Secret Number Crunching of a Midlist Author

Who’s ready for some honesty?

I think some people have the wrong idea about living the author dream. Why? Because we authors are tight-lipped about our failures. Based on my twitter feed, all my author friends only get good news. Movie deals! Blurbs from J.K. Rowling! Round-the-world tours with packed audiences at every stop!

Um. Really?


(Also the look I give my kids when they ask to go to Chuck E. Cheese.) Don’t get me wrong, I put my good news out there too. After all, I want people to read my books, not think I’m a whining, self-pitying ingrate—I save that side of me for the people I live with! Lucky them. But I sometimes wonder if we authors aren’t all feeling a little loser-ish about the same completely normal parts of this business. Don’t we all have holes in our jeans? Or in our yoga pants?

So. Here are some real numbers. No whining. No self-pitying. Just some midlist honesty in all its unsung glory.


5: Number of times people have asked me how much I make.

5: Number of times I have politely declined to answer that question.

0: Number of times people have asked my husband how much he makes.

10: Number of agents I queried on my first batch of send outs. All rejections.

1: Number of times I’ve met my agent Mandy Hubbard in real life. (Hard to believe that we don’t sit in a NYC coffee shop weekly and discuss art and cinema and fancy stuff.)

3: Number of times we’ve talked on the phone.

A zillion: Number of emails between us.

1: Number of professional reviews I’ve cried over.

1: Number of non-professional reviews I’ve cried over.

At least 10: Number of bad reviews I’ve genuinely laughed over.

At least 4: Number of author events I’ve done where crickets chirped and there were fewer guests than bookstore employees.

3: Number of half-novels I’ve written and abandoned in the last 12 months. That’s a lot of words, folks.

3: Number of picture book manuscripts I have in a drawer that I think aren’t too bad.

40,000: Number of words from 1st draft of The Space Between Us I threw into the trash (laughing with a hysterical gleam in my eye, maybe crying a little) before starting all over again.

10: Number of years between envisioning the prologue of Virtuosity and publication.

0: Number of times I read any of my books after the last edit. I barely even remember what Virtuosity is about. Violin or something.

1: Number of times I’ve visited “publishing” in New York City.

1: Number of laptops I wrote all four books on.

1: Number of royalty checks I’ve received.

A gazillion: Number of times I’ve said to my husband, “This is the last book I write. It’s too hard. Don’t let me do this again.”

Same gazillion: Number of times he’s said, “Sure thing, honey.”

6 thoughts on “Secret Number Crunching of a Midlist Author

  1. I can relate to all of this!!! Just finished writing my trilogy and declared myself ‘done with this writing business’ because it’s so hard. But of course, now I’m researching my fourth novel *sighs*

    • Thank you. No really … thank you. I’m putting 1,048 words in the drawer at this very moment. This is me taking a deep breath. This is me NOT doing the picture book – on the rebound. This is me just thanking you for your post and letting the dust from my first manuscript settle.

  2. Love this! So glad you shared.

    Professionally, I believe it’s good that we don’t share the downs (and whine, which almost always accompanies the downs, in many authors’ experience). But sometimes that void leaves me feeling a bit lonely.

    To hear that other authors are regularly serenaded by crickets lifts my heart. Currently, their chorus is my background music.

  3. how fascinating ! yes, i guess writing a novel must be like inventing a whole world and being careful about all the details while stressing out the main facts, so you immerse completely, and shape it over and over again; and the most difficult part must be that it’s quite an intimate experience and yet it becomes very publical, opened to all types of comments and attempts at remodelizing…also, it must be hard to immerse in a world and then having to emerge and hop on to parenting although it’s kind of similar actually because in some way, it’s also about modelling time and time again ^^
    maybe knitting brings you peaceful satisfaction for being schematic…
    (sorry my vocabulary is probably not very exact)
    i am reading Virtuosity and enjoying it, i’m a knitting and crafting mom with 4 daughters. the 2 elders have been playing the violin for a couple of years.
    big hugs

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *