Interview Transcripts

Jay Lake: Fun and Games with Novels 7/27/07



Legend:
Questions from the Audience are presented in red.
Answers by the Speaker are in black.
The Moderator's comments are in blue.

Mary Rosenblum

Welcome to our Professional Connection live interview.

 

Tonight we're fortunate to have a return visit with Jay Lake, who is simply a LOT of fun as a guest. :-) As many of you know.

 

Jay Lake has been the Writer Guest of Honor at MisCon 21 as well as Toastmaster at Westercon 60. His short fiction has been published in 'Year's Best SF', 'Realms of Fantasy', and 'Subterranean'. He has edited Polyphony 6, and TEL: Stories, as well as Spicy Slipstream Stories. Now he has moved into the novel form with

 

Rocket Science, a fun gee-whiz SF nostalgia novel out from Fairwood Press last year, and Trial of Flowers due out from Night Shade Books in September. Mainspring, a fantasy, will be released by Tor in July of next year. Visit his website at: www.jlake.com  Visit his blog at http://jaylake.livejournal.com/

 

I really enjoyed Rocket Science and I recommend it. So what have you been up to?

Jay Lake

I've been a busy boy.

 

I think  I have shortest career arc EVAR as a novelist, I swear...

 

made a deal spring 2005 for ROCKET SCIENCE...

 

that hit the stands Sept 2005 with a starred review from BOOKLIST...

 

which helped get me a deal from Night Shade Books for TRIAL OF FLOWERS...

 

which, when I turned it in last spring, the publisher said,..

 

"That was much better than I expected it to be"

 

(it's due out in September)

 

meanwhile, with two contracts, Tor came calling last December --

 

got a two-book deal from them in February

Mary Rosenblum

That's a fantasy yes?

Jay Lake

yes

 

High concept fantasy called MAINSPRING about a clockwork earth orbiting the sun on a brass track

Mary Rosenblum

So who's your editor there?

Jay Lake

Beth Meacham

 

who's been wonderful.

 

Stephan Martiniere will do the cover art, btw.

Mary Rosenblum

Oooh, cool. Do they have a concept yet?

 

A sketch?

Jay Lake

It’s going to be a two book series, maybe more.

 

Well, they showed me a sample he'd done for a Daniel Abraham book

 

said "this style"

 

and told me which scene

 

The world has a 100 mile high wall around the equato

 

where the Earth's gear ring is located to mesh with it's orbi

 

and there's a long sequence in the book where one of Her Imperial Majesty's zeppelins is making the ascent

 

with Our Hero aboard

 

and they visit a bamboo city which stretches vertically for mile

 

completely abandoned.

 

That’s going to be the cover, a low angle view of the zeppelin and the city with the Wall towering above.,.

Jay Lake

I'm pretty stoked

Mary Rosenblum

Oh, cool. :-) Sounds like a lot of fun.

Jay Lake

oh yeah

 

The Night Shade book...

 

is a decadent urban fantasy

 

think Mieville or VanderMeer

 

they've asked for a sequel too.

Mary Rosenblum

What makes it decadent, Jay?

Jay Lake

So I have two books delivered, and sequels for each contracted.

 

Oh, gosh, the setting and the tone of the language I guess.

 

It's ginned up from a short story of mine which was recently reprinted online at the Fortean Bureau

 

if anyone wants to check that out.

 

"The Soul Bottles"

 

The city in the story is a combination of 19th century Paris and New Orleans with a dash of declining Rome.

Mary Rosenblum

I'm prodding you on this a bit because 'decadent whatever' gets tossed about rather blithely...I've never quite decided on a definition.

Jay Lake

in this context it refers to a mood of the fiction -- word choices, plot elements.

 

That's how I interpret it

 

I didn't know I was writing decadence until after I'd finished it, tho

Mary Rosenblum

That seems to be how it's used. Ha...the reviewers will tell you what it is. :-)

xana

Paris with levees and hurricanes?

Jay Lake

No, more like Paris with syphilitic dwarfs and swamp magic.

Mary Rosenblum

LOL that's the decadent part.

Jay Lake

Lots of running around in the sewers, heavily armed clowns riding giraffes, that sort of thing.

xana

The Seine floweth over

Jay Lake

More like inSeine in this case.

janecj333

Tell us how you approached Fairwood Press and got accepted there.

