No, not the “grrrr… arrrgh” variety, but the digital type, who very well may say “grrr… arrrgh” as they take my books and throw them up on file sharing sites, just for shits and giggles, apparently.
Yes, I know what you’re all thinking. Pointless to write a letter because they’re gonna do what they’re gonna do, no matter what, right?
Well, maybe. But I’m a strong believer in the whole premise that maybe they just don’t get it. SO. This post, which will at least allow me to get all this off my chest, whether it does any good or not. SO.
Dear Book Pirates,
I don’t know whether you think there’s nothing wrong with what you do or whether you honestly don’t see the difference between lending a book to someone and piracy. On the off chance that the former is true, please let me educate you a tiny bit.
See, I’m a writer. It’s what I do. In “real life” I’ve been unemployed for almost a year. Yes, I’m collecting unemployment, but only for another three weeks. I’m not rich, though I’ve seen some of you and your brethren claiming that I am.
The fact is, I make possibly a quarter of the US government’s definition of “poverty” from writing.
Yes, some other writers make millions of dollars a year from their books. I’m not one of those “elite” authors. I’m nowhere near the level of a Laurell Hamilton or Sherilynn Kenyon. I’m not Stephen King or anyone so stellar.
I write little romances involving boys. If you’re pirating my books by either offering them up for free (and illegal) download or even if you’re just one of the ones that downloads them, you already know what I write.
What you may not know is what the actual process is, from start to finish. So I’m offering a summary, right here, right now. Here’s how it goes.
I get an idea one day. Doesn’t matter from where. Maybe something I hear or see or even just imagine. I decide it could be part of a story.
So the idea’s running through my brain for a while. Could be a week, could be a month. During that time, I start to get an idea of who my main characters (MCs) are. I spend the next month or so deciding their names, how they look, what kind of people they are. I figure out their histories, family backgrounds, their friends (secondary characters, or ‘secondaries’), education, status in society, jobs…
That last is a doozy because most of the time it’s not anything I’ve done, so that requires RESEARCH! Oh, joy!
The next month or two is spent studying whatever city they live in, as well as where the MCs are from. Trying to find people in whatever professions my MCs are in who are willing to talk to me. Because everyone says yes when you say you’re writing a book, but once they find out it’s a gay romance novel– with SEX– the yeses turn around, much of the time.
By the time I get enough information about my characters, their home, their hometowns and their jobs, usually a good three or four months has passed.
At that point, I have enough notes to start writing an outline of the characters and the plot. This can take another month, easy.
Finally, I sit down to write the story itself, and I don’t know if you, my dear piratey fans, have ever written anything more than a term paper, but unless someone is extremely prolific (which most writers in the gay romance genre aren’t, from what I’ve heard from my author friends), 2,000 words a day is impressive. That’s about four pages in Word. Half that is more common.
The average electronic novel is 50,000 words, minimum.
So I write and I write and I write. I go back and rewrite, even while I’m writing later parts.
I spend at least three hours a day, around my “day job” (when I had one), to make my 1,000 to 2,000 words a day quota, and possibly twice that on weekends.
To give you a referent, that’s close to 30 hours a week, minimum, spent writing. On spec, because I don’t have anyone lined up to publish this book yet.
Between work, my family (because most of us do have families), and my writing, I have about 5 hours to sleep each night, and sometimes my body rebels and says “SLOW THE FUCK DOWN!” Which means I get sick and can’t write for a few days or a week or even longer.
Eventually, I feel better and I get back to writing. Meanwhile, time marches on.
I finally hit the magic 50,000 words mark but the story’s not done. There’s more plot and the characters want to play for a while longer. So I keep going, right up until I realize that there’s an inherent flaw in the logic that requires me to go back to page seventy-five (thus losing around 12,000 words) and do a complete rewrite.
I hate to do it because it’s more than a week of writing, but I don’t let that stop me. I delete a week’s work so my novel will make sense and hopefully not be complete and utter crap… and because I want someone to decide to publish it, at some point, too. Because that’s the goal, remember? To be published, so I can share this story with readers who will hopefully like it.
Another couple of months goes by and I’ve finally gotten to an ending that feels right. The story makes sense, as far as I know, and I’m happy with my characters. I’ve sent the finished manuscript off to my beta readers, and I can relax for a little while, even while biting my metaphorical nails because I don’t know what they’ll say.
After a few weeks or so, I get lucky by having my betas send the book back to me with their comments, most of which are (usually) reasonable. Continuity problems, out of character portions, head-hopping…
This is when I enter the REAL rewrite stage and try to correct the obvious problems while maintaining the flow of the story.
After a month or so of that, I send it to my beta readers again.
