Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Amazing Work Ethic of a Hack

This morning while doing my usual morning things in the bathroom, I happened to pick up the most recent Entertainment Weekly. In it they had a short article about the new sequel to Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. I never read The Da Vinci Code, but my partner Shawn read it and his earlier book Angels and Demons which she much preferred, though I believe she thought both were kind of "eh."

However, I was very impressed by Mr. Brown's work ethic as described in the article. Apparently, he got up every morning (seven days a week) to write at 4 am. He took scheduled breaks in the day to hang upside down (to get blood flowing to his brain, I guess,) and do other exercise. (For the whole article see: Dan Brown Speaks at EW.) I was deeply impressed. I always thought myself discplined, but this guy puts me to shame.

I also found myself nodding when the article concluded with the notion that, at the end of the day, what matters in a writer's career is not so much artistic talent as discpline.

What I found strange, however, was the implication that, now after the sequel is turned in, Mr. Brown intends to retire. He's now going to spend his 4 am mornings walking the beach with his wife trying to remember how to live without a deadline hanging over his head. Good for him, I thought. Then: Wow, that so wouldn't be me.

I actually can't imagine making enough money on writing that I could give it all up to retire to a villa in Italy. However, I can imagine my career tanking and the money drying up. I've always figured that what would happen at that point is, after several months of deep depression (let's be honest,) I'd pick myself up and start writing something for me alone... something that matters only to myself. Maybe it would be fan fic. Maybe I'd write short stories that suck. Maybe I'd just write that grand soap opera of characters that's been floating around in my head since high school.

But, I'd write something.

Because that's what I do.

This sort of goes to that wonderful "smart thing" Kelly posted yesterday from Matthew Hughes called "No Surrender." You get up and keep fighting, because you're a fighter. Just as I always imagined picking myself up when I was down, I also can't imagine stopping once I've reached the summit. Because, it's not about the climb or the summit... it's about the compulsion to get the story out, isn't it?

Apparently, not for Mr. Brown. Well, I wish him well in his retirement. Now if only he could get [bleep] off the best seller list so I can get on.


Nero said...

Can you tell me if the ebook biz of is for real? It looks like they're still developing the site, but the premise looks interesting. Anyway, has anyone here heard of them; and, are they legit? Thanks.

Kelly McCullough said...

Re: This bit: "Our concept is really very simple: as a writer, you may submit as many genre-appropriate novels as you wish for a one-time fee of $125 (USD) per submission." says all you need to know because it violates Yog's Law.

Money always flows to the writer. Anytime you see a fee being imposed on a writer by a publisher you know that the publisher is at best a vanity press and is more likely a scam press of some sort.

Likewise agents always get paid after they sell your book and they get paid a percentage (usually 15%) of the sale proceeds. They do not extract pre-sale fees and mostly they don't extract anything other than their percentage.

Violations of Yog's Law are a giant red flag to the writer, saying "run for the door."

Douglas Hulick said...


Never, EVER pay someone to read your book, be it a supposed agent, publisher, or "book doctor." Money flows *towards* the author, not away from them. A publisher should be able to make money by selling your work to other people and then sharing those proceeds with you; they make money off your work, not off your bank account.

As for profits and ebooks, I direct you to point 3 on the Ilona Andrews article Kelly linked to the other day:

Basic summary: the profit margin for ebooks is incredibly small (if there is one at all); I don't like to think how long it wouild take you to earn back your $125. Also, check out:

Now, I have to admit that I know nothing about Dark Castle -- they may be great people trying to make their ebook business model work. But I have seen and read about too many scams that look remarkably like this to have much faith. (And even if they DO post it, remember: hosting is cheap. So what is your money really buying?)

Bottom line: if you think your work is good enough for people to pay to read it on a web site, then it should be good enough for you to submit it to an agent or editor. Believe in your words! Your money would be better spent on toner for cover & query letters, on manuscript boxes and postage, than giving it to someone who (may) put something up on the web.

My advice: type "publishing scams" in Google and do a bit of reading. You ought to find a lot of things that look remarkably like what you are seeing at darkcastle.

lydamorehouse said...

Plus, you wrote a really great post, Tate. Loved it!

jpj said...

Harlan Ellison drew a distinction between an author (a person who gets her/his name on books) with a writer. A writer writes. Not to write is not to live.