Jay Lake

Hey Jane...

 

Well, I'd sold Patrick a short piece for Talebones a while back.

 

Then I'd pitched him back in 2003 or so on doing a chapbook for me

 

of my RUSHES cycle which ran on STRANGE HORIZONS

 

so we'd worked on a couple of other things together.

 

I'd been fishing for a novel market

 

had an agent but no deals

 

when Patrick approached me and asked me if I had anything.

 

He’d done well with a book by James van Pelt, BEGGARS AND STRANGERS

 

and he wanted to do something else with a new writer with decent name recognition

 

(which I seem to have)

 

I pitched him on this real dark stuff I have called DARK TOWNS

 

had 5 or 6 of those in print as short fiction.

 

Wanted to do a fixup...

 

He was too squicked.

 

So I pulled ROCKET SCIENCE out of the drawer.

 

It was too short for what my agent wanted to represent

 

but it was a good length for Fairwood.

 

Patrick took it with some rewrites

 

so it was a relationship sell, in a way, but the relationship was a professional one of prior sales and projects worked

 

and of course, the book.

 

A good relationship is irrelevant if the book doesn't hold up. (I'm big on the value of networking...it's one thing I talk about a lot on panels and interviews)

Mary Rosenblum

Yeah, I think that's important to mention her

 

that it wasn't because you knew Patrick that he bought Rocket Science.

Jay Lake

Not at all.

 

Believe me, if you start publishing in genre fiction -- fantasy/SF -- it will take you about two years to meet 3/4 of everybody

 

but that doesn't sell anything.

 

The work sells. What does help is being known as someone who's easy to deal with...

janecj333

squicked?

Jay Lake

Um, grossed out?

 

It was pretty dark stuff --

 

right on the line with horror fiction.

 

It's all about the work, guys.

 

Trust me, I have a very boring life.

 

I write, a lot.

Mary Rosenblum

Has working in long form been different for you than doing shorts? You're a write and send it off writer, mostly, aren't you?

Jay Lake

Oh yeah

 

that's been a real issue for me

 

I shall elucidate...

 

as Mary said, I've been a write-it-and-send-it-off guy for some years...

 

done pretty well with that...

 

finally started slowing down...

 

and long form work has really pushed me.

 

TRIAL OF FLOWERS was written in a very short amount of time...

 

rewritten over six weeks...

 

then turned in.

 

The sequel, MADNESS OF FLOWERS

 

I'm working on right now (was typing on it right before this session)

 

so I can wrap it up by WorldCon

 

put it in a drawer for six months

 

then rework/revise before turning it in next year.

 

The reason for the change

 

is the first Tor book, MAINSPRING

 

was something I wrote 2, 3 years ago

 

so when I got the editorial direction from Beth

 

and hauled it out of the drawer

 

the experience of revising at such a distance from the original effor

 

was new to me.

 

The book wasn't in my head anymore.

 

Made it much easier to see both the flaws and the strength

 

and I went: "duh, this is what everybody's been yelling at me for fifteen years about"

 

My process evolves all the time

Mary Rosenblum

So hold on a a sec here, Jay.

Jay Lake

ok

Mary Rosenblum

What do you mean by that? That 'this is what everybody has been yelling at me about...' comment? What did you see?

Jay Lake

Well, I've been workshopping seriously since about 1990 --

 

made my first short fiction sale in 2001...

 

have been walloping along since...

 

and I have been pounded and pounded all those years...

 

about not taking enough time with the story, not rewriting, not revising...

 

My point of resistance was always this:

 

I CAN'T write slow.

 

It’s like trying to ride a bicycle at walking speed, for me.

 

So revising felt like slowing down, getting in my own way.

 

I finally got good enough to sell without good rewriting habits

 

because my drafts got good enough.

 

I'm a 'voicy' write

 

and strong voice often comes through best in fast drafts, where the internal editor isn't active

 

but the missing piece

 

was realizing I could write as fast as I wante

 

then hide the mss from myself until I forgot it

 

THEN rework it.

xana

Just today Doris Booth (authorlink.com) told us the same thing: to put the manuscript aside for a couple of months and then take it out and revise it - BEFORE sending it out

Jay Lake

ya

 

It took dumb old me fifteen years to figure it out.

 

I can tie my shoes now, too!

 

And it took novels to teach me that

Mary Rosenblum

LOL, so has this changed your short fiction writing? Are you...gasp...revising?

