Turnpike Woes

Dear Miss Snark,

I’m a newly published author and I need your advice. I got a $10,000 advance. Then I paid my agent 1,500 bucks, 300 more for agent expenses, 600 for my computer, 200 for a printer, 100 for paper, 200 on postage, 5,000 for a publicist, 100 for a pedicure, 400 for publicity photos, 300 for a web site developer, 400 for some new duds (my publicist said the bib overalls had to go), 400 to get my teeth whitened, 200 for typhoid and malaria shots (required since my book tour took me to New Jersey), and 400 for out-of-pocket expenses on the book tour.

I thought authors made money. I lost a hundred bucks! What am I doing wrong?

New Jersey will get you every time.


Anonymous said...

Ditch the publicist and the pedicure. You'll make 5000 bucks. If you feel like it, ditch the web developer too and learn to make your own website.

Heidi the Hick said...

First of all, never give up your bib overalls. Never compromise your sense of style, baby.

Second, why the new computer? Did you submit your winning manuscript on foolscap? And did you foolishly buy a computer that isn't a Mac? Just checking. I hear there are some great website templates on iWeb.

Other than that I have no advice because I'm still pecking away at this keyboard...

Heidi the Hick said...

First of all, never give up your bib overalls. Never compromise your sense of style, baby.

Second, why the new computer? Did you submit your winning manuscript on foolscap? And did you foolishly buy a computer that isn't a Mac? Just checking. I hear there are some great website templates on iWeb.

Other than that I have no advice because I'm still pecking away at this keyboard...

Anonymous said...

Why did you think writers make money? You didn't get that idea from any writers!

Think of it as start-up cost. Restaurants and retail stores don't make a profit their first year, either. You're a small entrepreneur in a buyer's market, but that $10,000 advance is a good start. Remember to track all of your expenses, pay income tax quarterly at 33%, and you'll get a tax refund. Anything else is gravy.

Bernita said...

Quit rubbing it in.

Kim said...

If you're in NJ, don't forget to budget for the tolls. That'll set you back another couple of hundred, and let's not forget gas... And of course, the mental cost of the aggravation from sitting in endless traffic on the turnpike or the parkway - while the guy in front of you tries to pay for his toll with either all pennies or a credit card. Malaria and typhoid will seem like a reward after that!

word ver - glytflug - the condition caused by sitting in traffic for years and breathing in noxious landfill/refinery/emmisions fumes

Ain't no place like Jersey!

Nancy said...

Yo! Jump off Jersey, you, you...literary types! What is it with everyone lately?!

Anonymous said...

Get the pedicure and paper while your in Jersey next time and you'll break even.

Anonymous said...

Miss SNark,
Thanks for the giggle.

Anonymous said...

I'm confused. Why are you paying for a publicist? Doesn't your publisher have a publicity department?

Next time around, get a friend to take your author photo, learn how to create your own website, don't get a pedicure (unless you're barefoot in the author photo), scour discount shops for low-priced/high quality duds, brush your teeth regularly, and avoid New Jersey.

Anonymous said...

Handwrite your novel. In backwards mirror script. Cursive. Gold ink. Bind in Fine Corinthian leather. Limit to a single, signed copy. Sell for...One Million Pesos.

Jeez, it's not that hard, people.

Katie Alender said...

If I traded hours writing for hours on staff at Bed Bath and Beyond, I'd be rolling in my gold coins like Scrooge McDuck.

Nancy Beck said...

Yeah, New Jersey will get you every time, especially if own a home here (like I do).


Verif. word: fuccpm - Almost a curse word. It'll do. ;-)

David said...

What anonymous said, especially about making your own Web site. Not only are the basic skills not that hard to learn, typically you'll also end up with a cleaner, simpler, more accessible site than the kind that professional designers tend to impose on the world.

Abundant advice is available online, and some it is even good advice. In particular, I'll advertise my own advice, here.

Just Me said...

