AM:

Re the Salon whine: if I were running those publishing companies, I'd wonder if my buyers ("acquisition editors," sorry) were smoking dope or sleeping with this idiot. Nobody in the paying public seems to want to read this person's stuff. So why are people throwing huge advances at it? Because the people throwing money around keep saying, "what the heck, it isn't my money anyway."
It's not like the world owes this chick a fine living for doing what she feels like--no more than it owes anyone else in the world a fine living for doing what they feel like doing. Does she spend her money for stuff that doesn't suit her just because somebody somewhere made it? I think not.
And selling Nikes is a fine, moral way to earn a living. People need shoes, after all.

#50 ::: Misha ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 10:30 AM:

I don't think it's Lydia Davis, for a bunch of reasons.

First, Davis is also a major translator -- she just published a new version of the first volume of Proust to wild acclaim. And Samuel Johnson Is Indignant was published by McSweeney's Books, not a major publishing house.

Plus, Davis's ex-husband is Paul Auster, and I think if Doe had ever been married to a more famous writer than she was, she would have mentioned it.

(Hi, Sharyn!)

#51 ::: Holly M. ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 10:41 AM:

My goodness, this has been bracing. I once told my husband I'd be lucky (and grateful) to get five figures on a first-novel advance.

150 grand? I could attend every Con in the country to promote my book and still have enough to live on for five years. Jeez.

#52 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 10:57 AM:

Yeah, I did some further looking into Lydia Davis and have similar doubts. Among other differences, Lydia Davis is also about ten years older than Jane portrays herself to be (Jane quit working FT @ 35; just got first job offer in 15 years; Lydia born in 1947)

On the other hand, excerpts of this Salon interview give me a similar impression to things "Jane" wrote...

#53 ::: blackholly ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 12:14 PM:

Reading the article, I kept wishing one of the agents woud tell the author: an advance is so named because it is an *advance* on anticipated monies. It is not a salary. It needs to be earned out or you will get in big trouble.

#54 ::: Winchell Chung ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 12:28 PM:

She quotes from a couple of interesting articles by Jeff Kirvin:

#55 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 12:54 PM:

Boy, is there a Home Depot style store out there that would ship this clown entirely free of charge a new sandbox for her to play in, now that she's finished shitting in the one she built for herself?

Good grief.

#56 ::: Jon Sobel ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 01:12 PM:

What a crybaby. Let her try being a musician for a couple of days.

#57 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 01:20 PM:

Is it such a big deal for an author to quote numbers? I remember reading an article somewhere where Jennifer Roberson (I think it was her, anyway) quoted her advances and sales for the first five years of her published writing career. The gist of the article ran thusly: Don't quit your day job, kiddos. (But unlike the Salon article, Jennifer's numbers were intended to be helpful, not daunting or self-pitying.)

And Jane Austen Doe's numbers don't exactly engender commiseration on my part.

#58 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 01:37 PM:

"Jane Austen Doe"'s whole riff about how she's going to defy the taboos and quote real numbers is, well, crap.

There is no such taboo. Indeed, not only do authors talk about their numbers all the time, some of them can barely be prevailed upon to discuss anything else.

Our policy is that we don't generally divulge the money details of anyone's deal, on the grounds that it's their personal information to give out or withhold, rather than ours. If they want to talk about it, hey, no problem.

#59 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 01:37 PM:


I finally got it. Nice, John.

#60 ::: Pamela ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 01:43 PM:

So I read the articles by Jeff Kirvin (why yes, I should be working... what's your point?) and I'm not convinced. For one thing, I couldn't figure out where Kirvin is getting his information from, since nothing's cited and his bio link doesn't work. But the things he's saying sound a little like publishing's version of urban legends. You know, how back in the Golden Days, someone would have published his book.

I'm also still stuck on the Big Bookstores are Killing the Midlist argument. It's just not matching my current experience of book buying. Does anyone reading this thread work for B&N or Borders or Chapters/Indigo? Do you really do returns every six weeks? Seems unlikely.

It's true that the average turnaround time per book has to be pretty fast (just under three months for an independent store I used to work at, but we didn't pay rent), but that didn't mean that any book around for turnaround+1 day got returned. It's an *average*. Some books sold right out of the Ingram's box. Some books hung around for a while. We'd do massive returns about twice a year, and even then we'd keep some things on the strength of "but we like this".

Granted, that was an independent. So are things really that different in chain land? Did I just prove this guy's point? Or is he also making up stories about that once beautiful world called Publishing?

And if someone would please write the article that Christina suggests above, I for one would pay to read it.


#61 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 02:07 PM:

I have a question, then...

Would someone explain, in more detail, what happens when a book doesn't 'earn out' the advance?

I'd think that the publisher that gave her the six-figure advance for the miserable selling book would have had something to say about it....

#62 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 02:47 PM:

I have to say I was rather incensed by her adoption of the pseudonym "Jane Austen Doe." It implies she considers herself to be in the same league as the author of "Pride and Prejudice," (ironically a novel which is probably close to the top of the All-World, All-Time, All-Universe bestseller list).

Get a grip, J.A.D. And by the way, your paranoid ramblings about your need for a pseudonym indicate that your tinfoil hat is showing.

#63 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 03:44 PM:

Man, what a depressing thread. I can't believe so many people are taking such delight in lambasting this woman. Yeah, she didn't appreciate her luck, she made some bad decisions, and her article is pretty scattered. I sure hope every one of y'all is as good a writer as the real Jane Austen, has never made a bad move, and never, ever whines in public. I wish I could wave a wand and make it so that the next time anyone who's taken a whack at "Jane" complains about some aspect of their life that would not be considered a serious problem by, say, a victim of the civil war in Sudan (remember, kids, there's always someone worse off than you!), a printed-out copy of this comment thread would descend from the sky and whack them upside the head.

That "Jane" is such a jerk! She had the temerity to hope she could make a career as a writer, the folly to take an unrealistic advance, and above all, the gall to complain about it! Why couldn't she be coldly realistic about her abilities, her prospects, and the state of the industry, like every other writer in the world?