Jay Lake

Well, I might be if I were writing more short fiction right now

 

heh

 

so far I've written TRIAL

 

revised TRIAL

 

revised MAINSPRING

 

am now writing MADNESS

janecj333

Yeah, but can ya get the tongues into the proper position??

Mary Rosenblum

That's after his next novel.

Jay Lake

Wow. So many answers to that question

Mary Rosenblum

Yeah and some of them don't belong on a 'family channel' LOL

Jay Lake

I have to write another novel this year, too

xana

I see why you are using the word - madness

Jay Lake

eh?

 

It's the title of the sequel

 

TRIAL OF FLOWERS

 

then MADNESS OF FLOWERS

onepozy

You were writing and sending short fiction, no queries?

Jay Lake

I'm sorry, onepozy, do you mean no novel queries?

 

(it is possible to query short fiction)

Mary Rosenblum

I think pozy isn't sure of how fiction is marketed.

Jay Lake

ah

 

ok

Mary Rosenblum

Not like NF where you do query.

Jay Lake

Well, let me make a couple of comments on that.

 

In genre fiction, you generally submit short stories unsolicited

 

as long as the market's open for reading.

 

There are some great resources to find market listings

 

like ralan.com

 

but in general genre short fiction has a pretty healthy scene

 

(genre in this case being SF/F).

 

Novels can be submitted unsolicited, but that's rare.

 

You generally query novels

 

aiming for agents and editors at the same time

 

seeking to break in from either end.

 

Does that help?

Mary Rosenblum

I think that's pretty clear. :-)

janecj333

Why are you writing so much now, or have you always produced a lot?

Jay Lake

Well, basically I'm kind of manic

 

I'm only half-kidding.

 

I've always been very productive, whatever I did.

 

In school, in my professional life (I still have a day job)

 

so when I got focused on writing, it became an increasingly strong focus

 

at this point it's a habit which I have no desire to break

grayalien

Is it possible to make a living as a SF writer?

Jay Lake

but really, anyone who's successful writes LOT

Mary Rosenblum

Yeah, no kidding.

Jay Lake

Hey grayalien, yes it's possible, but not easy.

 

I know people for whom it is their sole income

 

but that's rare.

 

Lots of people do it with a pension, or a working partner, or something.

 

If I were single and 21, I could probably live on what I'm making now

 

but I'm middle aged with a kid

 

so my idea of "making a living" has changed a lot.

 

Remember, SF is about 4% of all fiction sold. Romance is 55% or so.

Mary Rosenblum

It also depends entirely on your popularity with readers...your sales numbers. And it may depend on whether you want to write what YOU want to write or what will sell.

Jay Lake

What Mary said.

 

Stuff that sells big = big money for writer.

 

There's some big money fantasy writers out there

 

and a lot of big money romance and mystery writers.

 

Yeah, what Mary said, what YOU want to write.

 

I don't relate well to romance fiction

 

as a reade

 

so I'm not very interested in writing i

 

and the readers would know if I was faking it.

 

I need passionate commitment to my work.

Mary Rosenblum

I think that's really a key issue to that 'make a living issue'...

Jay Lake

Remember what I said a minute ago about writing a LOT?

 

I don't go to movies, clubs or parties

 

I write 5-7 nights a week

 

It's what I DO.

xana

What is the average income per book in the genre?

Jay Lake

That varies wildly, xana.

 

ROCKET SCIENCE had no advance

 

that means I was given no money upfront.

 

Not unusual for a tiny independent press.

 

Most established pros would turn down a deal like that

 

but I've made pretty good money off it.

 

The other books got advances against royalties

 

which I'll know in a year or two how well that went

 

but for independent press books for larger houses, a few thousand dollars

 

big New York houses, higher but not a lot.

 

Until you're established.

 

In that world you're only as good as your last book's sales figures.

xana

The average shouldn't vary wildly :-) What's the range?

Mary Rosenblum

You're right, xana...the range varies wildly, depending on your previous sales and track record from low thousands to six figures.

Jay Lake

Really.

 

I know someone who got $115,000  for their first book.

 

Trust me, I got a small fraction of that

 

it does vary wildly.

Mary Rosenblum

That wasn't in SF was it Jay?

 

That sounds more mainstream to me.