Cheer up, kiddo. You've just about broken even on the cash - at least you're not hugely out of pocket. Yet. And save those expense receipts for the taxman; they're worth something eventually.

The upside is that you're now a Published Author with a First Book to flog. "First" book - remember that. You've met the first big hurdle. Hopefully, there will be more books - with better sales and increasing advances to come. It's a long road.


You thought writing was about making money?!?

Chortle. Chortle.

Anonymous said...

and sell the bib overalls on e-bay.

Anonymous said...

How common is it to pay agent expenses, anyway? My agent doesn't charge me for anything; I'd feel really weird if she suddenly said, "Hey, spring for the copier's toner." I understand that it's not a sign of a disreputable agent to charge such expenses, but it is really majority practice?

Anonymous said...

You're writing to make money?

Kim said...

Yeah, New Jersey will get you every time, especially if own a home here (like I do).

Hear, hear... I've never lived anywhere else - I think it takes a special breed to be able to survive - between the taxes, the tolls, and the putdowns. I can avoid the tolls, but the rest...?

On the plus side, we have mountains, some of the best beaches, and AC. What more could you ask for?

Anonymous said...

You paid $100 for a pedi? Good lord. What had you done to your feet?

Anonymous said...

What's "money?"

dan said...

This aggression will not stand. New Jersey is the land of milk and honey, people. It is a varied and multicultural wonderland, where freedom reigns and culture blooms! (Blooms on the plots of glowing, luteous landfill beside the refineries and chemical plants, natch.)

Ditch the web designer. Simple websites are almost always better than fancy ones and they're easier to make, to boot.

Anonymous said...

"...never give up your bib overalls."

Heidi, why did the West Virginians wear firemen's hats to the Nativity scene?

Because their minister said the Wise Men came from a far.:-)

Anonymous said...

Ditch the web designer, publicist, pedicure, and new duds. You don't really need them to write. Next time you go on a book signing tour get your publisher to pay for it, if they won't that's probably a sign you don't have a big enough audience to warrant one. You can always do book signings once you are rich and famous.

Get a myspace page. They're free, and you would have the advantage of having a huge networking system to help you along.

Kitty said...

New Joi-zee, huh? Sounds like you got da Fuhgeddaboudit Blues...

You woke up this morning
Got yourself a book,
Your agent said: “Honey you got
The chosen hook.”

She said: “You’re one in a million
But y'gotta to pay to shine.”
But she’s lazy and greedy
And says all you do is whine.

You woke up this morning
The world turned really shrill,
Things ain’t been the same
And all you got is bills.

(My apologies to Steven Van Zandt.)

Tyhitia Green said...

I was told that you don't need to pay for a publicist for a first book because the publsher has one and we as writer's have to solicit our own work and get our names out there. Is that true, Miss Snark?

The Rentable Writer said...

Miss Snark, I love you and your humor.

Anonymous said...

Some advice for about sixty percent of these commenters: before you post next time, please ask yourself, is this letter a joke?

Anonymous said...

You write for money? Honey, you're in the WRONG business. Every writers' convention I've ever been to (and I've been to several) the authors all talk about their "real" jobs as well as writing. Unless your first book hits bestseller status - heck, unless ANY of your books hit bestseller status - you probably aren't going to make a fortune writing.

Mind you, I wouldn't personally know as I'm still trying to get published. But everything I've heard and read has warned me not to expect to make much money in this business unless I get the "bestseller" status.

Anonymous said...

Sincere congratulations on the sale. With your sense of humor, no doubt reflected in your book, you'll sell many copies and can then afford a t-shirt to go under those bib overalls.

Glad to know that book sales actually happen. I've written two novels, am starting on a third, love them all -- but since I am suffering writer's block with the query letter and totally insecure about the opening pages, I have no idea when my work will see the light of day.

Writing on Board said...

Waitaminute? THEY paid YOU? I need a new agent!

Kim said...