#64 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 03:56 PM:

Bill, I second your query. Does the author have to pay it back (in which case it's a loan, really)? Or is it just the profitability of that author to the publisher that's in question?

#65 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 04:09 PM:

"Would someone explain, in more detail, what happens when a book doesn't 'earn out' the advance?"

Often, nothing much. As has been pointed out, "didn't earn out" isn't necessarily synonymous with "not profitable."

An "advance" is an advance against future expected royalties. Ideally, from the publishers' POV, an advance should be in the neighborhood of what the book earns in royalties in the first year of its first editions (say, its first year in hardcover and its first year in softcover).

Some books fail to "earn out" in their first year but go on to sell steadily so they earn out eventually. This can be suboptimal for the publisher (since for cost-of-money reasons, money that's slower than expected to come back carries something of a surcharge), but sometimes it all works out in the end.

Some books (many big-ticket bestsellers come to mind) fall far short of ever "earning out" their inflated advances, and yet author and publisher both make money, because the unit-cost savings at very high printruns offset the higher-than-otherwise-rational advance. In effect, an advance that's 100% "too high" is the same as paying a double royalty, which can work out if your unit costs are low enough. For advanced users only. Don't try this at home.

But to answer Xopher's question: no, the author doesn't have to pay it back, merely because the book underperformed. That's why it's called an advance, rather than a loan. It's one of the points where the publisher assumes risk.

#66 ::: Christina ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 04:11 PM:

Jill, "Jane Austen Doe" is just a play on the more common "Jane Doe" -- I took it as cutesy, rather than conceited.

#67 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 04:21 PM:

Language Hat, far be it from me to deny anyone the right to bitch and moan. JAD's article was an aggravation because she was bitching and moaning about stuff that many of us (me included) would consider immense good fortune, and she appears to be blind to the extent to which some of her behavior would inevitably undermine her.

I have nothing against her "temerity." Temerity is good. And I have myself been in the position of giving advice to writer friends who are being offered advances that they and I knew would never "earn out". (My advice: take the money, use it to improve your life, regard it as a once-in-a-lifetime good fortune.)

What I object to is her gross lack of perspective and her promulgation of a grab bag of myths and nostalgic cliches about my industry. Probably I'm suffering a failure of compassion, but honestly, Hat, some of us have been trying to help new and established and midlist and bottom-list and between-the-stools and worthwhile and complicated writers for many years, and we're just out of patience with people who use their high-profile media perches to make abusive generalizations about how All Editors Do This and All Publishers Do That. Wouldn't you feel the same way in our position? At least to some extent?

#68 ::: FMguru ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 04:48 PM:

I particularly liked the way JAD tried to make herself into the standard-bearer for all put-upon starving midlist authors. Had it ever occurred to her that the reason that there's no money to go around is because it's all being spent giving $150,000 advances to first-time writers?

She took her shot, did better than about 99% of her peers, didn't quite make it to the King/Clancy/Koontz/Crichton tier of infinite wealth, still gets books published and non-trivial advances, and now she's going to portray herself as the ultimate victim and teller of shocking truths about the cruel exploitation of midlist writers?

"I'm only comfortably middle-class instead of mega-affluent! Where is the justice? WHERE IS THE JUSTICE???"

#69 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 04:56 PM:

"The reason that there's no money to go around is because it's all being spent giving $150,000 advances to first-time writers?"

Actually, no, I don't think this is a big factor.

Garguantuan multi-million dollar deals that flop completely -- yes, those will affect a publisher's ability to stretch for midlist writers. But stuff like $150,000 for a book that notably fails to perform--by and large, that kind of thing amounts to just one of several factors that can squeeze a publisher's bottom line.

Unless of course you're doing deals like that every day, in which case, do I have some book proposals for you!

#70 ::: MD ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 04:59 PM:

I hereby issue a standing offer to the entire world that if I ever complain I've made only a quarter-million dollars from my writing, you can come to my front door with a Sudanese war victim and both of you can hit me over the head with whatever you see fit.

#71 ::: sean ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 05:05 PM:

I'm always drawn to these maudlin accounts of how publishing is a siren song that leads to despair. I always get a hang-over after I read them. Harper's Magazine regularly runs this type of essay, too, for some reason.

I was in a short play with a bone doctor. She complained that all she did all day was operate on people's knees and it got really boring after a while. She didn't sound heart-broken and devastated though.

I sometimes worry because I've forsaken a career so that I have more time to write. I have a family that I could better support by working in advertising or banking. I think what really grates about this article is the sense of victimhood. The woman is a published author and she's oppressed because she still has to work for a living. Lame. If her prose is infected with the same kind of ouchfest rambling, then no wonder she hasn't done better. She needs a shrink and a compelling point of view. has some fun stuff on this piece as well.

#72 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 05:08 PM:

I agree with Pamela in wondering how Borders and B&N are bad for mid-list authors.

Whenever we go to any "big city" we take the opportunity to go to a Borders or B&N, because then I can browse other titles by authors I like that I can't find locally, without the committment of ordering the books from a local store.

It also gives me the option to look at different kinds of books that my local bookstores don't have. I love folktales and fairytales, but I can't find many collections locally, so going to a mega bookstore gives me an opportunity to look through such collections.

Typically this means I'll buy books that I would never otherwise have purchased, because I simply didn't know they existed. (In fact we usually set aside money for buying books when we travel, just for this reason.)

How can this be a bad thing?

#73 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 05:15 PM:

I've decided to take one of the steps Ms. Doe suggests would help mid-list authors.

I've decided to "think."

Also, I've begun to "read" and "enjoy culture."

What a wonderful change of pace! A little taxing, though.

#74 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 05:33 PM:

'"Jane Austen Doe" is just a play on the more common "Jane Doe" -- I took it as cutesy, rather than conceited.'
the play is in the nature of a classification, Jane Doe classifies one as an anonymous female human, the Austen further specializes this classification to indicate a profession of writer.

#75 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 05:40 PM:

Thanks Patrick.