Jay Lake

No, it was South Asian themed women's lit

 

though she's an SF writer

 

so I guess that's not a fair comparison. With writers like Arundhati Roy tearing up they're starving for that.

Mary Rosenblum

Advances in mainstream are highest.

 

Thriller is a lot bigger than SF/fantasy.

 

Mystery is about like SF/fantasy.

Jay Lake

A little bigger, mebbe?

Mary Rosenblum

And romance is generally very low at the bottom, very high at the top.

Jay Lake

Romance is the 900 pound gorilla for upside.

 

There's a lot of romance advances of $3000

 

for these little tiny category books with a four week shelf life

 

but if you break up from that

 

it's a much wider field than SF or mystery.

 

I was talking to a romance writer and her agent recently.

 

We were hanging out after a conference.

 

She mentioned one of her early books had sold out the printing but they didn't think it was worth another run

 

preferring to market her more recent stuff.

 

It had done only 80,000 copies, and so wasn't worth t he trouble.

Mary Rosenblum

They don't do a lot of reprinting in Romance except at the very top. :-)

 

Yeah, the Romance numbers are very large.

Jay Lake

Trust me, in SF, an early career book that does 80,000 copies would be cause for celebration

 

not yawning

 

write what you love, guys -- that's what makes it genuine and interesting.

janecj333

Why do you think your short fiction was published early in your career? Any particular trait/element that makes it stand out?

Jay Lake

Yeah, Elizabeth Bear talks about "the box it came in"

 

meaning everybody gets certain strengths in their writing for fre

 

as their natural abilitie

 

(as opposed to those things they have to learn)

 

My "box it came in

 

included good ability to describe settin

 

and a powerful if somewhat raw voice.

 

As it happens, decent setting and powerful voice aren't all that common

 

so I got away with lousy characterization and bunch of other stuff

 

because my stories were readable and interesting already.

speckledorf

Is your "box" what got you your agent?

Jay Lake

I like to think I've gotten better.

 

To some degree, speckle.

 

I have had an unusual career path I don't necessarily recommend to others.

 

Early on I did a bunch of reviewing (within SF/F)

 

which meant all the editors knew who I was

 

and name recognition has value

 

(this is distinct from social relationships as mentioned earlier

 

Reviewing has a lot of traps in it, which is why I stopped

 

but I also had a collection very early, thanks to a somewhat nutty publisher

 

who saw more than I did in my own work.

 

I was introduced to my agent by one of her clients who'd read my collection and thought it was really, really good

 

and by then I had some credible sales.

 

But that was before my Hugo nom or before I won the Campbell.

 

She was focused on my writing, some of which was still in that box

 

but mostly I'd already written and sold a lot, which demonstrated I was productive, and proved people were willing to pay money to read my work.

pthib

How do you juggle promotion with your day job and writing or does your publisher do most of that for you?

Jay Lake

heh

 

that's an excellent question, pthib

 

um

 

wow

 

Promotion isn't very well managed for newer writers.

 

No one has the budget for it.

 

If you go into the economics of a book, you can see why..

 

(Digression, Anna Louise Genoese, an editor at Tor, keeps a livejournal blog.

 

A couple of months ago she broke down book economics in excruciating detail.

 

If  you really want to know, go to her l

 

and track back to that series of posts)

 

So a newer writer needs to have some self promotional skills.

 

Promotion doesn't sell bad writing, but it can help good writing get recognized.

 

My day job is in marketing.

 

So I am fairly good at promotion.

 

one reason I have high name recognition

 

So the juggling

 

comes just like the writing.

 

A lot of careful time management.

 

A lot of energy.

 

But in my case, not much malice aforethought.

 

My entire career has in some sense been an improv performance in front of hundreds, and now thousands, of people.

 

There is no Master Plan

Mary Rosenblum

Is there ever? Maybe a few writers do that.

Jay Lake

hwh

 

I don't know Mary

 

but not me...

 

that's why god invented publicists, I guess -- not that I ever plan to have one.

pthib

Do you recommend small press publishers to those who write outside the norm?

Jay Lake

Depends on what you mean by "write outside the norm", but, basically, yes

 

Small press can take a lot more risks than big press.

 

Simply because of the numbers involved.

 

An independent press can make a profit on one or two thousand books being sold in a title

 

where in New York that would be a miserable failure.

 

So books which might not appeal to a mass audience

 

can prosper in the small press.