Erm... to the anonymous who thinks we're all taking this letter seriously, you have to ask yourself this -

Are these comments tongue in cheek?

fuggeddabout it!

Unknown said...

Very funny! Cmon, what did you really do with all of that advance money? If you moved to Fargo, ND you'd be able to put a down payment on a large house.


Dave Kuzminski said...

Hey, you got off lucky. If New Jersey hadn't won the coin toss, Washington, DC would be located there and every politician would have a hand in your pockets. You think you lost money now, just wait until you walk through a den of politicians. You'll be lucky if you still have all your fingers to type the sequel. ;)

Lorra said...

Great stuff and be thankful you're not from Cleveland - especially now; it's frickin' freezing here! Even the Cuyahoga River that caught fire back in the Kucinich glory days is frozen. How do you freeze #*$@?

born_liar said...

flem snopes, you cracked me up. 'Cause I've been in Nativity scenes in West Virginia. Got the pictures of me with my flannel shirt showing right through the shiny blue angel costume to prove it! (I was standing behind the bemulletted shepherd boys.)

Anonymous said...

I only write for the sheer pleasure of open rejection by my editor. And one day I truly hope to get snarked as a hooker.

:)Besides, the only way I make my money is by sending large kegs of gin to the snarker. That and pimping for material to use in my next novel...

susanna in KY said...

Ya gotta ease up on Jersey. After all, half those snarky little Manhattanites dishin' on Jersey around the water cooler came over from Hoboken or Jersey City on the PATH that morning. The other half... well, if you're paying a couple grand a month to live in a sixth floor walk-up shoe box, you gotta have somebody to feel superior to.

Of course, there's those that live the big life overlooking Central Park. But if you can afford that, you're not going to whine about the disappearing $10,000 advance.

Richard Lewis said...

No such thing as a malaria shot, yet. You can take nasty little pills that turn you into Killer Yap in NJ (ie disoriented and nauseated).

Anonymous said...

Susannah in Alabama,

If you're really in Alabama, let's just be real quiet and maybe no one will bring up that you need a passport and a distemper shot to cross the Mason-Dixon.

Word verification: yprnhfma. Has The Yap just insulted my mama?

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

If I can't pick on Canadians (as I said elsewhere, I've reformed), can I pick on New Jersey?

Actually, what little I've seen of New Jersey wasn't all that bad. No one walked out in front of our car and passed out in the street. That didn't happen until we were in New York City.

We did have a waitress try to cheat us in New Jersey. But I bet she lived in Brooklyn ... Well, maybe not. I didn't ask.

And our hotel, which shall go nameless because I don't wish to receive the emails over it, flooded out from a broken water system and our bazillion dollar a day suit turned into two rooms on a lower floor with no real compensation and a lot of irritation. But it wasn't that bad. You're talking to (well reading) someone who actually live through a stay in the Mount Si Inn during hunting season ... And that's clear off in the wilds of Washington State, where they're supposed to be semi-civilized. I mean they DO know how to drink coffee there.

And I could understand everyone to whom I spoke in New Jersey. I can't say that for New York, not for the city, and certainly not for the state.

Okay, I've been cruel enough to the poor unfortunate ... I mean those nice New Yorkers and New Jerseyites. Most people were very kind to us, in their unique East Coast brusque way. We certainly were over fed in a New York Deli. When I got lost in Manhattan any number of people found me and left me more lost than before, but at least they tried. I don't think New Yorkers know their own city all that well.

We saw cool stuff in both NY and NJ, like old buildings, though some things seemed unusual. I'm not used to having to be buzzed into a store. I don't have to get out an Esperanto phrase book to order at McDonalds here. I'm pretty sure the young woman behind the counter at the McDonalds at the ferry terminal was speaking Reformed Egyptian Esperanto. It wasn't Pig Latin. I'm fluent in Pig Latin.

