Wednesday, May 2, 2012

SHOW ME THE MONEY!!!! by guest blogger Wendy Lawton of Books and Such Literary!

I love to talk about great writing, publishing hopes, career dreams and our ultimate mission but let’s set all that aside and get totally crass today on Seekerville. Let’s talk money. How about if I answer the burning question, “What kind of advance can I expect?”
Wouldn't it be nice if I could make this simple and just name a number? Unfortunately, it's not that easy.  The question of advances must be taken on a case-by-case basis because there are four variables: the author, the publishing house, the project and the agent.
The author— If you are perceived to be an A-list author, you bring a lot more to the house than just earned-out advances. Many houses are willing to pay more than the sales projections dictate-- more than what they think a book will earn out--for the opportunity to publish you (stature), to try to provide a forever-home to you (future earnings) and to forge a link with your readership (enlarge their following).
If you are a solid writer, a solid earner, a publishing house may offer you a bigger advance to lure you away from your current house (paying for the upheaval, so to speak). Or if you stay at your present house, a good, stable house may look at your earnings over time and decide to reward you with a bigger advance as a way of letting you know you are valued and to encourage you to stay with them.
If you are a developing writer, beware of big advances. You need to establish a track record. You can't afford a failure early in your career. The hardest thing to overcome in publishing is a bad numbers-to-advance ratio. Every time an agent goes out to sell you, he has to try to explain away those numbers without giving proprietary information about your former publisher and without appearing to trash anyone's marketing efforts.
If you are an author with a history of regrettable numbers (for whatever reason) you need to be flexible about any advance. You have a career that needs rebuilding. The best-case scenario would be to take a break-out book (like we can predict this) to a solid house regardless of the advance. We have some bold editors out there who recognize great writing and are sometimes willing to put everything on the line. Make it easier for them to do this by being flexible about your advance.
Or, if you are a one-book-only author, like someone who is selling his own life story, you don't need to worry about a career arc. You can go for broke.
And there is the author with money problems, who may be willing to sacrifice a long-term career for a large infusion of cash.
The House— Each publishing house has its own advance philosophy. Some good publishers are pretty inflexible about advances. They know how to build careers, but they almost have a set payment structure for their category books that they apply across the board. The nice thing is that most advances earn out, and many do phenomenally well. These publishers understand their business model. Other houses pay high advances regularly, which never come close to earning out. Who knows how they answer to their management or board of directors, but that scenario can be a fiasco for the authors. Your numbers at those houses will look atrocious. Most solid houses will work hard to offer an advance that reflects reality.
The Project— This is the hardest element for us to evaluate. It might be easier in nonfiction. But if you have a book that everyone agrees is a stunner, that becomes a consideration. Your agent may spot it. If you are not settled at one publishing home, and your agent is shopping it around, you'll get multiple offers and that will be a first indication. You can't go by what your mother, friends or spouse thinks.
The agent— Many agents believe it's important to get as much money up front as you can, regardless of the probability of earning out. These might be agents who work with you on a project-by-project basis or who are not expecting to work with you for your whole career. (Bad scenario.)
You may have an agent who is working on a career plan with you. Your agent sees each contract as a potential career builder or career breaker. He will chew over each offer, worrying about how it will affect your whole career. He may encourage you to seek a smaller advance if it brings about some other objective.
Then there is the agent you need to avoid who has his own money problems and needs to make as much money in the short term as possible.  He will push for as much as the market will bear regardless of who the publisher is or the potential of earning out. He knows he can always replace the current client with a fresh client—they're lined up waiting.
There's so much more. That's why agents and editors spend so much time praying over these things and working out potential scenarios. The variables are almost endless. Just remember, there are consequences to every decision you make. My job, as an agent, is to try to mentally play out those consequences in advance and make a wise decision based on the goals of the client, the strength of the project, the quality of the house, etc. 
I look forward to your comments. Does it all sound unfair? Frustrating? Do you hate it when anyone refers to A-list writers (because you suspect that means there is a B-list and a C-list--and you fear you're on the D-list)? Let's talk.

Wendy Lawton feels equally comfortable on a computer, at a writer’s conference or with a cool lump of clay in her hand. She’s been an artist, a writer and a literary agent. In her first career, as a sculptor and designer of porcelain dolls, she amassed more than 300 original editions. Lawton dolls were nominated for more than seventy industry awards, winning the coveted DOTY nine times and the Dolls Award of Excellence three times.
“Running a collectible business provided the perfect foundation for being a literary agent,” she says. “I’ve spent years developing product, analyzing market trends, and being involved in every aspect of the product supply chain.” And she believes that product development is the perfect parallel to book development. “Speaking as an author, I know we cringe to admit it, but creating books is largely about creating product.”
What Wendy’s Clients Say…

"Wendy is the perfect mixture of smart, tempered with humility.  She gracefully negotiates and networks—garnishing the respect of publishing circles throughout the country.  She advises me with a poise that has built my knowledge of the industry, and confidence within it.  She’s practical, insightful responsive, and warm—proving to not only be an excellent agent, but a trusted friend."
Gari MeachamSpirit Hunger (Zondervan October 2012)

Wendy enjoys helping her clients develop their ideas and chart their careers. She’s adept at working with authors to discover the core of their writing style, leading to a brand recognition for each author in the marketplace of books.
No stranger to the literary market, she has served on the faculty of several major writers conferences and has written eight books in her young adult Daughters of the Faith series. These books were followed by a series of four teen books—The Real TV series. Two nonfiction adult books are scheduled for upcoming release. She won the1999 Writer of the Year Award at the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference. She also won the famous Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest for the intentional worst first line of a novel in the Children’s Literature category.
Wendy acquires Adult Fiction & Nonfiction books.