 

There’s more to it than that, but it's not a bad way to think of such things.

Mary Rosenblum

But let me break in here for a moment, Jay, and make a distinction between serious small press like Fairwood

 

and the 'quantity publishers' who simply publish any marginally readable book they get and make THEIR money on a few sales of every title in inventory.

Jay Lake

Oh yeas

 

vanity, too

 

yah, be very thoughtful about small presses

Mary Rosenblum

The serious small presses are respected and Jay

 

is an example of a big NY publisher who paid attention because of a small press publication.

 

But they do NOT look at the quantity publishers.

Jay Lake

yah, what Mary said.

 

One way to tell is by looking at who gets strong reviews in LOCUS, PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY, etc.

 

But rule number one...money always flows to the writer.

 

You pay nothing, ever, except postage.

 

If there's any fees involved anywhere in getting published, run, don't walk the other way.

Mary Rosenblum

Absolutely.

Jay Lake

ditto for agents

Mary Rosenblum

And a BUNCH of scams exist.

Jay Lake

No reading fees.

Mary Rosenblum

Predators and Editors

Jay Lake

cool

Mary Rosenblum

That ‘beware of scams’ site is pretty comprehensive.

xana

What about editorial fees?

Jay Lake

No such thing in the real world.

 

Write this on a piece of paper and tape it to your monitors:

 

MONEY ALWAYS FLOWS TO THE WRITER

Mary Rosenblum

And underline the ALWAYS

Jay Lake

There are some very rare exceptions, but you're not likely to encounter them.

Mary Rosenblum

Including agents.

 

They pay you...after they get paid by your publisher.

Jay Lake

I'm very skeptical of contests with entry fees, except sometimes where they're explicitly fundraising

.

ya

Mary Rosenblum

You do not send them a check first.

Jay Lake

I've never sent my agent a dime.

Mary Rosenblum

Me neither. :-)

Jay Lake

She's sent me lots of dimes, after taking her 15%

pthib

Is it common for writers to buy copies of their books to resell? Is this ok? Especially when with a small press?

Jay Lake

Oh I do it a lot

 

but I buy them by the handful

 

not by the garageful.

 

If you're expected to buy a portion of your print run, it's a scam publisher.

 

On the other hand, it's always good to have a case or two around

 

most of which I give away, actually

 

but sometimes I'll hand sell at a conference or convention

 

if the booksellers don't have my titles.

 

I'd always rather consign first

 

let them make some money off me.

Mary Rosenblum

And I learned the hard way, scrape the money together to buy more than you think you need. I have ONE copy of my second SF novel.

Jay Lake

yah

 

Anything you EVER publish buy 3, 4, 5 copies of.

 

I do with every short fiction appearance.

 

They wander away.

 

Mom wants a copy, you take one to show to your boss and it disappears in the office, etc eventually you got nothing ,which feels goofy

Mary Rosenblum

Publishers give you a discount when you buy your own books.

pthib

I write "inspirational with an edge" so mine don't necessarily fit the genre of my choice, I'm signed with a SP but the going seems so S-L-O-W..  Should I hang in there or keep approaching the larger houses (and getting rejected) or give up or what?

Jay Lake

hmm...what do you mean by "signed with"?

 

If a book is contracted, there you are.

 

A contract's a contract.

 

That doesn't mean you shouldn't market your next book to bigger houses.

 

Always be looking up the ladder

Mary Rosenblum

And I suggest you keep track of your sales if you want to market up the ladder.

Jay Lake

And SPs can be SLOW...money is not generally plentiful in that universe.

 

ROCKET SCIENCE (with no advance) has sold well over 2,000 copies.

 

For New York that would be a disaster.

Mary Rosenblum

Those are good small press numbers.

Jay Lake

But it nearly overwhelmed Fairwood

 

and when I tell people in New York those numbers, they're impressed

 

because in context, that's a runaway bestseller.

pthib

How long did it take for the sales to reach over 2000?

Jay Lake

We hit 1,000 in the first 90 days

 

2,000 in about 7 months

 

coming up on a year soon, I don't think we'll hit 3,000 in the rolling year, but I think we'll hit in the calendar year

 

which is pretty cool, frankly.

 

There's something like 500 copies in libraries.

