Saturday, February 7, 2015

"Earning Out," Black Ink for Writer and Publisher

In the act of leaving your studio for a strategy dinner with your literary agent, you found in the mailbox a letter from a publisher containing a royalty check for a handsome sum, bordering on impressive, a handwritten note on a Post-it informing you it was all yours; the agent's commission had been sent.

This put you in not only a good mood, a reflective one as well.  There have been other royalty checks, which are in effect the result of you having paid off an interest free loan through the sale of enough copies of your books to offset the advance on which you lived riotously or precariously while writing said book.

Royalty checks of any amount mean you have, to use the publishing term you so often heard in sales meetings, "earned out."  You and the publisher are now on a path of black ink and, for you, celebratory dinners in keeping with the amount within the sum brackets.  

Royalty checks of any amount mean a raucous parade, a kind of New Orleans Mardi Gras parade of new ideas for new projects, all trying to convince you of the wise choice you made in choosing this sort of life

The reflections come from the irony and fact of your not always knowing which things will be accepted for publication.  In fact, there were times when things you thought certain to be published were not and things you thought had no chance of being published were.  The reflections, although somewhat of a critical nature, are all positive.  Given the amount of reading you do, you have a sense of your abilities analogous to your credit score.

In the past, your credit score was borderline awful, a haunting, parallel line to your writing ability.  Through your efforts, stubbornness, and some possible measure of ability, you were able to cause some growth. Those times and circumstances have changed.  You cannot affix a number to your writing score, and although you're aware--by accident--of your credit score, you know it is pushing the high edges of good.  From past experiences, you understand how unwise it would be of you to take either of these parallel lines for granted. 

You are more interested in your writing score,to the point where you frequently practice some aspect of craft, or writing notes and dialogues to yourself, such as these notes, in which you try to spell out for yourself your visions on language, story, theme, character, and point of view so that, knowing your approach, you will not be imitating things from past eras you found useful; you will be seeing composition from your own vision.

Starting around September of last year, you began attracting a particular sort of comment on these vagrant essays and entries unlike any others in your eight years of blogging.  Not that you get that many comments of any sort, but those you do get are from friends checking in, long lost students rediscovering you, and in one extreme case, a realtor, offering to get you in the house of your dreams, provided you were willing to move to Pahrump, Nevada.

The comments of which you speak all lead to sites where you, with little effort, can secure well-written papers for nearly any college-level class, with no possibility of plagiarism.  True enough, many of the comments introducing you to these sites betray an English with some foreign locution or accent.  What these commentators don't know is the way your job, during your last two years as an undergraduate, led you to a dramatic uptick in grades and understanding.

From three thirty in the afternoon until twelve ten the following morning, you worked in the night office of the Associate Press, the low man on the totem pole of reporters, editors, and teletypists, in addition to state, local, national, and international wires (the technology of the time) which fed data to all AP subscribers.

You sometimes got to write so-called "shorts," such as LOS ANGELES--The Egg market closed hire today.  Or, DOVER, ENGLAND--No one attempted to swim the English Channel today.  Maybe tomorrow.

Shorts, the AP style and usage guide, and the journalism basics of a pyramid writing style, with the important material first, followed by lesser facts, found their way into your essay type questions and your more focused take on the materials you were asked to absorb.

These comments on your blog writings serve as lessons of equal value to your times at the Associated Press.  No matter how earnest and focused your approach, you cannot control the effect it will have on all who read it.  You have to be satisfied with, in essence settle for, the effect it has on you.

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