Confessions of a no-good writer

I’ve been holding this secret for a long time. It embarassess me. It makes me feel terrible even though I know it’s pretty common. Or people have told me it’s pretty common. But maybe they were just being polite. I’ll tell you what it is anyway. I need to get it off my chest. Ready? Here it is: After nearly five years, my first novel has still not earned out it’s advance.

Ouch! That was like ripping off a band-aid. I thought it was going to be worse than it was. Actually, it still feels pretty bad. My chest hurts. I’m totally serious.

Two weeks ago I got a statement from my publisher. It turns out that I’m VERY close to earning out my advance. I actually should do it in the next quarter. But then you know what happened? The books were released on paperback and for Kindle. That means, rather than $15.95 a copy, they’re now $9.99 and $8.99 a copy respectively. So I’m going to have to sell even more books to earn it out. I feel like it’s never going to happen. I might cry.

This is yet one more of those things I’ll use to put pressure on myself. And here’s how:

I haven’t earned out my advance = I am useless as a writer.

I have not been able to sell a new work of fiction = I really suck at writing.

Writing the Stephenie Meyer biography made me want to hang myself = I am a bitter, jealous little writer.

Researching the Sharon Creech  biography makes me anxious = I am a talentless, pitiful writer who should probably go back to a day job.

I can’t figure out my next novel = I couldn’t write my way out of a greasy paper bag with a sharp-nibbed pen.

So what’s a talentless hack to do? Go back to writing I guess. What else is there besides writing? True, not everybody can be as fantastic as Sharon Creech, or Jerry Spinelli, or Madeleine L’Engle or Christopher Paul Curtis. But Goddamn it, I am going to work so hard I’ll be good someday. I swear.


8 thoughts on “Confessions of a no-good writer

  1. Uninvoked says:

    Awww. *hug*

    70% of all novels do not earn out their advance. To earn out yours would put you in the top 30% of writing. Think about that. Since you’re so close, that means you’re in the top 60% right now. The top 60% of published authors.

    So lets get this straight.

    Not only have you ascended from the rank of unpublished nobody to a published author, you’re within inches of actually earning out your advance. Not only are you within inches of doing so, it is clear by your post that you’re motivated to actually do it. NOT ONLY THAT but you did it on your FIRST NOVEL.

    So. Talentless hack? You’re making the rest of us look bad. Stop complaining and go sell more books. You’re way ahead of the game.

    Oh, and read “How to write the break-out novel” by Donald Maass. You clearly have enough writing skill to understand it, and it will take your writing to the next level.

  2. Tracey says:


    Had I known that 70% of books didn’t earn out their advance, I wouldn’t have thrown myself a pity party this morning. And why haven’t I come across that statistic before?

    Anyway, you’re right. I certainly don’t mean to make other writers feel bad. This job is damn hard enough without the added pressure.

    Thanks for setting me straight. I need a little smack upside the head every now and then to get me out of my funk. You’re aces, U!

    Also, your blog rocks!

  3. Uninvoked says:

    I didn’t know it was 70% I had to look it up, and that is according to the New York Times. ^^ Let me know when you do earn out your advance and we’ll throw a big party!

    Maybe you should go on a blog tour and talk about your book with a linky to amazon. I’m sure there are loads of people who’d be glad to have you guest blog, and with it now a much more affordable paperback it’s a great opportunity to sell to those who otherwise wouldn’t give it a try.

  4. Tracey says:

    That is some fantastic advice, Uninvoked. Thanks. I’m not sure how one goes about being a guest blogger, but I will figure it out.

    Consider your invitation sent for the earned-out-the-advance festivities!

  5. kathleenwall says:

    I think it can only be a good thing that your book is coming out on kindle and in paperback–it’s now available to a whole new audience that won’t shell out for a hardcover. I just stumbled on your blog–love the title!

  6. Tracey says:

    Nice to meet you, Kathleen! Thanks for stopping by. You’re absolutely right. There is a different market for paperback and Kindle. I remember having to wait for paperbacks to come out of books I liked so that I could afford them. Thanks for reminding me.

    Stop by anytime!

    (I love my blog’s title too! :))

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