(Ruthy note: Aren't these gorgeous? I'm constantly amazed by such talent!) 
Wendy has graciously put together this beautiful gift basket for one lucky commenter today. Stop by, grab some Starbucks coffee (Ruthy is chief barista today!) and let's talk cold, hard cash.  Or lack thereof, LOL!


  1. Mary's tweet caught my eye as I was winding down for the night.

    I think I'm on the Q list - they take one look and say, "Well, what do we have here?" :D

    Wendy,I have so much respect for someone who crafts dolls due to the precision, imagination, and patience required in the skill. I have a friend who crafts dolls so life-like, people do double-takes when they see her cradling one.

    I only own one collectible doll - Ashton Drake's Jessica. I bought it as an investment for my baby Jessica who is now 21 and moved away, but the doll is still with me.

    This will be an interesting day, eh. :D

  2. Pull up a chair and have a cuppa coffee. Half a dozen pot set to brew.

    Thanks for the insider look at the financial side of the business.

    Truth is, I haven't spent too much time wrestling this frustrating issue. As an unpub, the more frustrating hurdle is getting to the point of knowing there will be an advance.


  3. This informational was so helpful.... that is one thing I enjoy so much about this blog....practical tips and information and advice.

    And those dolls wow. I collected them for years but recently got rid of all of them except my favorites. :)

  4. Wendy, thanks for the thorough explanation. Up until a couple months ago, I never even thought about numbers, other than a vague "maybe I'll be able to pay a few bills". It's good to see all the variables involved in the money end of the business.

    And the dolls? Gorgeous!

    Ruthy, dear, make mine a hot chocolate, please. Plenty of whipped cream. Oh, and some of those chocolate curls? Thank you so much.

  5. I am a Seekerville influencer - reviewer ~*~ may I sign in for an opportunity for the basket goodies while I read my favorite authors, and new historical fiction debuts?

  6. There's just nothing clear and simple about this whole publishing thing is there?

    I wonder if my Grandma has any of your dolls--she was a huge collector, mostly older odolls though.

    I'll take a hot chocolate.

  7. Hi Wendy:

    As a marketing person I could not agree more with your comment: “I know we cringe to admit it, but creating books is largely about creating product.” It’s also a consumable product and like a gourmet meal -- each bite needs to taste good.

    I believe that just like food, readers will get a ‘craving’ for a romance theme (like Plain Jane) and go right out and buy their fourteenth romance on this theme.

    As a marketing person, I just wish writers would spice up these themes with locations, occupations, hobbies, events and other interests that millions of people have an interest in outside of reading novels. Do you ever tell writers to pick an exotic location or give their hero and heroine more interesting occupations?

    BTW: I’d really like to know how much of making a successful selling doll is in the clothes and how much is in the face and hair? I would think 90% is in what the doll is wearing. I really like your dolls. Have any of your dolls ever been used on the cover of a romance novel?


  8. Wendy, thanks for being here and talking about the subject Southern people, like myself, are afraid to talk, popularity, the price of fame. It just isn't polite but, boy, is it necessary!

    Ah, the Madame Alexander Little Women and international dolls were in my sister's collection of dolls. I just pulled the heads off my Barbies. Now that I am a grandmother I appreciate dolls so much more but they don't make em like they used to make them.

    Thanks again for sharing.

    Hot tea with honey and lemon for me, please.

    Peace, Julie

  9. First, I love the dolls. My mother collects dolls. I went to a conference with her and tried my hand at painting eyes. I didn't do so good. Takes a great talent to create realistic faces.

    I've thought of numbers, but like Jan I never thought of them beyond hoping to pay a few bills. It's nice having this information on advances.

    Thank you!

  10. Goodness, I came to talk writing and everyone wants to talk dolls. :-)

    Vince, I'd like to think that the dolls were successful because of the complete "package"-- costume, sculpt, story and craftsmanship. Much like books. Plot without compelling characters falls flat. Boring settings make for a ho hum book.

    And no, my designs were never used for covers of books. I was known mostly for my portrayals of children.

  11. Relating books to food. I get that.

    Vince, stretching the setting market is a very difficult thing. Publishers like to stick with meat and potatoes. I think the readers who are willing to experiment with a new locale are fewer than those who like their 'usual 'fare'.

    Thank you Wendy!
    Your insight is so appreciated and I'm glad this will be in the archive when I need to read it again.
    And you're so sweet to offer such an amazon gift basket. May I get you a cup of coffee and a scone?

    (no, they are not left over from yesterday...we all know you must eat a scone the day it is made!)

  12. The dolls are beautiful. Thanks for the great info.


  13. Anita, I have Jessica, too! And I have some of Wendy's dolls as well...

    Well, my daughter has them, LOL! I love dolls... and story-telling.

    This is a wonderful coupling of talents, isn't it?

    Helen, coffee, gimme. And you raise a good point, from the vantage point of nothing, anything looks good, right?

    But as business women, it's cool to get an insider's look at how this all goes down... without going to jail with Mike Milliken and the rest of the Wall Street Insiders crew!

  14. "Little Women" Dolls! My favorite book.

    Interesting take on not earning out the advance.

  15. Welcome, Wendy!

    Aaaah, the business side of writing. I love it too! It’s as fascinating as the actual writing, though in a different way. I guess this is really something you have to go through before you completely understand it, and I have a feeling that every scenario is different than any set of publication rules. I do look forward to that point in my writing career, Lord willing!

    Your dolls are beautiful!

    So is the gift basket. : )


  16. Wendy, thanks so much for sharing with us today. You've opened my eyes to what kind of agent I hope to get one day.
    I love the thought that an agent will pray for me and my books, will sit down and look at the big picture of my career.
    I'm not published and don't have an agent. I've practiced query letters and synopsis writing. I have three stories that have been through crit groups and are polished.
    Do you have any suggestions on the best way to grab an agents attention?
    Thanks for your help.
    Jackie Layton

  17. What a great post, Wendy! The business side of writing is a whole different side of the writing life than sitting down at your laptop and typing novel words.