As usual, I read the comments thread, and commented on the comments, before reading the actual link. I'm dorky that way. Now that I have read the link, I wish I'd made the following as my initial comment:

Oh, barf.

#76 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 05:51 PM:

Teresa, what happened to your original (longer) post on this story?

#77 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 06:04 PM:

I promise you, JAD's Complaints About the Industry are exactly the same laundry list one always hears, year in and year out, always delivered with a vastly self-important air of urgency about this dreadful new development. I heard several versions of it that were nearly indistinguishable from JAD's when I first came to work in the city.

The line about how, gasp shock horror, publishing is a business now, was especially irritating. It's always been a business. What did she think it was, an autonomous collective?

To me, this is a story about a writer who, by astounding good fortune, gets a $150,000 advance on his/her first book, and then watches it sell 10,000 copies total in hardcover and paper combined. That is neither bad luck nor a setback. It's a disaster. Further, while there might be other interpretations of these events, my take on the second book being offered to the same publishing house for zero advance, and the house declining it anyway, is that they didn't think it was their fault that the book tanked.

This is a bad place for an author to be. Make-or-break career-mending moves are in order. So what does the author do? She works on a short story collection. Of all the common varieties of fiction, that one's the chanciest, the hardest to sell, and the least commercial. Authors who don't have some notably successful books to their credit are not going to sell a collection, even if some of the stories in it have been published in respectable venues and nominated for awards. An author whose first book has been a spectacular failure should not go near the form.

Any agent who's old enough to eat without a bib would have told JAD as much. I can't believe this agent didn't make that clear to her. You can think what you will of her sense of long-term strategy, but an agent who can get a $150,000 advance for a first book has a solid grasp of the mechanics. I have to think JAD was either too stupid to understand what a bad move she was making, or too full of herself to listen to her own agent.

If the story collection really did get turned down by ten different houses, her agent did a lot of work on behalf of a property she must have known was a marginal-to-impossible sale.

Her agent also got her a gig ghosting a celebrity bio. Since JAD doesn't bitch about the money -- we know she thinks $10K is ridiculously low -- I have to figure it was a fairly cushy deal. That's a very good thing for an agent to do for an author whose career is in tatters. But is JAD happy? She is not. The book becomes a bestseller, but those sales numbers don't attach to her personal sales record.

Here I become exasperated.

JAD knew when she took the assignment that it was an anonymous gig. You don't -- you can't -- get credit for the sales figures when your contribution to the book was formally anonymous. What are you going to do -- claim you sold thus-and-such number of copies of an otherwise unidentified book?

Second, it doesn't appear to have occurred to JAD that the sales of that book might have been influenced more by the fame of its subject than by her own deathless prose.

I know lots of people who've written tie-in novels for various franchise series. They all know why a slight Star Trek tie-in novel sells better than their own beloved standalone books. I'll bet that if JAD phoned one of them, they'd very kindly explain it to her.

John Scalzi got it right. This author has a sense of entitlement bigger than your average city block. Those of us who spend a lot of our days trying to make things better for authors who haven't gotten nearly as many breaks as she has, and who've nevertheless taken the ups and downs with far more fortitude, responsibility, and understanding than she's displaying, may perhaps be forgiven our impatience at hearing about JAD's supposed tragedy.

#78 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 06:04 PM:

I'm aware of the construction "Jane Doe" to signify "anonymous female," and I did understand the inclusion of "Austen" to signify "writer." Your opinion is that it's cutesy - mine is that it is conceited.

Actually, I think it's both cutesy *and* further evidence of her conceit (which the body of the article confirms). To both, I reiterate Xopher's "barf."

#79 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 06:12 PM:

Honestly, despite what Teresa's recent correspondent suggests, we don't actually sit around routinely slagging off writers (aspiring or otherwise) on an ongoing basis.

Quite the contrary, we spend a great deal of our energy trying to figure out to publish (and, more challengingly, how to keep publishing) writers who aren't going to be bestsellers but ought to be published anyway.

What you're seeing is impatience and exasperation born of too much time in the trenches. Not an inclination to dropkick authors. (Most days.)

#80 ::: Stephan Zielinski ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 06:13 PM:

Harry wrote:
> I've decided to take one of the steps Ms. Doe suggests would help mid-list authors.
> I've decided to "think."
> Also, I've begun to "read" and "enjoy culture."
> What a wonderful change of pace! A little taxing, though.

I took the opposite tack. I watched network TV for two hours, followed it up with a DVD of pro wrestling, and microwaved a Prokofiev CD.

Half a dozen midlist authors jumped off the Golden Gate. I like to think of it as doing my part to clear shelf space for *my* crap.

#81 ::: Erin Denton ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 06:37 PM:

Where was her management during all of this? Why didn't her agent make it clear that her first advance was a fluke, and she should save some money (or move to Kansas?) Why didn't someone tell her that she should have made sure that production companies bought rights to her book before a random screenwriter wasted her time? (Want to see some foolishly humorous advice for screenwriters? )

Her whining is annoying yes, but it seems that all of this could have been headed off at the pass by a good and committed agent/cy. (I do realize that not even the best of advice can stop some people from being dumb, however.) And while i don't want to feel bad for her, if she really did get completely bad advice from different people and repeatedly followed, i still don't feel bad for her.

Her article is like a bad blog entry, jumpy, incomplete, and not honest enough with itself.

#82 ::: James Angove ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 06:48 PM:

Jill: I'm not sure its fair to lay the Jane Austen Doe bit on JAD, tempting as it is. I think its at least as likely that Salon's editoral staff thought it was clever as it is that she submitted it like that.

Incidentally, can anyone explain how an article like that one would get shopped around and/or solicited? Does Salon go looking for someone who will take the tack they like, or does the author submit a proposal, or something else.

#83 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 07:01 PM:

Wouldn't you feel the same way in our position? At least to some extent?

Oh, absolutely. As I think I implied in my comment, I'm aware of her deficiencies, and had the thread been uniformly positive, bemoaning her plight, I would have been eager to make some of the points that have been made here. It's the uniformity and the glee that bother me. It's like everyone is kicking her with extra savagery because they're all thinking "if she suffers enough, maybe I won't be next."