I'm pretty much used to the real article when it comes to cowboys. People in New York and New Jersey seem to live in a fantasy world when it comes to cowboys. On the oddometer scale, New York City beats out Newark by .02 percent of one point. I'm just more comfortable with small-town odd than I am with Big City weirdness. Although, now that I think about it, the creepiest town in North America is probably Rock Springs, Wyoming . And it's a dinky town.

Anonymous said...

Ain't never been to NY city... scares hell outta me. Once went around it on the Tap n zee bridge. I hear they got pot holes deep as coal mines!

Haste yee back ;-)

Eric Riback said...

If you never want to write another book, ditch the publicist, because you really don't care how this one sells and you just want to make a profit from the advance.

If you're trying to build a career, consider the first book an investment. And if you develop a successful career, you'll enevtually earn backlist royalties from it.

As to web sites, I agree it's not difficult to build a decent looking site and many are overconstructed. The real question is whether you know how to communicate in that milleu. I've seen self-made web sites of good writers who had no idea what to say or what they abso shouldn't say on their sites. Maybe what you need is not a web designer but to have your publicist review and edit your web content.

writtenwyrdd said...

You don't need a whole lot for a web site. Many SPs provide a minimal web site with simplistic but functional web builder engines. (I use Earthlink and they have a simple one, for example. I gather AOL does as well.) Additionally, you can link your blogs (do a number of them) to the web site. And I'd bet you have some friends or relatives you can beg for help on the html front.

I'd suggest that you wait for a personal publicist for when you have an established mid-level author status unless you don't want to quit your day job to write. There's plenty of info on the web about how to do a lot of publicity yourself. You can have contests, you can blog, you can do all that stuff without paying anyone.

In terms of grooming, I'd spend more money on a nice hair stylist vs. pedicure and teeth whitening. And just shop for two really nice outfits that can mix 'n match and even use at a cocktail party, and you are fine. Business suits do it all the time (I used to) by changing your blouse, shoes and accessories but not the suit.

And BTW congratulations on the sale! Kudos for that, which is the really important part of all this and don't forget it!

susanna in KY said...

Anonymous - I lived in NJ almost a decade, a lot of it in the NYC metro area, worked several years in Jersey City, drove the approach to the Holland Tunnel daily on my way to work. I've dined out in Hoboken, I've ridden all the PATH routes many times, I know where to get ginger ice cream in Chinatown and where to find what at Strand Bookstore. I've been in a domicile overlooking Central Park. I even worked a while in the Bronx, although it took me over an hour via PATH and subway to get there from Kearny.

So which one of us didn't know anything about our object of fun? A writer should be a little more diligent with research.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

I want to know if Susanna bloodied Anon's nose or simply bruised it.

A century or more ago ... wait, I'll check ... 1867. It was in 1867 ... Charles Piazzi Smyth wrote Life and Work at the Great Pyramid. It's time for someone to write Life and Work in the Big City.

Now Smyth measured the Great Pyramid in hopes of finding clues to God's plans for humans and their timing. I think Smyth had a clock fetish. For him it was all about time. So he invented pyramid inches and measured things and predicted events. (This guy was a scientist too. really. Astronomer Royal of Scotland.)

So, someone needs to start measuring things like the fire escape steps in significant New York and Newark buildings, converting the measurements to pyramid inches and using the results to predict the Day of Judgment. If Anon or Susanna took that on, it might distract them from biting.

The only thing I don't like about this fight is I don't see it as fun. If you two are going to fight, I want to see it done with biting humour, satirical wit, subtle word plays. Make me laugh or I'll get bored and type up another really long post for you to read.

Oh, and I don't think they give distemper shots to humans. Do they? When you enter California from the Great North they take away your Florida Oranges. I'm surprised they don't take away your bottled grapes too. I asked a fruit-guard about that. He said all this searching for alien fruit was to keep bugs away from California plants, as if bugs can't fly in without a passport.

So, when you enter New York, do they confiscate anything?

