“Aren’t you rich?”

My 10-year-old daughter told me the other day that one of her classmates asked her: “Aren’t you rich since your dad writes all those books?”

Yes. That’s why I drive a 1998 Kia Sephia.

I haven’t discussed my writing finances much in this blog. That’s because a lot of it is embarrassing. My first pubication was in The Midnight Zoo magazine in 1992 and I was paid in copies — three copies, I think it was. My next was in Terminal Fright magazine and I think the pay was a penny per word, for a total of about $32. After that, though, there was a long stretch of publications in no-pay print and electronic magazines. One of those did turn out to be beneficial: “Reunion” won Short, Scary Tales’ (online magazine) Best Fiction contest in 2000 and I got some nice prizes, then the movie rights were purchased because a producer saw the story at SST.

In late 2001 I was feeling down about my writing. I was making a living as a writer, having earned my BA in journalism at the end of 1999 (at the age of 33) and gone on to work for a major newspaper, then a major energy company, but I didn’t have much time for fiction and Shara was getting rejected on the rare occassions I sent it out. An online acquaintence had just published a werewolf novel through a Baltimore publisher and she was happy with it. I’d never heard of the publisher, but I wanted to have a book, dammit. I’d been writing fiction for a long time and had almost nothing to show for it. I wasn’t willing to give up Shara yet, but I put together a collection of short stories and sent it to this Publisher in America. (The bold is to tell you who it is in a way that shouldn’t turn up in search engines — part of my agreement to get the rights back.) That house published my book and, other than the high cover price, I was mostly happy. I did some signings. Borders ordered copies, but I usually had to bring my own books to the signings, but the usually sold well. The publisher paid the pittance in royalties as promised. Then the fights started in the Horror Writers Association over the legitimacy of this publisher. I defended for a long time, until the publisher created a Web site and basically called every fantasy writer since Heinlein and Tolkein a hack. Then I demanded, and eventually got, the rights to my book returned.

In the meantime, Shara was released by a new publisher. There’s still a lot I don’t understand about the formation and dissolution of 3F Publications. What I do know is that I don’t have a contract with the company because the publisher wanted more rights after I signed the first contract and I never agreed to any subsequent contract. 3F accepted several books, printed a lot of copies and apparently went out of business shortly after Horrorfind 2003. I still consider the publisher a friend. I don’t believe she set out to screw anyone. But the fact remains that I don’t have a contract and have yet to receive a nickle from the publisher for sales of Shara. All the money from sales goes to pay 3F’s printing bill with Lightning, I guess. I could withdraw the book from publication. I should withdraw the book, I suppose. I’ve been operating under the idea that if it continues to sell, continues to get good reviews, as it has, that it’ll help sell the next book. The publisher has agreed to stop publication as soon as I give her the word. She said she’ll sign the rights over to another publisher if one is interested.

I’ve never discussed this 3F situation publicly before. Maybe I shouldn’t have done it now. But my supply of copies is running low and I’ve been struggling with the idea of ordering more through Amazon; Shara is on sale for 32 percent off at Amazon. When I sell copies I buy there, obviously my profit is that 32 percent, unless I cut a deal. But it’s bothering me more and more that I’m not getting any royalties off those sales and the publisher hasn’t even tried to set up an installment payment plan. There’s been no effort at all to pay me.

In April last year Scrybe Press published my Murdered by Human Wolves chapbook. I was paid a nominal “signing bonus” when I agreed to the contract. So far, I don’t have any real complaint about Scrybe. Communication and royalty payments can be a little slow sometimes, but they always come and I’ve been surprised at how much I’ve earned off sales of MbHW (and I know people with major NYC houses who complain about late royalties and NO communication, so that doesn’t worry me). Certainly I haven’t earned enough to qualify as “rich,” but for a novella that was originally written to be a 3F giveaway to people who bought Shara from a particular retailer, the money isn’t bad. Scrybe will be releasing another short book from me, Call to the Hunt, soon. The publisher, Nathan, also has talked about reprinting Shara and another novella. Nathan told me once he’d like to be the publisher for all my werewolf books. I don’t know about Shara. My hope is that Shara will be resold as part of a multi-book package that includes the new novel, Amara’s Prayer. We’ll see.

Then there’s Seven Days in Benevolence, another novella, this one published electronically by Double Dragon Publishing. It’s a royalty-only deal I agreed to a long time before the book was published. The publisher is a nice guy, but I don’t think many of his authors earn any money. I haven’t seen a royalty statement from DDP for the novella; it was published at the beginning of the last quarter. I have received statements for a short story I had in one of their anthologies. No, the anthology hasn’t sold enough to trigger payment to the authors yet, and may never. Scrybe has shown interest in doing a print version of Seven Days in Benevolence; my DDP contract is e-rights only.

So you see, I’m not rich. I’m a long way from it. Even when you count in my day job and the freelance journalism, I’m just paying the bills and supporting my book and DVD habits. Nearly every review I’ve seen for my work has been positive. The only non-positive I saw was a reader of Shara said it should have been a YA novel; I found that absurd considering the quantity of sex and violence in the book, but it was one person’s opinion. Anyway, I’m still hoping the reviews and having an agent will help land a book deal with a major, traditional publisher. Making me rich would be great, but at this point I simply want to make the next step up.

5 responses to ““Aren’t you rich?””

  1. “I want to be famous.”
    That’s interesting stuff, Steve. Glad you posted it.
    When I gave away the rights to my book to that same America-n Publish-er, one of the first people I delivered the news to (a co-worker and a freelance artist) frowned and said, “I want to be famous.”
    I think the only fame I garnered from the deal was the distinction of having the most posts on HWA’s board along with a couple of same-named fellow members. It was a hard lesson learned, but not one I feel too bad about. They were one of the first publishers I sent the book to, and it was prior to my brief stint in the HWA. When they wrote back saying “Your book has been accepted!” I thought, that was easy. I just didn’t know any better.
    The book sold a few copies and alongside you I had a few good signing experiences. And I got a great review in the Daily Oklahoman. So there were some positives. Not enough to do it again, though. And I’m still not famous.

    1. Re: “I want to be famous.”
      Everything’s a learning experience, Jason. You wrote a good book that shows potential. You’ll do better when you’re ready to send out your next one.

  2. The whole POD experience can be fun, and can have some benefits, but it’s like visiting the carnival. You can’t live there. They take your money and let you ride round and round on the carousel and when you’re out of money you wander the carnival grounds until the carnie with more tattooes than teeth asks you to leave.
    As for your trouble with the PA system, just try and learn from it and move on. Aim for the pro-markets and get your butt to heck off the carousel.
    Go for it, big guy.

    1. Thanks, Steve. I definitely learned a lot. Most of the lessons have been depressing, but then I never did like school that much.
      May we all do better in 2005.

  3. That publisher really asked you not to talk about your experiences with them as a condition of getting the rights back? Their gall is unbelievable.
    As to the 3F situation, my advice, if you’re open to hearing some, would be to pull the book. After they shut down, they should not have continued selling your work to pay off their printing bill. That’s not fair to you, who should be getting royalties from those sales, not having your money used for the publisher’s welfare instead. Whether you want to do that is your call, obviously, but I thought I’d chime in with my two cents.

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