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.