I want Anon and Susanna to shake hands and come out swinging at the count three. The current score is Susanna 1, Anon. 0. Susanna wins because of a straightforward confrontational jab that knocked Anon's thesis silly. Next round is to demonstrate satirical ridicule. Let the games begin!

Fun Guy said...

I bought a pinball machine and an iPod with my advance. Yipee!

JPD said...

I write for food, which is why I'm starving. Also explains why I'm burning everything in my bookcase. For heat.

Anonymous said...

Uhh...Kitty, I love Steven Van Zandt, too, but I think your apology (see above) is slightly misplaced.

The Sopranos theme, "Woke Up This Morning (Chosen One)" is performed by A3, and written by Love, Love, .Love, Rev. D. Wayne Love, and Chester Burnette according to the liner notes for the CD.

Anonymous said...

view from a Pasture -

The civility of a city is inversely proportional to the amount of dog shit on its' sidewalks!

Haste yee back ;-)

Kim said...

I'd up Susanna's score to 2 simply because she's spewing true New Jersey attitude (with a dose of NY thrown in for good measure).

But for those of you who've never been beyond Newark or Jersey City, there's a lot more to Jersey besides urban blight, yuppies, and $5,000 a month shoe boxes.

For instance, did you know NJ produces the most blueberries in the world? Yup - Hammonton NJ is considered the blueberry capital of the world. We also produce cranberries, peaches, and of course, Jersey corn.

Baseball was invented here. Thomas Edison perfected the light bulb and phonograph right here in Menlo Park. And everyone knows there are no tomatoes even half as good as Jersey tomatoes. Washington slept EVERYWHERE in NJ (no wonder he is considered the father of our country) and you can't walk two feet without hitting something of historical significance.

So, there is traffic, and high taxes, and refineries all along the turnpike, but come west and take a peek at the Delaware Water Gap (absolutely stunning, btw), tube down the Delaware River. Hike the Sourland Mountains and explore Hacklebarney State Park in Central NJ. Go south along one of best stretches of coastline anywhere and visit Point Pleasant (great for the kids) Seaside, Wildwood, Ocean City. Take your chances in Atlantic City.

We're not so bad, really. And when summer rolls around and we all go down the shore (we never go to the seashore, or go to the beach for the weekend. We go down the shore)just don't hold us up on a Friday afternoon stopping at every cross street because you don't know which one is yours. That's a good way to get yourself runned over. Don't do it, and you'll be just fine.

If you happen to take in a Giants game (they do win sometimes, you know) ignore that funny smell near the stadium. You get used to it after a while (and no, it's not Jimmy Hoffa!)

Anonymous said...

Oh, goodness, go away for a few hours and look what happens? I suppose I'm the anon who riled Susanna. I made the comment about the Mason-Dixon.

I was joking, poking fun at the South, where I live. I was asking Susanna if she lived in Alabama and merely meant it as a jab toward the South, meaning that we're nearly a foreign land, and delightfully so. I only meant that maybe if we Southerners were real quiet, no one would pick on us like poor NJ was suffering.

And no, distemper shots are not given to humans. Again, I was joking.

I apologize for the unintentional insult I apparently rendered to Susanna.

Truly, I was making fun of The South, a wonderful place full of wonderful characters, and a lot of kudzu.

I'm sorry, Susanna. I did not make myself clear. And I've been to NJ. Nice place, nice people and I loved the Pine Barrens.

Anonymous said...

Get a good accountant. Great line from Schinlers List. "well, my father always told me to get a sympathetic priest, and understanding doctor and a good accountant. I'm not a very religious man, and I don't intend to get sick, but I do need a good accountant.

Almost all of your expenses are tax deductible, which makes that after tax cost of your expenses about $ 9000. Cheer up, you haven' t spent the entire $ 15,000 yet.

susanna in KY said...

Anon - thanks for the apology, and I'm sorry I flared up. That's my legacy from living/driving in the NYC metro area and working for a NJ police department. I have a much shorter fuse than I did before I moved there.

