Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

[process] How I learned to start worrying and love the royalty statement

Books, books and more books. The Day Job bordered on the bizarre today. At lunch I went to the bank and deposited a handful of checks. Since one was actually a cheque, I had to go to the international exchange desk at my bank's downtown branch. Meanwhile I continue to contemplate the realities of the several long pieces I need to write Real Soon Now, and grod around in pointless speculation about Mainspring Powell's | Amazon ].

My little literary progeny will be an SFBC selection next month. Apparently it's destined for good things as a mass market paperback in Tor's spring line. More when that develops — the current news is that it's a May release. If I was already supposed to know that, it had escaped me heretofore.

I'm quite of two minds on the whole worry-about-how-the-book-is-doing thing, per my earlier post here, and the various comments appended thereto. On the one hand, I recognize this sort of divination as little more than wishful thinking, given the absence of hard data prior to my royalty statement eventually emitting from the bowels of Tor. On the other hand, this is what I do for a living in my day job — extrapolate information from elusive data points. What is a sales projection, after all? It's as natural to me as breathing to do this kind of data rummaging. Events will eventuate as they do, and my calculations will be upset by reality, as they always are.

The obsession is thus: you're only as good as your last book. In my case, the first. If Mainspring had bellyflopped, the print run, distribution and sales and marketing support would have been minimized for Escapement. This is not personal, it is what publishers as businesspeople do to protect their investments. I'm fairly certain I'm past the bellyflop, but it was a possibility in the beginning.

If Mainspring meets whatever projections Tor had for it (the details of which I am not privy to), then the P&L is satisfied, everybody's happy, and we move on down the line. If Mainspring did so well as to sell through the run, we're all the happier.

Any of these outcomes has a meaningful effect on the fate of not only Escapement, but my potential for another contract and further bookage under my current nom de plume.

Why do I worry? Because how this book performs matters, immensely, to my career. I can do nothing to affect it now except write a better book next time, but still I worry. Does the worry stop me from writing? No. It doesn't even distract me from the work I need to do. My efforts to quantify the book's performance, even at a low degree of confidence, represent a sort of intellectual sport cum coping strategy. This sort of thing amuses me, I happen to be trained to do it, and it doesn't get in the way of my writing.
Tags: books, escapement, mainspring, personal, process, writing

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