Writing from Houston, TX, in the midst of the mega-est week of my Mega Tour. It began in San Diego on Sunday, where I ran into fellow author (and friend) Joel Hoffman. Then on to Walnut Creek, CA; Cherry Hill, NJ; a Houston day school this morning (Emory-Weiner School, which is a totally great name for a Jewish school), and tonight the Houston Book Fest.
I’ve noticed a recurring phenomenon: after a book event, someone will approach me and tell me that he or she is working on a book. The person asks for advice – and by his/her questions, I can tell whether he/she has what it takes to write a book.
Questions that signal success:
“How long did it take you to write it?”
“Did your editor work with you along the way?”
“What are your writing habits?”
“How many drafts did you go through?”
“Did you know when you were finished?”
These are all terrific questions. They are about the writing process, which every author struggles with. These questions show that the writer is immersed in his/her project and passionate.
And then there is the one question that tells me the person is probably writing for the wrong reasons and, therefore, won’t see it through. That question is:
“What are the residuals on book sales?”
Oh, boy. Residuals? Are you kidding me? The residuals on book sales are tiny. And they only come months – possibly years – down the road, if ever, because first you have to earn back your advance for writing the book and only then does the extra money come in. And even then it’s a pittance, maybe 15% of the profit on the book.
The most dedicated writers write their books without any thought for the money. Some even self-publish their books. Either way, writing the book is a two-year process at minimum, and probably more like 3 – 5. Anyone who’s writing the book for the residuals will probably be disappointed along the way and likely won’t hang in there.
Joel Chasnoff will be blogging here all month as he travels around the country on his Jewish Book NETWORK tour.