    What gorgeous dolls! So creatively arranged!

  18. Wendy, your dolls are beautiful! How cool that you can sculpt (I took pottery and it was a miserable disaster...relaxing, though!).

    Thanks so much for this post. It was so helpful--especially the agent info. It's too bad that new writers usually don't know how to evaluate agents BEFORE signing...I'd love to read a post on that sometime! (Red flags, that kind of thing.)

    You're so right, good agents will stay with you through your writing career, not just look for the highest pay-off for your book.

    And, just reading through the comments...there are so many cool writers on this blogspot! What a ministry this is to writers everywhere!

  19. Jan, chocolate with curls coming up!!!


    And dolls speak to the romantic in me... Anne of Green Gables... Laura Ingalls.... Jo March....

    The romantic writer within LOVES THOSE WHO HAVE GONE BEFORE!!!! ;) So I'm just smiling, remembering!

    LHH you're in! So glad you stopped by... We love our influencers!

    Melissa, hot chocolate, DONE!!!!

    I collected some of Ashton Drake's pretty dolls in the eighties... And I love them. Little boys, little girls, fairy tale characters, story characters. That's where my love of fiction and fantasy began, I think... playing with dolls and paper dolls when I was little. But Wendy's dolls and others I bought for my daughters.

  20. Vince, I knew that line would jump out at you. At me, too.

    Some folks criticize the idea of 'writing for the market' as not being literary genius.

    Most long-remembered works are not those of genius, but those that touch us in a personal way. And who can negate that readers sometimes want a sweet read???? Or a light movie?

    Most of my beloved books and movies have not won awards... but they're just plain wonderful. Nothin' wrong with a paycheck, right?

    JULIE!!! Hot tea, with lemon. Green? Black? Mixed?

    Do not ask for white tea.


    How mundane.

  21. So, Wendy, back to writing....

    What are the best tips for moving yourself up the "lists"?

    How does an author make a 'splash'?

    And I've got a mocha, extra hot, low-fat, no whip with your name on it!


  22. I was taught never to count my chickens before they hatched . . . and have lived long enough to know that I can't even count the eggs if I don't have the chickens in the first place. And then sometimes the crazy things crow instead of cluck, so you end up with no eggs anyway.

    I write because I must. I don't like little people running around in my head. I give them places to live and things to say and circumstances to conquer and lovers to love. If, by chance, I may one day garner a contract I will have ADVANCED.

    I have the privilege of counting some 'already there' authors as friends. And I know this business is not for the faint of heart, nor for those who want to get rich quick.

    Advance? You bet.
    Large Advance? Would be nice.

    But at the risk of sounding like I want to be 'teacher's pet', at this point I just want to advance to the next level in my writing . . . Not so much a WOW, where have you been all our editing/agenting/publishing lives . . . but rather --you know what? I see some potential here and I'm ready to to take a chance on you. Shall we advance?

    And I will smile sweetly, hold out my arms, and we shall advance . . . or is it dance? Sometimes I confuse the two.

    Thanks, Wendy, for another very thought provoking blog.

  23. Wendy, thanks for sharing your wisdom about the business side of writing. I appreciate your explanation of the unique weaving necessary between author, agent, project and publisher.

    How much input do the agent and publisher each put forth in determining an advance? Or is all what the publsher determines they will pay?

    Looking forward to more conversation here today. :)

  24. Oh, Wendy, your dolls are beautiful! I am clay challenged, at least if someone wants me to make something that resembles an item other than a lump. You are a gifted lady.

  25. Thanks for breaking it down, Wendy. I don't frequently think about what I might get for an advance one day, because I know it can fluxuate so much. Right now I'm just trying to keep my nose to the grindstone until that day comes!

    Thanks for the giveaway! I see books in there.... :) Count me in!

  26. a great posting, wendy...loved your dolls, too.

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  27. GOOD MORNING, WENDY!~!! Welcome back to Seekerville.

    Publishing has been a most eye opening experience. You learn to keep your mouth shut, your ears open and your fingers to the grindstone..if you're smart, that is!!

  28. BTW, I have really been enjoying your series on what you look for in a client!!! Thank you!

  29. pages21@cableone.netMay 2, 2012 at 9:44 AM

    The dolls are beautiful. Thank you for your insight!

  30. The only doll left over from my childhood has clumps of hair cut to the scalp and one eye poked out. So I admire the collectible ones from a distance. :)

    Although I would love a huge advance oneday, I'm realistic in expectations. After reading your wonderful post I have a question.

    What if....You receive a large advance that sales don't cover. Do you owe the publisher the difference?

    This is probably a silly question but I had to ask.

  31. Hi, Wendy! This is interesting to me. How I long for the day I will be an A-list writer and publishing houses are throwing money at me! LOL! Kind of hard to imagine at this point. :-) Luckily, I have a good imagination!

    I have a question. How do other publishers know what your advance-to-earnings ratio is? I thought the only numbers we ever share with other publishers are the sales numbers.

  32. Hi Wendy,
    Our paths must have crossed at one time as I was very active in the United Federation of Doll Clubs and frequent speaker and workshop teacher at UFDC conferences. I'm also a sculptor, doll maker, and owned a doll business for about five years. We specialized in Travel Dolls. Both my adult daughter and I have some of your Lawton dolls in our collections. She was very fond of the Little Women series. Small world.

    Before the dolls, I earned my living in commission sales, and that taught me to not count my chickens. I appreciate your eyes-wide open post. Every little bit of information helps.

  33. Wendy, thank you for this post. This type of information is the reason I wanted an agent. Without the industry insights of each publisher's quirks, a newbie author can set her career back before she's taken a step forward.

    It's also a very good reason to research agents in the first place - to discover which ones share your career vision.

    Ruthy, yay on the Jessica doll. :)

  34. Wendy, thank you for this post. This type of information is the reason I wanted an agent. Without the industry insights of each publisher's quirks, a newbie author can set her career back before she's taken a step forward.