And since you're from the South, you'll probably understand this too: I get reallllly tired of people trashing the South. I don't mind people poking gentle fun, or even being sharply sarcastic when it's warranted. But the default attitude about the South from a lot of folks outside of it is a negative one. I also got it in more urban areas of my native Kentucky, because I come from Appalachia. So I get a little testy.

Kim, I also lived over near Hackettstown for a while, and went hiking around the Del Water Gap many times. Lovely area. We also went to a cranberry festival once. I never knew there were so many things you could do with a cranberry. Cape May is another "don't miss" place.

Did you know that on I-78, there's a toll booth as you leave NJ, none as you enter? I always wondered if that was because they figured people would pay to leave NJ, but wouldn't pay to get in.

Anonymous said...

I get reallllly tired of people trashing the South. I don't mind people poking gentle fun, or even being sharply sarcastic when it's warranted

The worst? Hollywood accents. Nick Nolte, bless his heart, opened his mouth in 'The Prince of Tides' and I was rolling on the floor. No one, and I mean no one, uses that many syllables in the word 'born'. His voice coach must have been from New Jersey. He sure wasn't from around here.

That doesn't even go into the pot-bellied sheriffs who can be bribed and can spit further than a grasshopper on a tobacco high.

My oldest son had the same teacher in pre-school for three years. She happened to move up a class each year. We adored her. Still do. She's from New Jersey. My sweet Southern child said, "Hello, how are you?" in a New Jersey accent for years. He's 21 now and still says it when he sees Miss Kathy.

I find the South and Southerners infinitely entertaining. I love our idioms, our manners, and our ability to deliver an sweet insult that doesn't register with the insultee for at least twenty minutes. But I don't insult people I don't know, or insult other regions of this country, or poke fun at other countries. I don't mind poking fun at myself and Graceland, because it's done with a great deal of genuine affection. Well, Graceland is a little tacky, but I do try to refrain from talking about the Jungle Room in the presence of those who worship there. Never insult a religion with blue suede shoes on its alter.

I'm in the foothills of the Great Smokies, so I know what you mean. My roots stretch all the way up those mountains. I see a lot about mountain folk that's wonderfully unique and they are, without a doubt, some of the funniest people I've ever met in my life. Great senses of humor. One can't stand high upon Mt. Mitchell and gaze out across the smog covering what was once a clear view of hundreds of miles and now has been reduced to twenty on a good day and not find a little ironic humor in the world. Or maybe it's just the carbon monoxide.

At any rate, thanks, Susanna, for being so gracious in accepting my apology.

Kim said...

Did you know that on I-78, there's a toll booth as you leave NJ, none as you enter?

Susanna, there's also a toll booth on Rt 202 heading into New Hope, PA but not one crossing back, and I think the GWB is the same way. (I might be wrong on that, I don't drive into NYC, I let my husband the road warrior handle that. I just watch the scenery - still can't get over that huge gap in the skyline.) Yep - I think you're right - we all pay to get out, but there would be massive u-turns if we had to pay to get in ;)

NJ does have it all, which is kind of funny considering how much most of us complain about living here. But just let someone outside poke fun at it....

Nancy Beck said...

Susanna in Alabama and kim,

All the toll roads at the borders of New Jersey have tolls going in one direction: Into New Jersey. (Figures.)

Even the dinky Rt. 22 bridge into Easton, PA (out of P'burg, as opposed to what's called the free bridge) is that way. Yup, them engineers figured to get their money on the way out instead of coming in.

I agree New Jersey gets a bad rap; get away from the Turnpike, and you'll find, by golly, green trees! ;-)

And I have tawked like a stereotypical Joisey gal in quite a while. That's what happens when you live in New England for a while and have people spewing it back at you most days. Although I'll admit I sounded more like that than my husband ever did (Nawk for Newark, anyone? ;-)).


Anonymous said...

Just as a point of interest, Cape May is below the Mason-Dixon line.