#84 ::: FMguru ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 07:20 PM:

One of JAD's complaints was that back in The Good Old Days, publishers used to shepherd along promising authors through money-losing book after money-losing book, in the belief that they eventually break-out and make everybody rich. Well, guess what? If a publisher is patiently losing money on authors who are still struggling towards break-even status, then they have a lot less money to spend on new authors, much less giving them $150K advances. if the system had worked like she wishes, she probably would have never gotten a first contract, much less a six-figure advance. She would have never been able to quit her job and spend the last decade or so working solely as a writer. So what's her beef?

Her insistence on portraying herself as a "midlist" author also rankles. It's like your well-to-do acquaintance, with his $1.3 million dollar house, twin SUVs and timeshare in Vail complaining about how squeezed the middle class is these days, with these taxes and all the goddam welfare cases. I get the sense that she considers anyone without the last name King or Rowling or Clancy to be part of the struggling midlist.

#85 ::: Beth Meacham ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 07:45 PM:

Well, truthfully, with net sales of 10,000 copies in trade hc and mass market combined, JAD is rather less than mid-list.

She snarked.

#86 ::: Nancy Hanger ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 08:03 PM:

I have to say, that article was the most self-aggrandizing, self-pitying, self-important (is there a pattern forming here?), and self-entitled piece I've read in years (and I see a lot of "oh, poor me" mss. pass over my desk in a year). Full of misconceptions, myths, and just plain stupidity.

I'm now a "mid-list" author myself (and guess what: I didn't quit my day job as an M.E.; our heroine of the essay is a stupid sot to have ignored rule #1: don't quit your day job). I got $10K for my first nonfiction book and thought that was a damn good deal, and still think I'm pretty lucky to have made such a good advance. From what I know of the industry, I know it was a good deal and I think my agent is an angel.

What this article proved was perhaps why she can't palm a ms. off on an editor now: she's a grand pain in the ass, and everyone in the industry knows it. Editors do indeed talk to each other (and so do production and copy editors). And guess what? Now that she's had a temper tantrum in public, everyone knows it.

Bah. Salon should be ashamed that they paid for the essay.

#87 ::: Nancy Hanger ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 08:09 PM:

James -- In answer to your question about Salon's editorial and buying policies:

I believe they are similar to most of the mags I've written for (including WIRED News), where you, the writer, pitch and plead to an editor of the particular section in which you think your piece would fit.

They pay per word, though sometimes in a few cases I know Salon has instead paid a fixed rate for a full piece. They pay under the standard rate in the industry, btw, even in these times. I have colleages in the Internet Press Guild who have kvetched about Salon's pay rate several times.

#88 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 09:15 PM:

They pay per word, though sometimes in a few cases I know Salon has instead paid a fixed rate for a full piece.

Yes. I sold a piece to them in July 2000 and it was fixed rate (not that I'm complaining--several other mags had turned it down over several months).

#89 ::: Jack Womack ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 09:19 PM:

>>"It's like everyone is kicking her with extra savagery because they're all thinking 'if she suffers enough, maybe I won't be next.'"

Next what? Next to suffer through the burning off of a cool quarter million, minus agent's fees and the cost of freelance publicists?

#90 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 09:35 PM:

Language Hat writes:

"It's like everyone is kicking her with extra savagery because they're all thinking 'if she suffers enough, maybe I won't be next.'"

I believe it's more along the lines of "someone who doesn't recognize good fortune when it happens to her deserves to be beaten."

#91 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 09:58 PM:

For those who think the critics are too harsh, remember:

1. This woman is complaining (and getting paid to do it!) - but because she is by most accounts successful, to other published writers her complaints come across like a Hilton sister complaining about her allowance. This is known colloquially as "whining."

2. Everyone's career is plagued by competitors who might be considered to be technically inferior. Complaining about (and castigating) those people's successes in the field she considers particularly her own just reiterates and reinforces her whine. How many careers could you be the #1 success at if you were only appreciated properly?

3. For the "Are you so perfect - who are you to judge?" subgroup - do you have to be a gourmet chef to recognize a poorly cooked meal? Can only a Formula One race car driver recognize a quality automobile? Appreciating good (or deploring bad) writing does not require Austen-like writing powers.

#92 ::: FMguru ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2004, 11:05 PM:

Salon has printed some of the letters they've gotten in response:

Neil Pollack, of course, gives the best response.

#93 ::: Stephan Zielinski ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2004, 01:22 AM:

I like Pollack's, too, but I think I win the ultra-short division. (No, it wasn't edited down.)

#94 ::: Abigail ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2004, 06:52 AM:

Michelle, I agree with you completely about big chain bookstores. I live in Israel, and have always read mostly in English, and it sometimes drives me crazy to hear US/UK people complain about big bookstores.

My first experience with chain bookstores was in 1995 - pre Amazon, and in fact several months before I went online for the first time. I was 14, and visiting my aunt in Rochester for Passover. I was given a nice cheque as an Afikomen gift, and my aunt agreed to drive me over to the 'local bookstore'.

To call the experience religious is probably selling it a little short. It was an entire building. Devoted to books. They. Had. Shopping. Baskets. There was more than just one shelf of SF/F. I think I still have the receipt somewhere. In the intervening decade, the awe has receded, but I still make it a point, whenever I'm abroad, to find the biggest bookstore I can find and just go crazy.

I had a scary moment a few weeks ago when I realized how many of my all-time favorite books were discovered while browsing Amazon, or in a mega-bookstore in the States or in London. If I hadn't had those resources, I never would have read Cryptonomicon, Possession, Perdido Street Station, City of Saints and Madmen and many other fantastic books that I've never even seen at my local bookstore. Without chains, my reading life would be poor and limited, and I'm terribly grateful that they exist.

#95 ::: Pete Darby ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2004, 08:01 AM:

Damn you, big bookstores! Damn you with your good lighting, and wide range of stock, and ability to search your catalogues myself! Damn you for being almost as convenient and easy to use as that painted jezebel,!