    It's also a very good reason to research agents in the first place - to discover which ones share your career vision.

    Ruthy, yay on the Jessica doll. :)

  35. WOW, WENDY ... after reading about all you do, I'm ready to go back to bed!! Talk about a shaker and mover, girl, you are truly a woman of many talents!!

    I absolutely LOVE the insight from someone like you who is on the inside of industry, both as an agent and a writer, so THANK YOU!! And I echo Ruthy's brilliant question: What are the best tips for moving yourself up the "lists"?

    Every author is looking to move to "the next level," so I, too, would appreciate your thoughts on that.

    Thanks, Wendy, for coming to Seekerville and for your invaluable insight today -- you're a "doll"!! (Sorry, couldn't resist ... )


  36. Good morning Wendy, It is great to have you here in Seekerville. And with such great information. Thank you.

    We met at Mt Hermon about 1 years ago and I have always enjoyed your workshops and info since. As Ruthy says, you are a mover and a shaker.

    So glad you're enjoying the business of agenting. I'm sure it is an aye opener in this changing business.

    Best wishes and thanks again for joining us.

  37. Thank you, Wendy, for this great information. I knew this business was subjective, but WOW, it makes the head spin.

    Thank goodness for talented agents out there to navigate for us authors!

    I, too, love the part about you praying for your clients. That's the type of agent I want one day. Someone who truly cares about the people she represents.

    Though I must say all that info about sales and ratios makes me nervous. Think I'll just get back to writing.

    Thanks again!

    sbmason at sympatico dot ca

  38. Hi Wendy,

    Thanks so much for sharing your insights with us today.

    Unfair isn't the adjective that came to mind as I read. Fascinating is more accurate. This is why we need agents! To explore all of these fascinating (and somewhat mind-numbing) aspects of the business.

    I'm seriously in awe of your multi-faceted talents. The dolls are lovely.

  39. Good morning Wendy.

    Does an advance make a difference as long as it's earned out?

    Another words lets say the author will earn 10k overall and she took 6k advance leaving her 4k in royalty. Compare that to her taking a 10k in advance but not earning royalty checks.

    Is the only difference is when she receives the money?

    (I know it will make a difference if she takes a 10k advance and the books only earns 5k.) Wouldn't it be nice if we knew ahead of time exactly what the book would earn?


  40. Uh - Tina - fingers to the grindstone? Mine are glued to the keyboard... ;)

    Wendy -

    Thanks so much for taking time to stop by and chat with us! I've had the opportunity to talk with Lori Copeland a couple of times [she lives nearby] and she's spoken highly of you. Kathleen Y'Barbo Turner was a guest speaker at our local ACFW group a few weeks ago and she said nice things too ;).

    Like a lot of other folks around here, I'm prepubbed, preagented, pre... well, you get it, but I look forward to the day I learn about all this first hand. I'm glad there's agents out there who will say "You know what, yeah, this other company is offering a bigger advance, but long term, this other one is really a better plan". I read another agent's blog recently [Rachelle's maybe?] where she said just that and I thought "How cool she's looking after long term interests and not just short term gain".

    Thanks again!

    [Oh - and to anyone who might remember - the magazine with my daughter's article on the Titanic is out - if anyone might be interested in the link, let me know - or it's on my Facebook pages :)]

  41. Wendy,

    Thanks so much for this information, seems the more I learn about the writing business the more Advil I need. But it's wonderful of you to share, so we can go in with some idea of what's going on.

    Do you have any thoughts on publishing houses that don't offer advances at all? I've noticed this in the digital first houses.


  42. Ruthy, anything but Assam (allergic) or white. I agree, boring.

    Wendy. It is so much easier to talk about dolls than the gritty stuff.

    Someone asked about how to go about advancing on the lists or even getting on a list. I am all ears.

    Peace and thanks, Julie

  43. Wendy, is there anything you don't do? Artist, writer, agent, Wonder Woman. Really, I have the greatest admiration for you.

    Hope your day is blessed!

  44. Nice to see you in Seekerville today, Wendy! Thanks for this straightforward examination of the whys and wherefores of book advances. There's always so much more to the equation than the bottom line.

  45. Hi, Wendy. Thanks for being on Seekerville.
    I met Wendy in one of my most pleasant author/agent interviews of all time.
    I got an agent appointment at the ACFW conference. I already had one, but I got one and I knew Wendy well enough by reputation that I wanted to meet her so I put her down.
    (this was before I got my first contract)
    So, I had all these books written and I'd made up multiple one sheets.
    One focusing on my romantic suspense.
    One for my historical westerns.
    One with my shorter works aimed at Heartsong Presents and Love Inspired
    One with all of it.
    Four One Sheets.
    Twenty books in all.
    So, I sat down across from poor, sweet gullible Wendy and said, (I've since heard this is bad etiquette, oops!)
    "I already have an agent, but he's not here and I need an agent's advice and I get an appointment so you're the lucky girl."
    Wendy just smiled and said, "I can stand one 15 minute appointment that isn't about representing someone, what've you got?"
    I drag out all these one sheets and slapped them in front of her and said, "Who should I talk to? How should I present this? Is this a towering achievement or a staggering testimony to failure? Do I show all of this to editors or focus the right one sheet on the right editor? HELP ME!"
    And she did. We talked and laughed and had the best time and she gave me really solid advice.
    I have loved her ever since. :)

  46. Hi Ruth:

    I think writers write too much for other writers and not for readers. I agree with you: write the best story. I can’t tell you one thing about the POV or ‘show-to-tell’ ratio of “The Old Man and the Sea” or “The Great Gatsby” but I loved these stories.


    P.S. If you want to move up the charts, publish in an anthology with an author who always hits the charts. Also, to make a big splash: run out on the field in Yankee Stadium and give Jeter a copy of your books in which he is mentioned.