Mary Rosenblum

It's very good. :-)

Jay Lake

Ya blew our expectations out.

pthib

My series is contracted but all of my books are written basically the same way...too steamy & gritty for the CBA and yet too Spiritual for ABA..or so I'm told

 

pthib, then you have an interesting problem.

 

You’re trying to carve out a new piece.

 

It’s always hard, because people want to buy (and publishers want to publish)

 

stuff that's familiar enough to keep them coming,

 

new enough to keep them interested.

 

There’s plenty of examples of that succeeding, but it's a tough road.

 

HOWEVER

 

if it's what you want/love/need to write, then write it.

 

MAINSPRING isn't quite one thing or another either, btw

 

Tor is taking a risk on me with that.

pthib

Well the first 2 of the series were originally epublished (with self pubbed print copies) and I sold over 500 copies...

pthib

but that doesn't seem to impress the big people...I did that on my own with NO clue as to what I was doing...still...

Jay Lake

Yah good for you, that's a lot of ecopies

 

if you can leverage it upward through your small press publisher, you're on the right track.

pthib

How do you get them into libraries?

Jay Lake

I have no idea how one would do that deliberately.

 

In my case it was through receiving a starred review in BOOKLIST

 

which is the journal of the American Library Association.

 

A lot of libraries take their purchase order list from the BL starred reviews

 

bingo, libraries all over the US

 

I get more fan mail off library readers, too, it's kind of funny.

 

The book is a real nostalgia trip for some folks.

pthib

Ok how do you get in Booklist? Have a url or contact info?

Jay Lake

It's like any other review market, pthib, your publisher has to send the books out for review.

 

To some degree an author can control some of that

Mary Rosenblum

I imagine you can send them yourself to the review editor.

Jay Lake

yah, I think so, but it works better coming from the publisher. Coz the reviews editor is not likely to take the time to sort out whether the mailing from the individual is a self-pub, vanity, quantity or legit pubbed book

Mary Rosenblum

Yeah, they may toss it unread, but it costs you only postage.

pthib

Would you recommend authors contact libraries personally or with press kits?

Jay Lake

Review copies are one of the few pieces of promotion a publisher really SHOULD do for you no matter how new you are.

 

Couldn't hurt to talk to librarians

 

booksellers likewise, pthib

 

in your area, or within your speciality

 

If you're writing inspirational, talk to the Christian bookstores.

 

There’s one in most towns, I thi

 

and they're always interested in info.

 

That's part of promotion.

 

It takes a lot of patience and fortitude, though

 

given what you're writing, you might send it to churches that have a men's circle or reading group

 

try to get word of mouth going

pthib

Been there, done that, they won't carry due to the "steamy sensuality and gritty realism"

Jay Lake

Got to keep trying, that's all I can tell you.

 

I know genre writers that have spent half a lifetime breaking in

 

for having a vision too off-base.

 

Ray Vukcevich comes to mind.

 

One of our most brilliant living writers.

 

Only in the last few years has he become regularly published

 

but he's been knocking on those doors since the 1980s

grayalien

What inspired you to write ROCKET SCIENCE?

Jay Lake

heh

Jay Lake

Want the real story?

 

(I'll presume the answer is yes...)

 

Back in 1995 my mom, my sister and I took a roadtrip from Texas, where I lived at the time, to Augusta, Kansas

 

where she grew up, but hadn't been back since her mom died when she was 19.

 

I saw the house she lived in, etc.

 

and Augusta is very much Main Street, USA, one of those very American small towns, almost Bradbury-esque.

 

I was interested in the place, roots donchaknow, and got to noodling with my thoughts about Kansa

 

and was struck with the idea of a UFO in Kansas.

 

So I took my mom's family history wholesale and populated the story with real people

 

living in a real place

 

with an improbable situation.

 

It was fun

 

My dad read it and said...

 

"I didn't know you ever paid that much attention to the family stories"

Mary Rosenblum

And that's when you found out about the UFO buried in the family basement?

Jay Lake

pretty much

 

Two of my three grandfathers were in the aeronautics industry during WWII,

 

both lame from childhood, both working in engineering roles.

 

So the whole flight thing sort of folded in...

 

Never seen an UFO myself

 

not for a lack of trying

 

so I make them up instead

xana

Suppose you bought, say, a case of your own book and donated the copies to, say, school libraries. Could you deduct the expense as charitable deduction on taxes?

