Cherie Priest tells the truth

The ever fabulous Cherie Priest has compiled a list of everything she’s learned about publishing since her first book came out. It is all totally true!

My favourites:

You will not be rich. Whatever money you might have earned from an advance will have been spent fully a year before your book appears. Maybe you paid off your car, or maybe you got that leather jacket out of lay-away at Wilson’s. Whatever, that money is LONG gone.

My advances for the trilogy and my two scholarly books are long, long, long gone. I just got a royalty cheque for the scholarly books. Yes, they’ve both earned out! The amount: $200. I’m rich! My Magic or Madness trilogy has yet to earn out. I’m hoping it will by the next royalty statement (two and a half years after the first book was published; almost four years since I sold the trilogy). The only money I’ve received this year is from foreign sales of Magic or Madness. Enough to cover the rent . . . barely.

Getting your foot in the door is not the hard part. It is the first hard part.

Sing it, Cherie! People (especially aspiring writers) have this bizarre idea that you’ve made it when you have a book published. Au contraire. Most writers never make enough money to live off. Many writers don’t get reviewed, or win prizes, or sell more than a thousand copies. Even authors with a squillion published books. Being published does not mean that you will cease to be rejected. Selling your first book does not mean that you will sell your seventh or seventieth.

There is such a thing as the law of aggregate success. You will also be offered more paying gigs, and if possible, you should probably try to take advantage of them. Some paying gigs (especially short markets) do not pay much, but there are plenty of very fine venues that can’t afford to offer a huge rate.

I wouldn’t have believed that one until this year when for the first time I’ve been approached to write stories for well-paid anthologies. Cool, huh? Now if only I could write short stories . . .

People will ask you questions about stuff you wrote, and you will say, “Um …” By the time your book actually comes out, it will have been a full year or even two years since you actually composed the material. You will have moved on to other projects, in which you are wholly immersed; and when someone asks about why character X in book one does thing Y, you’ll have no earthly idea. But you’ll be confident that there was an excellent reason.

This is true beyond trueness. People keep asking me questions about the trilogy but it’s almost a year since I last looked at Magic’s Chld and way longer than that since I looked at the first two books. It’s almost ten years since I looked at Battle of the Sexes. I can’t remember a thing about it. All I know is the book I’m writing right now.

You will acquire fans. This will blow your freakin’ mind.

Oh, yes. I’m still embarrassed and weirded out and made ecstatically happy by people (I’m not related to or friends with) liking my books. I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to it. I loves it.


  1. sara z on #

    All true. True! True! True!

  2. cherie priest on #

    What a lovely way to wake up and start surfing — to find a Justine linkpimp!

  3. Dawn on #

    Don’t be embarassed! 🙂 Though, it’s hypocritical for me to say that. I get embarassed every time someone tells me I’m in the very least, decent. Good thing I don’t expect to ever be rich in my life, then. I’ve never wanted to do much in life just for the money. I really haven’t.

    And by the way: I love the word squillion. hehe.

  4. Justine on #

    Sara Z: The original version of this post looked exactly like your comment.

    Cherie: Is only cause you says the true things witty like.

    Dawn: Embarrassment is not a turn on or off thing. As you know! I’ve learned to simply say “Thank you.” Because that’s the main feeling I have when people praise my work: gratitude that they even read it in the first place.

  5. jenny d on #

    funny list! true list! i love it…

  6. Rebecca on #

    i just spent a couple of hours on cherie priest’s website, thanks to this. and damn. she’s amazing. i must run out and get one of her books right away.

  7. Justine on #

    Cherie Priest is made of awesome.

  8. cherie priest on #

    Wow — thank you, Rebecca; and of course, thank you Justine. Everything I know about being awesome, I learned from yooooou ….

  9. Justine on #

    Oh hush, Cherie! There’s altogether too much praise going on here. I may gag.

    Rebecca: Just so as you know, I hear Cherie cheats at cards.

  10. cherie priest on #

    Well … I heard Justine kicks unicorns.

  11. Justine on #

    Like you wouldn’t if you had the chance! Hell, you’d sick zombies on the one-horned blighters.

  12. kim on #

    nice fight going on.

    what mythical creatures are you going to hurt next?

  13. hillary! on #

    She might hurt the vamps if she could. Justine, I love you so much, I’d make you go as red as Uncle Vernon if you ever met me and I actually got over my awe of you. I really don’t believe authors make so little money with as much money as my family and I spend on books alone. That really saddens me. I think authors should be as rich as those skanky pop teen star people, who rally have no idea how to appreciate their fans.

  14. Rebecca on #

    hehehehehehe! 😀

  15. cherie priest on #

    Well. Your accusation *does* have some merit …

  16. Karen on #

    fans. yeah, weird. i had some when i was writing fanfic, but still the thought is weird that i might have some again when my own book hits the shelves in spring. i think i’ll just be happy if some people actually *read* it.

  17. Sabrina on #

    Okay, that second to last one applies to me and I’m still in the process of editing my novel (which I then hope to get published). I know what happens in it, I just can’t always remember why. Maybe it’s just how long it’s taking me to edit, but that still strikes me as a tad, well, bad.

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