But most of all, damn you for treating bookselling as a business! Who do you think you are: PUBLISHERS?!??!?!

PS. Please also damn readers for continuing to buy books by authors they know they enjoy, rather than risking their money, time and attention on potential whiners. Thank you.

#96 ::: E.E. Knight ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2004, 08:15 AM:

I enjoy a good dose of schadenfreude as much as anyone, but the Diet Coke splattered across screen and keyboard when she called $10,000 a "Minuscule advance."

I'm a bit surprised neither agent nor editor sat her down for the "this is how it works" conversation. Perhaps they did and it was forgotten in the undoubtedly heady rush of depositing a six figure advance.

She might have done better to watch the wonderful new DVD edition of "Schindler's List" before penning her tale of woe. Personal tragedies, like advances, are all a matter of perspective.

#97 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2004, 08:21 AM:

I liked Sam White's, too. The one that starts

OK, before I make out my check to Jane Austen Doe to support her flagging career let me first say: Omigod, how dare you?

#98 ::: Holly M. ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2004, 09:46 AM:

Another good bit by Neal Pollock about writers(and apropos, too!).

One Writer's Routine

#99 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2004, 12:30 PM:

Jane Austin Doe and M. J. Rose (another Salon essayist) definitely need to get together. Someone give them a bale of Kleenex, too.

#100 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2004, 01:21 PM:

If someone offers me $150,000 for my first book, I will probably die of a heart attack, rendering the advance useless to me.

If I then fail to sell sufficient copies to justify the advance, and I subsequently complain about my next, mere $30,000 advance, will someone please smack me?

Er. Well, except I'd be dead. Insert your own joke about ghost writers here.

#101 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2004, 01:53 PM:

And to think I was ecstatic for days because the non-fiction article I spent two weeks writing was accepted by a non-profit (and non-paying) website.

What's wrong with me?

I should be whining because I can't add it to my numbers even though it got linked to Slashdot and was seen 20,000 readers.

I should be whining because I didn't get paid even though the stuff I found will probably be used by IBM's lawyers when the case comes to trial.

I should be whining because the article got 125 positive comments on the site I "sold" it too, and also got three hundred slashdot comments and I can't count those as "reviews."

Boo Hoo HOOOO!!!

Thank you, Jane Austen Doe, for setting me straight. My whole world is pain.


#102 ::: Dot Imm ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2004, 02:05 PM:

Wow, these comments are fascinating. But now I'm confuzzled. I've read in places other than JAD's article that the demise of independent bookstores hurts midlist writers. Also, that the big monster houses with 15 imprints let midlist writers shrivel on the vine in a way that did not use to be the case.

Are these myths? Completely untrue? A little bit true?

#103 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2004, 02:16 PM:

Depends on what kind of "midlist writer" you're talking about.

Certainly in SF and fantasy, the big-box chain outlets (B&N and Borders, as opposed to mall stores like B. Dalton and Walden) have been good for our midlist, whereas with a few sterling exceptions most small "independent" stores aren't terribly helpful.

My neighborhood's pretty typical. The local independent store is excellent for contemporary literature and nonfiction, but the SF section is totally perfunctory; their few feet of shelf space are dominated by pop bestsellers you can find anywhere, and I've never seen them highlight an SF or fantasy title by a local Brooklyn author. Down the street there's a block-long Barnes & Noble with an SF and fantasy section the size of a parking lot, and local SF writers' works show up in the front-of-store display on a regular basis.

This is because a lot of independents are run by people who don't much like SF and fantasy, whereas the big chains are run by people who don't care what it is so long as their computers tell them it sells. Sometimes, a nakedly numeric approach creates more space for art, rather than less.

#104 ::: Jonquil ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2004, 02:56 PM:

When my friends recommend a mid-list writer, I can almost never find her book in any of my local bookstores, either big-chain or independent, unless the book is still on the new releases shelf.

In my experience, the obscure writer's best friend is Amazon. I can find backlist at Amazon. I can find books 1-4 in a series when the current release is book 5. Without Amazon, I'd have a much more restricted reading list.

#105 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2004, 03:12 PM:

Just to follow up, in my experience the reader-of-obscure=writer's best friend is your local library.
I will often use the online booksellers to skim reviews and narrow down my choices, but when it comes to finding the books, the libraries in my area rule!

My only complaint from this practice involves this one book I liked so much I decided I needed to own it -- and not only is it out of print, but the only copies ABEBooks can find cost over a hundred dollars! Sigh. I've put a request in with the catalogers that if they ever weed that book from their collection, to let me know because I'm interested...

#106 ::: Christina Schulman ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2004, 05:54 PM:

Lis Riba said:

this one book I liked so much I decided I needed to own it -- and not only is it out of print, but the only copies ABEBooks can find cost over a hundred dollars!

Out of curiosity, what's the book?

Always specify a title! Eight or nine years ago, a kind stranger sent me his spare library-sale copy of Neal Stephenson's The Big U after I whined online about having just slightly too many ethics to steal it from my local library. That sort of favor has to be repaid by doing the same for others.

It can't hurt. Unless you're looking for the Codex Seraphinianus, in which case you're pretty much out of luck.

#107 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2004, 06:12 PM:

Yes, what book, Lis? Inquiring minds want to know (and rabid bookfinders want to help you!).

#108 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2004, 06:25 PM:

You can order the Codex from Italy. I don't know the details, but my wife researched it and got it for me for Christmas the year before last, much to my surprise and delight.

I loaned out my original copy of The Big U and never got it back. Fortunately, it's in print again.

#109 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2004, 07:11 PM:

Christina Schulman wrote:

> It can't hurt. Unless you're looking for the Codex Seraphinianus, in which case you're pretty much out of luck.

Wow - nothing on AbeBooks under $US325. I'm sure they had some much cheaper copies up a few months ago.

I sometimes look at my copy with bemusement - I bought it for about $AU120 back when it came out, and can't believe it has somehow morphed into this expensive collectable object. Not that the price matters, as I'm sure as hell not letting go of my copy...