  47. Hi Debra:

    You wrote…

    “Vince, stretching the setting market is a very difficult thing. Publishers like to stick with meat and potatoes.”

    I agree with the saying that “romance readers want the same, only different”. But why not move the story 100 miles so it can be in the Palo Duro Canyon area? Millions of tourists have visited the park and attended the outdoor play. I’d love to put a picture of the canyon on the cover! If the story is set in a little town, why not have a big event once a year like the buzzards coming back to Hinckley? There is so much an author can do to help the marketing department.

    As a marketing person for years, I’ve often felt like God in this joke:

    “A good Christian prayed to win the lotto every day for years but never won a dime. Finally a voice came out of the sky and said, “Give Me some help here. At least buy a ticket.” I just wish more authors would buy a ticket!

    Add the selling vitamins into the story from the start. It’s doesn’t cost more : )


  48. Julane, you didn't ask for coffee, but there is a cooler full of Cokes and other soft drinks to the left of the stage where Wendy's holding court...

    And aren't those vintage roses glorious? Wendy has a way with flowers! ;)

    I like the dance/write analogy. It reminds me of a song from 1776... about the dance between congressmen, wanting the best for themselves and the people they represent... and that it doesn't always blend well.

    Hey, just so's the lot o' youse knows, the barista is IN....



    How am I supposed to get hostess-of-the-year awards when you don't let me wait on you????

    Consider me your servant, your loving hand at the beverage counter.

    (In other words, make me look good!!!)

  49. Hi Wendy:

    While I believe that the ‘total package’ can sell an item, taken as a Gestalt, I also think that a ‘margin’ feature can play a very significant role in the purchase decision. I love those dolls with the very big eyes. (I think a person into needlework just might ‘have to have’ the doll in the orange dress with the needlework. I’d buy that one. My mother used to do that when I was a child.)

    I’m also very likely to buy a romance with a lighthouse and sailboats on the cover. If there is a wide choice of similar items, (romances on a bookshelf) then the marginal feature can become the deciding factor in the purchase. That’s why I so much like to see marginal features on book covers. (In poker terms, I think a lot of writers are leaving a lot of money on the table.)



    I'm dying laughing about the Yankee Stadium/give Jeter my books line!!!

    Oh, I can see it now!

    I actually think that his mother (Dorothy, adorable, nice lady, Jete looks like her) will read my books, fall in love with my writing, and want to meet me... and uses her son as a way to do that.

    Not knowing that I'm wretchedly accessible, of course! ;)

    I'm glad you and I are planning this together! And that we agree on the books thing.

    I'm calling it: "Great minds think alike" and IGNORING that Mary and Teeeeena will make fun of us.

    After I made them cookies, too!


  51. Wendy, thanks for sharing how the money works. There definitely was some new information in there.

    I think one of the hardest parts of the money aspect is preparing a spouse for the size of an advance, especially after you show him the agent's portion, taxes, tithe, money to reinvest in the career. Yep, that's where I think the real shock comes in! :)

    That is a gorgeous gift basket. I stink at making gift baskets. Any chance you're writing a how-to book soon?

  52. WOW!! I thought I knew about advances, but there were a lot of points in here I hadn't considered. So nice to have the inside scoop from the publishing angle.

    My young daughter works with clay almost every day. I've just learned that her nails aren't dirty, they're full of clay. It's sort of a weird talent, sin't it? To make something 3D from a flat picture, or what you can see in your head? We have shelves and shelves of characters and oddities (whole miniature pick nicks with all the food, with farm animals dressed for the feast).

  53. As a writer who is awaiting the release date of my first novella, I admit that the "business stuff" terrifies me. But, I can honestly say that I begin this published adventure with no expectations of making a bundle or really much of anything except learning. I guess that's why I would seek an agent such as Wendy who knows her stuff. Thanks for the info.
    Please pass me a Diet Coke and some chocolate - the diet drink cancels out the calories in the chocolate, ya know?

  54. Hello Wendy,

    Thank you for the wisdom.

    I went through therapy and in the midst found out I was a writer. I write for Father. That is my first focus in the beginning of the day's writing. If I don't begin there, I won't write. I'll just read everyone else s writing.

    When I write I feel like it's the most wonderful place in the world to be. I feel that this is the adventure my heart has longed for. My characters talk when I write. I follow them.

    Still I fight with the gremlins who say, "Who do you think you are? A writer? Ha! That's a laugh." So I say to them again. I WILL write-for Father. It is enough for now.

    Thanks Wendy for giving me a peek into what will come.


  55. RUTHY!


    Love that musical!

    I've shown it in class off and on for years [depending on which course I'm teaching of course ;)]. Then we get into discussions about slavery and all sorts of other things...

    And in the meantime, I dance around singing "waiting for the chirp chirp chirp of an eaglet being born waiting for the..." and the skipping some because I don't remember ALL the words in the right order ;).

  56. MARY ! I just love your stories about your mistakes. (Much funnier then my stories about my mistakes because... you know, they're MINE.)

    She gave you advice when you already had an agent?? How nice is that? Natasha Kern was like that the first few times I talked with her (and every other time, haha). I so appreciate that spirit, to give kind advice even if we're asking questions we shouldn't ask, or wouldn't ask if we knew better.

    P.S. Every time you tell that story about being rejected by your own agent, I laugh. EVERY TIME. I hope that shows up in a book some day. It would be genius. (Yours, not the agent's.)

  57. Ruthy, there's nothing wrong with a paycheck. Unless you're an almost-convicted murderer who got off on a technicality and swoop a 6 gazillion advance to tell the gory details. That's wrong.

    Anyway, I hope you're not talking about your books when you saying 'writing to a market' and 'paychekcs'. Because your books INSPIRE me to be a better writer. You make it look easy. Fresh. Second-nature. But it's really, really hard to tell a story that quickly without dumping it in the reader's lap like a plate of cold spaghetti.