Jay Lake

yep

 

The really great thing about being a working writer is the veritable constellation of tax deductible activities and purchases in which you can engage.

 

I am NOT an accountant or an attorney, and this is NOT tax advice...

 

but if you look into it, you'll be amazed what you can deduct

Mary Rosenblum

But you DO have to be a working writer. :-)

Jay Lake

I know someone who deducts his cable bill, because he writes media tie in fiction, it's a research expense.

 

Yes, you must have income, contracts

Jay Lake

and I strongly recommend keeping a work diary

Mary Rosenblum

Or make a serious effort to do that.

Jay Lake

I do, as part of my manuscript tracking system

 

but a side effect is I can prove it's a serious commercial activity for me.

 

The IRS sometimes likes to look at writing as a hobby...

Mary Rosenblum

For those of you who do want some CPA input, you can go to the archives of my interviews and look back for my interview with John Caton. He's a CPA who specializes in artists, musicians, and writers and he gave a lot of good tax info.

Jay Lake

yah what she said

 

See, he's qualified, I'm not

 

but save your receipts, people

pthib

Marketing, great advantage. Mine is insurance sales, but can you give some tips on what works best..give aways, chats, blogging, paid ads, or radio?

Jay Lake

I do a lot of blogging

 

have about 400 regular readers

 

plus a lot of drop ins

 

I also go to conventions and conferences, and have reached the point where I'm being paid to be there

 

as a guest of honor or an instructor (sometimes, not always).

 

so I reach out that way.

 

I don't think much of paid ads, unless you have some very good targeting

Mary Rosenblum

And I think the value of promotion is radically different depending on how you publish. What makes a BIG difference in small press won't affect your sales enough for a big house.

Jay Lake

yes

 

it's possible to overpromote too

Mary Rosenblum

How so, Jay? On the overpromote?

Jay Lake

Well, consider this...

 

first book comes out...

 

writer X (and I'm thinking of a gal here on the West Coast we both know) spends her advance...

 

sending postcards and kits to pretty much every bookstore in the country...

 

...gets lots of bookseller interest...

 

.,,book does quite well...

 

...second book comes out ON SAME CONTRACT...

 

...meaning she doesn't have another big advance, because the payout was front-loaded...

 

...no promotional campaign from her...

 

...ordinary low-level new author support from pub...

 

...numbers drop way off...

 

...any time your numbers drop off with a New York deal, you're in trouble...

 

...mostly because of the way purchasing and returns work...

 

The majority of all fiction sold goes through BN, Borders and WalMart/Sam's Club

 

three buyers control that

 

and they buy off the computer

 

so an overpromoted first book, followed by an underpromoted secodn book, creates a sales decline.

 

It's actually happened to people I know

Mary Rosenblum

Yeah, a guy out here we both know, too.

Jay Lake

yep

 

It's better to let it build organically

 

push where you can, when you can.

 

No one knows the secret formula

 

except maybe Dan Brown.

Mary Rosenblum

Your best promotion is word of mouth. A good book. Nothing beats that. And it's as Jay said...out of your control.

 

The Brass Ring Factor.

pthib

How far apart should a series be published...what do you think is a good time frame for promo reasons?

Jay Lake

That totally depends.

 

New York has been experimenting with hurry-up programs lately.

 

Go look at Elizabeth Bear's bibliography.

 

But I've got more normal contracts.

 

Both publishers have me on a one-a-year schedule.

 

If you write like Nora Roberts, you could publish faster

 

but the market only absorbs so much at a time, especially from a new writer without an established name.

 

Some people write under multiple names to deal with precisely that issue.

 

It takes months for a book to percolate through the review cycle, for one thing

 

so faster than twice a year would be very dicey

Mary Rosenblum

Even when the publisher starts way early.

Jay Lake

yah

 

and books take years

Mary Rosenblum

Except in category romance...where about four a year seems usual.

Jay Lake

Right, but that's the market expectation

pthib

Do you think prepub or post pub reviews are best? Why or does it matter as long as you're getting good reviews? What about online compared to magazine?

Jay Lake

Depends on the market, pthib

 

prepub is nice in the big review magazines because libraries and indie booksellers make a lot of their buying decisions from that...

 

For newspaper and consumer magazine reviews, postpub might be better because of availability

 

and each (sub)genre has its own reading habits and review markets

 

plus I belong to the theory that no review is truly bad if they spell your name right...