#110 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2004, 08:02 PM:
You can order the Codex from Italy. I don't know the details, but my wife researched it and got it for me for Christmas the year before last, much to my surprise and delight.
You can order it from Franco Maria Ricci, the publisher (or buy it at one of their shops, if you happen to be near one - I don't believe there are any in the US). However, it's still expensive - about $180 three years ago, and certainly more now with the dollar/euro rate where it is.
#111 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2004, 08:14 PM:

Interesting to see the comments on big chain vs. independent, especially by those in a position to know.

Back when I was living in the UK, my best bookshop was the local branch of Waterstones. It had a fairly reasonablely sized sf section, largely taken up with Names and franchises, but with a good sprinkling of other stuff - including quite a few imports. This was because they had an sf buyer who was actually into sf, as I was told when I asked if they could get an obscure import for me (pre-Amazon days). Apparently the guy had catalogues from *everyone* who imported sf into the UK, and loved an excuse to get yet another title in.

By way of contrast, there was the small independent chain where I enquired why something was shelved in the children's section when I knew it to have more sexual content than many parents would be happy with, and was told by the assistant that the manager considered all sf to be childish by definition and insisted on shelving it according to his prejudices. Ditto an independent bookshop.

#112 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2004, 10:19 PM:

My experience with the "Local vs. Mega" is a bit skewed, as in Winnipeg, the best Locally owned "independant" bookstore (The owner can be found *in the store* fairly regularly) is a Mega-store. They've grown into a bit of a chain across a couple of provinces, but the core branch is HERE, and they started as a single store indy.

I've known some of the people working there for over a decade. They have the love for local authors, and the attention to those same authors, that one might expect of a small local independant (Little genre snobbery, either, at least not in my experience). They also have shelves and shelves and shelves ....

Sadly, their website needs some work as you have to know what you're looking for... but nobody's perfect.

#113 ::: Simbelmyne ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2004, 11:16 PM:


Sorry it took so long for a reply; I only check here once a day or so.

I am currently a wage slave for Waldenbooks (owned by Border's). We do returns once a month. Given, we can do this because we are a mall front store and not a super-standalone-monstrosity of a warehouse bookstore (excuse me, my envy is showing through...) so it's not so huge a problem to scan every book in the store once a month.

What is frustrating is returning books on Monday and seeing them in the shipment on Thursday. I really wonder how much money the company is throwing away on just moving books around.

#114 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2004, 09:03 AM:

The book I'm so desperately seeking is actually King James and the History of Homosexuality by Michael B. Young. I've read it at least thrice cover-to-cover and find it fascinating and entertaining and enlightening. [Is it bad of me to laugh when I read an account that the Spanish Ambassador to England from 16I3 to 1621 referred to as "'the Butte-slave' of Christendom"? Maybe it's because the speaker and subject have been dead for 350 years, maybe it's the archaic spelling, maybe it's because I don't think the target of these accusations was gay... It just amuses me.]

At any rate, I've gone so far as to contact both the author and publisher to see if they have copies left (they don't). actually lists the book as "usually dispatched within 4 to 6 weeks" so I placed an order with them back in January. After the first 4-6 weeks passed, they emailed me that they needed an extension. Their "updated estimated dispatch date" is nearly past and they still haven't shipped it, so I have my doubts that they'll come through...

#115 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2004, 10:29 AM:

Lis, on the Amazon listing there are three used copies. One for $80. Not much under $100, but 20% is nothing to sneeze at.

#116 ::: sharyn november ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2004, 12:44 PM:

by the way, if anyone still cares about JAD, apparently gawker thinks it's amy bloom!

#117 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2004, 04:16 PM:

Oddly enough, the one listed on ABE is listed through a different services as $89.50 (getting back to Queen James, as Gaiman had Shakespeare refer to him). Try as well. I generally do both as different books turn up even at ABE (neither one is a superset of the other).

#118 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2004, 04:26 PM:

Tom, I'm told that the chant around London when Elizabeth died was "Elizabeth was King - now James will be Queen!"

#119 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2004, 05:00 PM:

Xopher, while it is entertaining, the 'King Elizabeth, Queen James' slogans were not contemporary. The earliest uses of that phrasing that have been found were from pre-Civil War tracts, during the reign of James' son, Charles I.

It's a really fun and well-done book, which is why I want it so badly. Very thorough and readable on James' personal history, how we know he was gay (he enjoyed creative wordplay in his personal letters to his love), what contemporaries apparently thought about it based upon their writings, how historians have treated the subject over the years... and it provides enough context tht you don't need a prior grounding in Jacobean history.

Even though the concept of homosexuality as an orientation is a relatively recent phenomenon, the attitudes portrayed in writings of the period seem remarkably contemporary and nuanced, rather than the expected demonization of "sodomites" as monsters. [Darn, my library copy is at home, otherwise I'd be sharing another joke from the time.]

At any rate, every time the Bible thumpers get all agitated about gays, I find myself wanting to reread and reference the book. Even though James only commissioned the translation that bears his name, Bible thumpers who quote the KJV seem to get so uptight at any mention that James' own sexuality wasn't as straight as they might wish.

#120 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2004, 05:58 PM:

How was it that James himself could be a homosexual and yet also commission the King James Bible with its prohibition of homosexuality?

Two possible answers: (1) Compartmentalization and denial are wonderful things. (2) The ban on homosexuality was considered obsolete, like the kosher laws and laws about segregating lepers and selling daughters into slavery.

There have long been rumors that Shakespeare was a bisexual, citing the sonnets as evidence - a recent documentary says that the sonnets seem to in fact have been written by Shakespeare after the death of his 11-year-old son, Hamnet. I don't remember the sonnets all that well - I don't remember whether there are any sexual references. Certainly, "Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer's Day" and "bare ruin'd choirs where late the sweet birds sang" can be read as a father's lament over a son who died as a boy.

#121 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2004, 06:10 PM:

(2) The ban on homosexuality was considered obsolete, like the kosher laws and laws about segregating lepers and selling daughters into slavery.