    I hope you know that I think you're one of the best writers around, in all genres. When I think of really great authors, I come up with about 20 names, and yours is on there. You're not just a paycheck writer and it shows.

    Rant over!

  58. Wendy, Your interview has more of the same useful info you give over at Books&Such blog. I try not to miss any of those posts. I appreciate the experience and knowledge you share so freely. Much has been an eye opener for me as an unpublished novelist.I love the doll collection and admire your skill there, too. I'm a plate collector. And thank you for the chance to win the basket of goodies.

  59. Wendy, Your interview has more of the same useful info you give over at Books&Such blog. I try not to miss any of those posts. I appreciate the experience and knowledge you share so freely. Much has been an eye opener for me as an unpublished novelist.I love the doll collection and admire your skill there, too. I'm a plate collector. And thank you for the chance to win the basket of goodies.

  60. Wendy, this article is very enlightening. The use of A-list doesn't bother me at all and of course that implies like anything, there's a B-list and then a black list, etc. etc. I respect you're straight forward in that way.

    A published author I know asked for no advance, and rather royalties only for her debut release. I don't know if she was agented at the time, but the publisher agreed. What are your thoughts on that arrangement?

  61. Welcome back to Seekerville, Wendy! Thanks for your insight into advances. You've clarified the variables involved with the big advances we read about but most of us aren't getting. As you point out, big advances aren't always helpful to a writer's career, but they sure do sound nice. :-) Still, I'm wise to earn out and wait for royalties.

    Your dolls are beautiful! Fun to see that your creativity and business sense carried over to your career as an agent and writer. Nothing is wasted.


  62. This is great info! Thanks, Wendy, for sharing it all with us. There sure are a lot of variables...glad to hear the straight scoop!

  63. Paula, Diet Coke... here you go, sweeeeet thaaaang! And the chocolate has just been restocked... Thank you, Cabana boy.


    My cabana boy looks strangely like Derek Jeter.

    Life is good.

  64. Carol, we have a family full of 1776 singers.

    It's ridiculous.

    But hysterical! "Sit down, John! Sit down, John! For God's sake, John: Sit down!"


    I love the romance of John and Abigail Adams. The hardships they were willing to endure to sculpt a new land out of old clay.

    Amazing fortitude and resolve. We owe those people so much.

  65. Aw, Virginia....

    (wiping tear...)


    You bless me. As do the lovely folks who write me when they read my books...

    A lot of folks look at category romance as "writing for the market"..

    But you know what? I'm that market. I love a good, quick read. And I love Michener and Wouk. And Bradbury. So I didn't mean it in a self-deprecating way, but that there's nothing wrong with writing what people want to read, right?

    I'm so pleased that Love Inspired lets me write about things like overcoming addiction (Made to Order Family)... Loss and Death (Winter's End) Sacrificial forgiveness (Waiting Out the Storm)... Big news tragedies (Mended Hearts) ... Making big mistakes with the wrong guy... (A Family to Cherish)...

    And I love, love, love that you totally get that!!!! And now get the same chance.

    We are blessed, my friend!

  66. As always, great information. Thanks, Wendy and Seeker ladies!

    This seems like such a complicated business. I'm glad some of you insiders are willing to share your insights. I do want to know the answers to the questions in the comments. I'll have to pop back in to see what Wendy has to say. See you later . . .

  67. Great information Wendy! Thanks for sharing. The dolls are beautiful.

  68. Thank you for the information, Wendy. It really helps to know the skin each player has in the publishing contract.

  69. Oh my goodness, so many excellent questions and the day is already half gone. Let me take them one at time.

    Jackie asked about the way to grab an agents attention. Agents will tell you it's important to go to their website, read their submission guidelines and follow them to the letter. That's right, but. . . (here comes the secret hand signal) you won't stand out that way. Your query will be judged on the face of it. And that's fair.

    But if you want to stand out, interact with your target agent. In the old days that meant going to a conference, having a meal together, letting the agent fall in love with you. (And that still works best.)

    These days it is much easier. You become part of the blog community with your comments and interaction. If you can sparkle in online communication, we take notice. Lately many of my newer clients first came to my attention from interaction on blogs.

  70. Someone one open up a window.

    There's too many flies. Too many flies.

    And of course...

    The adverb song.


  71. I guess I'm going to be commenting as The Unknown Agent. For some reason today Google is refusing to recognize me, so when you see Unknown-- that's me kids!

    Ruth, you asked about how an author can "move up the lists." Good question. I wish I had an equally good answer. The longer I do this the more I realize we are called to do the work-- write a fabulous book, stay true to our brand, try to connect with readers through social networking and real time speaking and media; build our reader lists and stay in touch with readers, be creative-- the rest is up to God. It's all about buzz and when we figure out how to get that going, we'll have it made.

  72. Wendy Lawton says: Julane, you talk about an agent taking a chance on a new writer. It happens every day. All it takes is a book that knocks our socks off. (Easy, right?)

  73. Wendy Lawton says: Jeanne asked about the input the agent and publisher have on the amount of the advance. It depends on the particular publishing house and the particular author. Sometimes we have more clout and sometimes we are coming to the publisher hat-in-hand, so to speak.

    Some publishers-- especially in category fiction-- have a set advance schedule and rarely deviate from that.

    Each case is different. That's what makes our job so much fun. We get to survey the lay of the land and do our very best in every situation.

  74. Wendy Lawton says: Bridgett asked what happens when an author doesn't "earn out" his advance. Does he have to pay it back?

    No. the advance is the publisher's risk he's willing to take. It's a guaranteed advance-- "you'll at least make this much."

    Some publishers are testing some fancy footwork these days. If an author wants his rights reverted back to him after a book goes out of print some publishers have tried asking for the unearned advance to be paid back first. Read your contracts! A good out of print clause protects the author from that.

