Meg Cabot interview

Here’s a fabby Meg Cabot interview for youse. There are many many things I find inspiring about her. One of them is the way her career has unfolded. She started out in romance and wound up as queen of YA. Hers is not an overnight success story. She’s had series of books be cancelled. Her first advances were tiny. Her first film deal—for The Princess Diaries—was made when she was still unknown:

And here’s a tip for all you aspiring authors out there: if you ever sell your film rights, and they tell you that you’re going to get a percentage of the gross net deficit, what that actually means is that you’re going to get . . . nothing. The Princess Diaries movies have yet, according to my bi-annual statements, to earn a profit.

Oh, and authors don’t get DVD sale money, either. At least, I don’t! Remember, I was a nobody when I was negotiating my film contract . . . so it was sort of take it or leave it. I took it. And I don’t regret it. Thanks to those films, a lot of kids who might not otherwise have picked up my books did so, and I will always be grateful for that! (It’s hard not to be when you get letters every day that go, “Deer Meg, I never read a book before until I saw your movie The Princess Diaries. I loved it so much I bought your book of it. Now I can’t stop reeding. Just to let you know, though, your book has a lot of mistakes in it. In the movie the dad is dead. In the book he’s not. You should fix this. Love, Brittany“)

So she definitely got ripped off, but it paved the way for all this other fabulous stuff: way more of her books selling, bestsellerness, much better deals with Hollywood, really gorgeous clothes etc etc.

I sometimes regret the less-than-good deals I signed before I had a clue (or an agent) but I gained quite a few clues out of the experience. Also it’s important to remember that a beginning writer—even with an agent—usually doesn’t have that many options. A less-than-fab deal may be all they can get, but it may—with luck and hard work—lead the way to better deals in the future.

Not everyone is going to have Meg Cabot levels of success. Leaving aside the luck, very few writers can work that hard. If I wrote as many books a year as she does I would die. For the last few weeks I’ve been (leaving the monster admin aside) working exclusively on one novel and one short story and it’s just about killing me. In that time Cabot would have written three new novels and gone over the copyedits and proofs of at least three others. Not to mention all her blogging and interviews and appearances and etc.

Okay, now I’m tired. But the point of this post was not to make comparisons (how odious they are!) but that there are many different paths to publication, many different kinds of writing careers, and that very few writers—even the Meg Cabots of this world—make it big straight away (or ever).

And besides all that you should read the interview cause Meg Cabot is funny. She makes me laugh.


  1. nichole on #

    it’s pretty upsetting to know that she got hosed on that deal. you know that a lot of cash was thrown around for that film. at least it did help get her career moving in the right direction, though.

    Yeah, when you get a percentage of the “profit” it’s called a “back end deal.” Never ever ever accept a net back end deal. there are so many ways to make it look like the net profits were equal to $0. because this includes, like, the directors/producers paycheck and paying back investors, etc. Always go for a gross profit (before costs are deducted) back end deal. If there is one thing that I learned in film school, that was it.

    it’s probably a good idea to get an entertainment lawyer to at least look over a contract before you sign it. they can usually spot sketchy parts of a contract. a lot of people get so excited to get some kind of offer, that they sign before the really really understand what the contract says. and just because a studio exec tells you “this is just your standard contract” and gives you a quick run down, you should totally read it first. and like I said, if you have any questions, talk to an entertainment attorney. It could prevent a lot of heartache.

  2. nichole on #

    ahh…too bad I didn’t double check all of the spelling before I hit submit comment. πŸ™

  3. Gabrielle on #

    When I was little(r) I heard about Meg Cabot through the Princess Diaries movies. So she really is right. She probably made a lot more money with the books that got sold from movie fans than she would’ve from the actual movie if it hadn’t been as popular. Well, okay, that sounded good in my head. But my point is, I agree that you should take any opportunity you can, even if it doesn’t do that good for you in the immediate future.

  4. Gabrielle on #

    Oh, and the fan mail is so cute! πŸ˜€

  5. Lauren on #

    Aaaarrrgghhhh! There is no such thing as “take it or leave it.” This is the kind of crap movie people tell non-movie people to steal their back-end. I know. I used to be one of those devils. No one, and I mean no one, in Hollywood walks away from a deal because a writer wants to share meaningfully in the back end. Why? Because by the time there is any profit to share (if there is any profit to share), the studio has already made back its investment. The two terms people need to know when negotiating back end in the movie industry are “adjusted gross” and “favored nations.” She got hosed by bad agenting.

  6. Nichole on #

    Oh yes! That favored nations clause is very very important. cheap bastards

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