Didn't they segregate lepers until the 1950's or later?

#122 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2004, 06:17 PM:

Oh, I'm not having any problem reconciling them, Mitch. James also personally wrote an essay to his son on how to be a proper king in which he directly condemned sodomy.

But a lot of Bible-thumpers seem to have issues, given how vehemently they try to refute every last bit of evidence of what he really did. They protest way too much. [I mean, fathering children doesn't mean one is heterosexual -- even Oscar Wilde had two kids!]

#123 ::: Rachel Reiss ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2004, 08:11 PM:

Back to JAD for a moment:

Was that even in English? If the Salon piece is what JAD considers a professional piece of writing, I am shocked and horrified that anything she's ever written was bought and paid for.

Or I would be, if it weren't for the fact that authors like Danielle Steele, who don't appear to write in any recognizable language whatsover, sell big time.

#124 ::: Alice Keezer ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2004, 09:28 PM:

Mitch - we debated this in our 300-level Shaekespeare undergraduate course, actually. Never came up with a satisfactory answer. The first 100 or so (?) are definitely addressed to a "young man," which some scholars argue was a real person; others argue he was hypothetical. In any case, these sonnets urge the young man to marry and procreate, because it would be such a shame for his beauty to simply fade away before being passed on. The later sonnets leave out gender and are addressed toward a faceless "you," for the most part, and are very romantic. Some might fit the description you give, while one in particular speaks of Mr. Shakespeare lying in bed dreaming of the person the sonnet is addressed to coming to him in his sleep. Something along those lines. The class came to a consensus that many of them were sexual in nature, but couldn't agree on whether they were addressed to the same person as the latter few.

#125 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2004, 11:16 PM:

Salon's posted a second round of letters to Jane Austen Doe, including missives by Jane Yolen and Elizabeth Moon...

#126 ::: Alice Keezer ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2004, 12:33 AM:

*reads the comments*


*rushes out to buy as many of Jane Yolen's books as she can find*

Okay, so I can't afford that right now. And I have a stack of library books to read, anyway. But, but . . .

If a whiner like JAD can make a $150K advance, and Jane Yolen has NEVER made that on any of her books . . .

Where's the justice?

My naivete is showing again, isn't it?

#127 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2004, 01:33 AM:

Weighing in on the indie-vs-big-box stores issue; I have worked at both - as an assistant manager for about a year at a fantastic (now defunct - at least one branch) indie, and then in various supervisory capacities at B&N, with a short stint at Walden.

What eventually did the indie I worked at in was not the B&N that moved in a block away; while that certainly didn't help, it didn't hurt as much as many people think. The amount of foot traffic the big store brought in offset the losses in Hardcover and discount sales. What really killed it was the crazy rents. (I could talk about government tax subsidies if I had the energy to get my facts straight).

As a bookstore employee, I noticed the same amount of knowledgeable people in both B&N and the Indie. Every person I ever worked with (OK, with the exception of some of the Walden employees) worked at the bookstore because they loved books. At the B&N, the supervisors of each section had a special affinity for the departments they had to merchandise. I started out with the department that included nature and history, and transferred to the Fiction dept, genre fiction being my specialty. I was able to order books I thought would sell well, as well as beefing up a few favorites.

Returns were an ugly neccesity - there would be no room to shelve the new books coming in if we did not cull some of the old. We were put on a schedule (i.e., your department should be scanned through each month) but since we were all human, some books which were scheduled to be returned stayed on the shelves just because we loved them.

I was terribly disappointed when, only months after we moved here, Dangerous Visions became online only; the breadth of their selection was fantastic. But I refuse to feel guilty for shopping at the big stores. Books are books, and the profit margins are so small (compared to t-shirts, anyhow) that I'm just thankful I can buy them at all.

#128 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2004, 10:23 AM:

Lis Riba: Oh, I'm not having any problem reconciling them, Mitch. James also personally wrote an essay to his son on how to be a proper king in which he directly condemned sodomy.

You don't have any trouble reconciling them? How do you reconcile them?

I'll advance two more theories: (1) James was, like the Jimmy Swaggarts, Jerry Falwells and Roy Cohns of today, a big ole honkin hypocrite. (2) I do know that definitions of sexual identity have changed over time. Even 100 years ago, men would occasionally have homosexual sex for recreation, but considered themselves 100% heterosexual he-men. I'm told this is still pretty commonplace in non-Western cultures. Likewise, in some cultures, it's considered OK for men to pitch, but not to catch.

#129 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2004, 10:45 AM:

You don't have any trouble reconciling them? How do you reconcile them?

Well, the easiest way to understand is by reading King James and the History of Homosexuality by Michael B. Young. There's an entire chapter dealing with the topic of sodomy. So it's rather hard to sum up without having the book in front of me, which is not something I can do until lunch.

To address one of your points, though:
ban on homosexuality was considered obsolete, like the kosher laws
Absolutely untrue. The prohibitions on sodomy were taken very seriously in the period, and church teachings tended to demonize sodomy as much as papism and other monstrous practices.
But keep in mind the difference between what you wrote and what I wrote. The prohibition was against sodomy not homosexuality, so it's possible that as long as James and his favorites didn't practice that one particular act, he wouldn't've seen it as that contemptible behavior he so roundly condemned.

To write more, I really need the book in front of me (and risk paraphrasing massive chunks of it). If you're at all curious on the subject, I strongly recommend you find and read the book. It may not be readily available for sale, but library copies should be accessible.

[Don't bother with Alan Bray's Homosexuality in Rennaisance England -- many of his theories have since been debunked.]

#130 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2004, 12:37 PM:

Even 100 years ago, men would occasionally have homosexual sex for recreation, but considered themselves 100% heterosexual he-men. I'm told this is still pretty commonplace in non-Western cultures. Likewise, in some cultures, it's considered OK for men to pitch, but not to catch.

"Some cultures" includes Classical Athens -- and also certain bits of Teenage America circa 1975. So less than 30 years ago.