If I’m lucky– and I mean REALLY LUCKY– they tell me it’s okay and good enough to be submitted. If I’m NOT lucky, they have more comments and I spend another month or so in another bout of rewrites.
THIS IS ALL BEFORE THE STORY IS EVEN SUBMITTED!
Finally, my betas and I agree that my story is as good as I can make it at the moment and I bite my lip and submit it to one or more publisher(s). This isn’t as simple as it sounds because different publishers have different submission guidelines.
Some publishers specify fonts or type-size, along with whether they want things single-spaced, double-spaced, paragraph indents or no paragraph-indents, specific types of chapter headers… it all varies. Thus, I need to reformat my manuscript for each publisher I submit to. Add to this that some publishers won’t accept books that are being submitted to other publishers at the same time and it’s something of a minefield to navigate.
A big, ugly, annoying minefield. Which only makes me bite my lip harder. I don’t always stop biting when I taste blood, either.
At this point, Pirates-mine, I’m sure you’re thinking that I’m being overly dramatic. Fact is, I’ve glossed over a lot of the things that happen to make my writing “job” harder, because they’re personal. I doubt any of you cares about my sister or my Mum or my nieces and nephews. I don’t live in a vacuum. Life still happens, in and around my writing time. That’s MY business.
So I’ve submitted my manuscript to at least two publishers, after all this. Now, my job with regards to writing is… to WAIT. Anywhere from two weeks to four months, just to hear a yes or no. During that time, the whole process starts again with a new story, a new pair of MCs, new location and so on. And all the while, I’m wondering whether my story will be accepted.
Finally I hear back from one of the publishers I submitted my story to. They say “thanks, but it’s really not what we’re looking for, and sorry we can’t tell you why, but we just get too many submissions to give details… but we wish you luck with your writing career” and I cry. For days. I even piss off my friends because I’m whinging about it so much on IM.
A month or so later, I hear from another publisher who says “okay, we’ll publish this, if you’re still interested” and I piss off my friends because I’m crowing so much about it on IM.
This is the point at which I wait even more, because I don’t have a contract yet, which means that when publisher number three says they MIGHT be interested, I have to turn them down… and I’m not sure the alleged contract I’ve already agreed to will ever materialize.
It’s a difficult couple weeks while I wait, but the contract comes, I sign, I send it back… and now I’m waiting to do edits while being supremely confident that my beta readers and I have fixed everything that could possibly be wrong. Except for all the things my editor from the publisher finds.
This takes another month of back and forth, changing this, deleting that, elaborating upon the other thing… and when my editor and I finally agree that the story is as it should be, it’s still not over.
From there, the book goes to the proof-readers, who are very picky (as they should be). This stage can take anywhere from a couple weeks to more than a month. Then the story comes back to me AGAIN and I do my best to fix whatever they’ve found.
At this point, it’s been a year and sometimes more… and the story STILL ISN’T PUBLISHED!
Finally, thank God, everything’s done. Cover art requests are in, administrative forms with blurbs and such have been completed (by me) and sent… and I have a date for publication!
My book is released by my publisher. It’s pimped about, mostly by me. It goes up on my publisher’s website for $5.95, of which I get anywhere from 35% to 40%, depending on who’s published it. And if it sells well enough, the publisher will be happy to publish future books by me.
That part aside– the sales=new books published thing, I mean– let’s talk money.
As I don’t have a calculator with me right now, we’ll call it $2.00 that I make per copy sold. It’s about 38%, really. I’m splitting the difference.
So I’ve worked for well over a year by this point, around 30 (minimum) hours a week. First finding the idea, then doing research, then writing the book and doing rewrites and submitting the story and waiting for it to be accepted or declined. Rewriting again, numerous times, to make it the best it can be so that you and my other “fans” will enjoy it.
And you don’t see anything wrong with posting it for free download. You consider it to be OKAY when you post it or even just download it, rather than supporting my below-poverty-level lifestyle by buying the book and putting TWO DOLLARS in my pocket so I can actually pay my bills and keep writing.
I’m not even mentioning the time I spend finding out exactly where you guys are stealing my work on each site, then contacting those sites to have my books taken down. Yes, it’s time that I could be spending on writing more stories, but in all honesty?
I kind of don’t WANT to write anymore. Because of YOU, Pirates-my-Pirates. You may not realize this, but the fact that you really do think it’s just fine to steal from me is pretty much exactly the same as each and every one of you coming to me on payday at a “real job” and taking two bucks out of my pocket.
I don’t expect this letter to change your ways. I don’t expect any of you to stop, even with knowing what I go through just to produce ONE BOOK.
I feel better for having said it, though, and I suppose that’s all I can ask.
~Tis (aka~ T.C. Blue)
P.S. PLEASE stop being my fans now. PLEASE!!!
That’s all I have to say on this subject. For now.