    We agents are still suiting up in our super hero gear and actively fighting those way-too-creative publisher ideas.

  75. Wendy Lawton says: Connie asked about pros and cons of royalty vs. advance.

    I love that you understand that the advance is just that, an advance again royalty, Connie. The advance is the publisher's commitment-- their good faith investment. So we like to see that the publisher has a lot of faith in a project or in an author. Some people correlate a good advance (a big commitment) with the effort a publisher will make to recoup that investment-- meaning the bigger the advance, the more promotion. The jury's still out on that one.

    Sometimes, say if we have an author whose number have been modest, we can put more investment in the relationship and offer to take a modest advance for a bigger royalty percentage. Again many ways to play this. That's why it is important to have an agent who can read highly nuanced opportunities.

  76. Thank you Wendy for your advise.
    Agents are a God-send and their help is invaluable.
    I couldn't imagine trying to plow through the publication field without a qualified agent's help.
    Thanks for all you do.

  77. Wendy Lawton says: Kirsten asked about publishing houses that offer no advances.

    Hmmm. That's a whole 'nuther blog post because you are most likely talking about small indie publishers and that can be one of two things-- an opportunity to get your toe in the door, or, more likely, a career killer.

    I want a publisher who has some skin in the game. that's what an advance represents.

  78. Wendy, this is so interesting and eye opening! Thank you so much for visiting with us today and for sharing the inside info.

    LOL on the D-list comment. :)

  79. Wendy Lawton says: Nancy, you also commented about someone who took no advance and opted for royalties only. It will be interesting to watch and see how that works out.

    Do you have any sense of how successful it's been so far?

  80. Good info and the dolls are beautiful!


  81. Wendy, I know we're talking writing/publishing here but a compliment on your dolls is a must -- and I'm not a 'doll person.' [I've spent a life around guys and was a tomboy to boot.] Just out of curiosity, how long does it take to finish one? Or is that like asking how high to hang a picture? :-)

    What are your thoughts about beginning writers going with royalty-only ebook publishers? After I read your post, I wondered if doing so would be a good way for a beginning writer to avoid the numbers-to-advance ratio altogether until s/he is established?

    Nancy C

  82. I crave those dolls. If I was rich, I'd be the worlds most prolific doll collector. *sigh*

  83. Thanks for the detailed answer, Wendy.
    That makes sense.


  84. Wendy, thanks so much for all the valuable information! I can see how complicated the agenting business can be.

    Your dolls are incredibly beautiful!!! Thanks for showing us a picture of some of them. I've never seen such gorgeous dolls.

  85. I am a person of interest in a ONE-YEAR-OLD BIRTHDAY PARTY EXTRAVAGANZA TONIGHT!!!!

    Happy birthday wishes to our granddaughter, Anna Elizabeth on her first birthday!

    I'll check back in once I've celebrated with the rug rats and eaten cake and ice cream! ;)

  86. Hi Wendy! Thanks for all the great info on the nitty-gritty issue of money. One of my goals as a writer is to earn enough to be a stay-at-home novelist, so it's nice to know how attainable (or unattainable!) that is. I like how you broke it down and I've enjoyed the discussion on here today. My husband has written some freelance articles and that's always interesting when it comes to payments, too.

    The gift basket looks lovely...

    Thanks for playing barista, Ruthy, but I just got back from Starbucks with a tall mocha coconut frappucinno. And BTW, frappucinno are half off at Starbucks from 3-5pm May 4-13

  87. Wendy, thanks for your indepth answers to all the questions today! I'm learning so much, and I love seeing what life looks like from your side of the publishing industry.

  88. Wendy,
    Thanks for being on Seekerville today. Mary Connealy and I are in the same local RWA chapter and she told me of your visit today. I too loved looking at the dolls, but what really caught my eye was your Daughters of Faith series.

    I write inspirational historicals set in 1870's Omaha. The Back to Omaha Adventures trilogy include Faith of the Heart (Book 1 complete), Still Faithful (Book 2 complete) and Forever Faithful ( Book 3 beginning outline).

    Here is a quick look from Still Faithful:

    Farmer's daughter Arianna Quincy becomes a confident city shopkeeper loving her independence and the adventures of wild frontier Omaha.

    Jaded Pinkerton agent Jason Reynolds solves the case of missing Confederate gold but his biggest find is the gal and home of his dreams.

    Can an independent career girl and tough lawman unite while remaining still faithful to themselves and their God?

    Thanks for reading this.I can be reached at:

    Jewell Tweedt

  89. I haven't read all of this yet but Ruthy you have convinced me. If you are still open I would like a double shot french vanilla and please make a little design in the cup. In my town there is no place to get a little design in the cup. Then I will take a picture and drink it. Mmm.
    Thanks for all the information, AGAIN!

  90. Oh, and Carol Moncado, I left you a message on a gmail account. Did you get it?

  91. 1776 LOVE IT! The first time I saw it was on a HUGE screen in NYC. Talk about larger than life.

    "Sit down, John!"

    I've always had a thing for John Adams. ;)

    Funnyn thing is, my daughters love the actor - who played him in 1776 because he was Mr.Feeny on Boy Meets World. I loved that BMW made him principal of John Adams HS.

  92. Move over Da Vinci and meet Wendy Lawton. She sculpts, she collects, she markets, she writes and she is a literary agent--the quintessential Renaissance woman!

  93. That's one reason I love the DVD Mary! MR. FEENY!!!!! But I'd seen the musical as a traveling Broadway deal so already enjoyed it :). The VHS version was missing the 'to the right, ever to the right, never to the left, ever to the right' song.

    No - I didn't get the email - resend to carolmoncado at gmail dot com and if you haven't heard back from me in a couple hours at least saying I got it, shoot me a FB message?

  94. Wendy, thank you. I would say she was successful as that became the first book in a four book series and she has since published another series and an independent title with that traditional publishing house.