#131 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2004, 01:32 PM:

"Some cultures" also apparently includes aspects of contemporary African-American (urban) culture, where "down low" has been coined as a term for men who have sex with other men. This group includes men who have sex with women as well as men who only have sex with men. However, according to articles I've read, even the men who have sex exclusively with other men do not consider themselves homosexual.

#132 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2004, 01:43 PM:

The "miserable Hugo" thread is currently discussing books being thrown away.
John M. Ford wrote: A number of years ago, tax law was changed to make unsold inventory a taxable asset. ... So books that might otherwise have sold slowly for years, earning small but spendable royalty checks, were disposed of.

I wonder whether this might be a good angle for the introduction of ebooks or printing-on-demand. If there were a way for publishers to make old titles available without needing a warehouse to store unsold copies...

#133 ::: Rachel Brown ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2004, 01:51 PM:

I've heard that a major way AIDS spreads in India is via long-distance truckers who have sex with men at truck stops, then go back home to their wives. They would not call themselves gay, and if you want to get through to them with safe sex information, you'd do well not to use the word gay either.

#134 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2004, 02:44 PM:

Melissa, I thought "on the down low" meant "in secret," and that sex with other men was kept "on the DL" to avoid the stigma. Is the term exclusively used for sex between men now? That is, can you say "Ann's birthday party is a surprise, so keep it on the down low"? Or would that be a very "Xtreme" kind of birthday party?

Rachel, there's an article in this month's OUT magazine that explains that there's no such thing as "gay" as such in India...though there are, of course, homosexuals. They're just all married, one of the drawbacks of arranged marriages, IMO. The article is about gay Indians in America, which is pretty fascinating.

#135 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2004, 12:03 AM:

Melissa, Xopher, this is my understanding of "on the D[own] L[ow]" as well--it just means "secret." It's used that way, for example, in the somewhat interesting but ultimately incoherent Ashton Kutcher film "The Butterfly Effect."--no, he's not talking about Demi.

#136 ::: Mike B ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2004, 11:21 PM:

Now that Salon has published yet another round of letters to the editor, it's time for a conspiracy theory: is JAD one of the world's most successful trolls? By now, half the publishing industry has submitted material to Salon's letters page.

#137 ::: Kit Russell ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2004, 09:06 PM:

Elizabeth Bear wrote: "I have to say, if I could clear 40K a book, I'd quit my day job."

If I could clear 20, I'd quit mine. Cuz that'd still put me 5K ahead of my current job.

Honestly, my first throught on reading that was that Salon must have accidentally put in an extra zero in those figures.

But then, I'm only a poor unpublished author, so what the heck do I know?

#138 ::: Stephanie ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2004, 10:51 AM:

On the subject of finding out of print books, is useful.

#139 ::: Arthur D. Hlavaty ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2004, 08:05 PM:

As a Lydia Davis fan, let me suggest that she is an unlikely suspect. She has published one novel, The End of the Story, a work that strikes me as most unlikely for a six-figure advance, even in these inflationary times. Other than that, it's been short story collections and translations.

#140 ::: Ellen ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2004, 05:00 PM:

The Salon article has been parodied for April Fool's, as
Confessions of a Semi-Successful Fanfic Writer.

(Oh, and I've been lurking here for a while, enjoying the discussion muchly.)

#141 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2004, 05:11 PM:

The parody is hilarious. Thank you!

#142 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2004, 10:32 AM:

Strikes me that Poor Jane A. Doe should have listened to more folk music in the sixties and seventies. To wit:

I laughed at all the truth I saw
in the life I had no more
For fame she was a one night stand
and fortune but a whore
In the good times we were riding high
til the good times all were gone
And I wasn’t sure what the bad times were
til the devil pushed me down

-- Sheila (Eric Anderson)

#143 ::: J Greely ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2004, 01:52 PM:

This seemed like the thread most appropriate for linking to a news story titled "Editor's body seen on floor, but raised no alarm".

[oh, and a quick note to Our Hostess: the ML monthly archive pages still use pop-up windows for the comments link]


#144 ::: Holly Lisle ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2004, 10:27 AM:

I've been writing full-time for a living since 1992. Supporting myself and my family on words alone -- no day job, no safety net. I have yet to make a $150,000 advance for any number of books, or an $80,000 advance for a single book. Frankly, I've never even been close. Still, we don't live high, but we do get by. I've discovered that it helps not to take three years to write a book if you want to feed your family, though; if you claim to want to make a living as a writer, as this person does, actually doing the work of writing is damned helpful.

So no sympathy whatsover from this quarter.

#145 ::: Epacris says: YUK! Spam ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2004, 07:16 AM:

Creeps. Like what good do they think it actually does them?

Thinking positive thoughts towards the NielsenHayden site & family.

#147 ::: Epacris says: YUK! Spam ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2004, 07:16 AM:

Creeps. Like what good do they think it actually does them? Grrr

Thinking positive thoughts towards the NielsenHayden site & family.

#148 ::: GuruJ ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2004, 08:19 AM:

Google, I'm afraid. It boosts the rankings of the spammer's sites.

#149 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2004, 08:30 AM:

Not if their spam is deleted and they're blocked before the Google-bot gets here.

#150 ::: John Houghton finds blatent commercial comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2004, 09:53 AM:

Quick, someone bring a spam clean up kit snd hose the suckers!

#151 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2004, 10:01 AM:

Done. Hosed them so thoroughly that I accidentally zapped John Houghton's comment along with theirs, and had to manually re-post it.

#152 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2004, 11:40 AM:

and Double Grrr to them because fixing this stuff le[a/e]ches out NH-verse time & energy that is under a fairly heavy drain right about now.

Am also remembering Charlie, Lennie, & Michelle - all undergoing stressful life changes.

(Never totally sure how well that "What doesn't kill me, makes me stronger" idea works. Still, it's one kind of positive thinking, and looks like lot's needed around now.)

#153 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2004, 12:37 PM:

Fortunately, there's MT-Blacklist to make it easier. I particularly like the spam-killing button, which says "Go forth and do my bidding."

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