Mary Rosenblum

There IS no bad publicity. :-)

Jay Lake

Luckily my name is easy to spell

Mary Rosenblum

Yeah, no kidding! Unlike mine! At least they've gotten it right so far

Jay Lake

Heh, try being Ray Vukcevich

 

I sat next to Robert J. Silverberg at a book signing once

 

watched him sign hundreds of books

 

we were chatting as he did so.

 

He finally turned to me and said..

 

"You know kid, you're lucky you've only got seven letters in your name"

Mary Rosenblum

LOL

 

I can understand that!

 

Yeah, poor Ray.

Jay Lake

My thought was, hey, I'm over 40, why is he calling me kid?

 

snerk

janecj333

No bad publicity? How 'bout getting caught selling secrets to the Russkies??

Jay Lake

Is your name in the paper?

Mary Rosenblum

Hey, you sell your memoir from prison.

Jay Lake

Right

 

I suppose if you were a serial killer or something that might not be so good...

Mary Rosenblum

Not if you're writing Christian Romance at least!

Jay Lake

but in the context of people talking about your BOOK...

Jay Lake

because mostly other people remember that they heard the name somewhere

Mary Rosenblum

Maybe if you're writing thriller or mainstream.

Jay Lake

True Crime

Mary Rosenblum

Okay, Jay, we're closing in on the end of our time. ...

Jay Lake

Mentions are good, but all of this is irrelevant if you haven't written a good strong story

 

hey, I brought a party favor

Mary Rosenblum

You want to give us some more good hints about Mainspring?

 

I love what I've heard.

 

And by all means, the party favor!!!

Jay Lake

sure

 

It's a clockwork earth, like I said, the northern half of which is sort of a mutated Victorian England in a worldwide struggle with Imperial China

 

Hethor is a clockmaker's apprentice in New Haven, CT, which is a colony still

 

when the archangel Gabriel comes to warn him that the world is running down and the mainspring must be rewound

 

he embarks on a journey to find the Key Perilous, in order to set thing to rights

 

the southern Earth is a very strange place indeed

 

but how can you go wrong with a book that has zeppelins, neanderthals and angels?

Mary Rosenblum

Oh, no kidding! It sounds like a total romp. :-)

Jay Lake

So Mary, can I give away my party favor?

Mary Rosenblum

You bet, Jay!

 

Tell 'em what's behind the curtain.

Jay Lake

I have (well, will have soon) a copy of TRIAL OF FLOWERS

Mary Rosenblum

A first edition. :-)

Jay Lake

which I will give away to one lucky winner tonight

 

oh yeah

 

inscribed by the author, no less

 

(whoever gets it will need to email me, obviously)

Mary Rosenblum

If you'll choose a number....

Jay Lake

Me or them?

Mary Rosenblum

I'll announce the winner.

 

You.

janecj333

That's better than balloons OR confetti!

Jay Lake

What’s my range?

Jay Lake

0-google?

Mary Rosenblum

1-13

 

Last count

Jay Lake

lucky 7

Mary Rosenblum

That's Oma on my screen.

 

If you want to send me your address as a question...

 

I'll email it to Jay.

Jay Lake

Then Mary can pass it on to me, yes

 

excellent

Mary Rosenblum

Congratulations, oma!

 

I hope you enjoy it.

Jay Lake

cool beans

 

Are there any last minute questions or comments?

 

If you like what I say about writing, come to my livejournal and follow the tags for 'process' Lots of stuff there

Mary Rosenblum

How about a Great Last Word on Writing, Jay?

Jay Lake

Easy, that one, too easy:

 

WRITE MORE

xana

Thanks, Jay and Mary

janp

Thanks Jay for sharing your nimble mind and fast fingers with us

Jay Lake

Thank you everybody who's had the patience to hang here

 

you're welcome, guys

 

it's been a lot of fun

pthib

thanks jay!

janecj333

Just curious...do you write any stories with a female main character?

Jay Lake

yes Jane

Jay Lake

I have and do

Jay Lake

one of my unpublished novels has a female protage

Jay Lake

protag

Mary Rosenblum

or something like that

Mary Rosenblum

Ah, there's hope yet.

Mary Rosenblum

snicker

Jay Lake

and they all hve important female characters

Mary Rosenblum

Jay, it has been fun. As always.

 

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