    I can see how that might not be as attractive to an agent. Although if I understand the financial dynamic of the author/agent relationship correctly, the agent would still receive their same percentage of the novel's income only without the upfront benefit of an advance.

    Thank you for the warning about the creative contracts. That is the type of thing that reinforces my decision to pitch to agents only rather than shop my work myself to acquisition editors. I know there are pros and cons to both but as a career-minded author, I need the security of sound representation.

  95. Hello Wendy,

    Thank you for the good advice! I am looking forward to your response to Nancy's question about self-publishing and what you think about it as a route for new authors. I have not sought representation for very long yet, but have finalled in the 2011 TN/Westbow WoF writing contest, and am seriously considering self-publishing with Westbow ... do you have any advice/thoughts on that topic?
    Thank you so much, Angela Brackeen
    Author of Lark, In Her Element/A Soul Set Free

  96. This is all such interesting information. Thanks, Wendy! The dolls are beautiful too!

  97. Wendy says: nancy C. you asked about writing for an eBooks publisher that does not offer advances.

    If you long to become a recognizable author, this is not the path I'd advise you to take. Not just because of a lack of advance-- which is troubling enough. Does it mean that the publisher is underfunded? where is his investment in the author?

    But if an author does not want to wait for an agent or an offer from a traditional publisher I'm still not sure that going with an indie ebook publisher is going to do any more for you than self e-pubbing.

    We discussed something similar a few weeks ago on my blog. ‎ Check it out and see if it helps explain.

  98. The artistic ability required for those dolls humbles me!

    (Wonderful agent advice too :)

  99. Welcome Wendy, and thank you for such an information-filled post. And I am in AWE of your talent(s)--wow! Those dolls are gorgeous, so it's obvious you have a true gift. (that gift basket is lovely too) ~ Thank you again for this closer look "behind the scenes"--another post for my Keeper File! ~ Blessings from Georgia, Patti Jo

  100. Thanks for the wonderful post, Wendy. I'm always interested to know what kind of money to expect if I ever sell something that I write, lol. It's not about the money though, it's about the career and I like how you touched on that fact. The dolls are absolutely beautiful. You're a multitalented person :)

  101. This information was great! Thanks for the guest post, Wendy Lawton ;)

    Interesting, I'll be thinking about this.

    Very pretty gift basket! Good luck to all commenters :)

  102. I'm glad for people who handle jobs I can't do whether it's the hairdresser, accountant or plumber. This post with its financial and protocol issues reminds me how important the literary agent is to a writer. Thanks for the information!

  103. So glad you stopped by, Wendy.

    I soak up industry tidbits like a sponge. Thank you for sharing.

  104. Mary Cline, your double shot French Vanilla WITH cute drizzle design on cup is ready!


    The cafe is always open, darling.

  105. Sarah and Diane, I'm so glad you stopped by!

    Isn't this a wonderful post??? And Wendy, bless you ten times over for taking the time out of your crazy schedule to stop in and chat with us! The opportunity to chat with an industry professional like you is just awesome!

    Huge thanks from me and all of us...

    I know it's earlier on the West Coast, but I'm so far East of the Mississippi that I'm almost lookin' at the Hudson... But not quite!

    Coffee's available from the Keurig set up to the right of Wendy's autograph signing table. ;)

  106. Laura AKA Loves 2 Read RomanceMay 2, 2012 at 10:40 PM

    Thank you so much for sharing with us Wendy! The more I learn about the writing business the more thankful I am that these amazing authors stay with it. A lot more goes into writing a story then I ever imagined. Thanks again for taking time out of your busy day and for putting together a beautiful prize.


  107. >> Wendy said:
    We discussed something similar a few weeks ago on my blog. ‎ Check it out and see if it helps explain.<<

    Thank you for taking the time to post the link, Wendy ... and yes it's a good, understandable explanation.

    Nancy C

  108. I add my thanks for the answer on self-pubbing on Wendy's blog at: !

  109. Wendy, thank you for all the great information. Enjoyed your posting today. Also, your Little Women dolls are absolutely beautiful!

    Have a wonderful blessed day!

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.


  110. Wow, attention to detail for those dolls is amazing. I'm where Helen is haven't spent too much time wrestling over the whole financial issue. Right now just focused on improving my craft and getting my foot in so to speak.

    Ruthie, first birthdays are wonderful! Enjoy!

    I would love a gander at that gift basket.


  111. Super post Wendy! Many new developing authors would "pay them" to see their book in print. Not a wise business deal but seems the idea of actually being published is not anything about money. Love the dolls.

  112. there is nothing like a good cup of coffee and a good book to start the day right!!

  113. Day late...but hopefully not a dollar short! ;)

    This was incredibly informative and I thank you! Always good to know this information out of the gate.

    I remember when I was younger...Clubhouse magazine featured Wendy's dolls in their magazine. How awesome is that?? :)

  114. Thank you for this informational blog.

    I look forward to actually having to worry about this problem. :)

    Ginger in AL
    ginger dot solomon at gmail dot com

  115. It is sensible to consider these issues.

    Fabulous gift basket there.


  116. Thanks for having Wendy on the blog. Some great info on the financial side of publishing about the advance.

  117. Oooops, forgot my email address:

    Thanks, Jo

  118. Okay so here I come trailing the field! I was travelling and got behind on my blog-reading. I have to add a comment here and hope it still gets read.

    Wendy, thanks so much for your informative interview. I live in South Africa and was fortunate enough to receive a contract with a leading publisher following a Christian Writers Conference in the States. My book releases in a few months.

    I didn't have an agent, but was advised to rather go with a contract evaluator, as I had "already done all the hard work" and sold the book.

    I now need to be looking to my future and I'm thrilled to see there are some agents that look at your career, and not just the one book. Do you think I will be able to find an agent in the USA who would represent a S.African writer with one published book?

    Any suggestions?