Writing News and The Economics of Freelance

This just in, from the April edition of LOCUS:

SHARON LEE & STEVE MILLER sold three more novels in the Liaden series to Toni Weisskopf at Baen for six figures via Jennifer Jackson of the Donald Maass Literary Agency.”

This is the deal we’ve mentioned as the Liaden Triple Threat.

To sum up for those keeping score at home:

There are TWO Liaden books scheduled for publication. They are:
The Gathering Edge, May 2, 2017
Neogenesis, January 2, 2018

We are under contract for SIX Liaden books. They are:
Fifth of Five, due January 2018
Liaden Mask ONE, due May 2018
Liaden Mask TWO, TBA
Triple Threat ONE, TBA
Triple Threat TWO, TBA
Triple Threat THREE, TBA

# # #

What follows is a quick review about How Freelancers Get Paid, in answer to some questions on Facebook, and also to (hopefully) forestall the (almost inevitable) Wealthy Author fantasies.

A “six-figure” deal sounds like a lot of money.  In fact, the way we count here at the Confusion Factory, it is a lot of money. However, it is neither: (1) extra money (people tell me this is a Thing; personally, I’ve never seen “extra” money in my life); or (2) a windfall.

What it is, is our paycheck — and it’s not going to come as One! Huge! Check! Lookitallthosezeroes!


No, how those six-figures are going to reach us?  Is in four payments.

The first payment will arrive sometime after we’ve signed the contract (we haven’t actually gotten the contract, yet, though we’ve discussed the terms).  That “on-signing money” will be one-fourth of the total “six-figure” deal LESS our agent’s 15% fee.  When that check reaches us, about a half of the total will be put aside for taxes.  The rest goes into the household budget, where it will be used to buy cat food, and pay the mortgage, and put gas in the car, and pay doctor’s bills, and all the other things you spend money on.

When we turn in the first of the Triple Threats (which will be, conservatively, some time in 2020), and Madame the Publisher accepts it (this is called “D&A” or “delivery-and-acceptance” money), we will receive the second fourth of that “six-figure” deal, less 15%.  Half will be put aside for taxes, and the rest will go into the household budget.

Lather, rinse, &c

The avid student will note that this whole process seems to involve widely separated infusions of Lumps of Cash, during long periods of, err, no cash at all.  Or very uncertain cash.

Twice a year, more or less, we do receive royalties.  But you never know what your royalties may be, and, in fact, it is possible to have a period in which you have earned no royalties, which means buying cat food (our Number One priority for writing Liaden books) gets…tricky.

Writers have various methods by which they even out their cash-flow, in order that they can have monthly budgets just like normal people.  Sort of.  Some have day-jobs.  Some have a spouse with a day-job.  Some write short stories on the side, package them as ebooks and sell them on Amazon/Baen/BN/Kobo & whatever.  Some have Patreon accounts.  Some do a little of this, and a little of that, and somehow all the little trickles of income form a monthly stream that augments the Big Lumps, and keeps the monthly household on a steady course.

We here at the Lee-Miller/Scrabble-Trooper-Belle-Sprite household have a couple of income streams:

We publish eChapbooks; the 23rd Liaden chapbook, Change Management, was just published at the end of February.

We occasionally post out-takes, shorts, and podcasts to Splinter Universe, for which we gratefully accept donations.

This Very Blog has a button on the side-bar:  Buy Me A Coffee, which really ought to be Buy Us Cat Food, but you get the idea.

We have a Patreon account.

And some kind folks simply send us donations from time to time, or set up on-going Paypal payments, or whatever they feel that they wish to do.

You’ll notice that several of these income streams are patron-based.  Which is to say, people decide that they’d like to keep the supply of cat food steady, or to be sure that we have plenty of life-giving fluid to support us in our efforts.  We appreciate — we very much appreciate — all of those donations, and you are, yes, doing Something Real for which we thank you, very much.

So!  The big lesson to take from all of this is!

YayYayYAY, we’re under contract for six books!  We get to hang out with you guys for five or six more years — is that terrific or what?


9 thoughts on “Writing News and The Economics of Freelance”

  1. It’s very good news, as I mentioned on a FB thread. I note that you didn’t even mention that bane of freelancing — the markets that Pay After Publication (if ever). My initial sales all fell into that category, and one market had to get unfriendly letters from a friendly attorney before paying up more than a year late. All this for a total of less than $100.

    My own solution was the day job “for bean money” and when I met Robert Moore Williams back in the early 60s, he told me he was being the gardener for the ex-wife of Victor Borge to support himself while cranking out potboilers for Ace. (He also told me to stick to non-fiction if I could sell it regularly, which I did.) I’m glad to see y’all doing well and I definitely look forward to this schedule!

  2. Congratulations, that is very good news!
    At least you will have a lump sum income more or less once a year for the next six years.
    I admire artists like you and your husband, who dare to live without the safety-net of a regular income, all so we can get to enjoy more of your stories.

    I do worry a bit about when you get really old and just living life with all its attendant little (and sometimes not so little) problems and (health) issues takes up more of your energy and time. Does the USA have some form of general old-age pensions for everyone who is older than 65, or is it just medical insurance through Medicare? Are self-employed people like artists supposed to provide their own pensions?

    My parents are turning 80, and they have been visibly slowing down in these last few years; it is clearly not reasonable to expect old people to manage to keep to the same pace of productivity, even when the work is not physically heavy. Dad is a scientist, his work is his hobby, so he’s still working on a scientific article (with his old professor who is 94!), but he’s clearly slowing down.
    I expect storytelling is the same for you, something you will continue to do for as long as you live, but at some point you may not be able to keep up the schedule of writing a whole book every year, in order to get that lump sum to live off for a year.
    Will you get some pension money by that time, or do I have to start calculating ways to expand my Patreon support?

  3. Eighty’s a little way off for us, yet.

    The US doesn’t have a general old-age pension, because that would be “socialism” and We’re Agin It. So I’m told. What we do have, for the moment, anyway, is something called Social Security (SSA), which is a fund everyone who works puts into during their earning years. The government holds that account for you, and when you reach the retirement age for your cohort (mine is 65; folks born after me have to work later in life to collect theirs), you may ask the government to start issuing that money back to you, monthly. Both Steve and I did work traditional jobs for many years, and paid into the fund through our employers. As freelancers, we pay self-employment tax, a percentage of which is placed into our SSA accounts. And, yes, there is Medicare to help with health care.

    Sadly, both of these programs are under attack by the present US government and there’s a. . .credible chance that they will not survive (being “socialism” and also “entitlements,” which we’re also agin. So I’m told.). If they do not survive, then life will be, um, interesting — not just for us, but for a lot of people for whom SSA was their only retirement plan, and Medicare the only avenue to health care available.

    Several of our writing elders did keep working to the end of their lives, though their production did slow. To be expected, really: you slow, and then you sleep.

  4. Best wishes for a long & viable (in particular, writing – yeah, I’m being selfish here) go of it. Love your stories above all others.

    As for the politics, I keep reminding people that our military, school system, sewers, water supply, waste treatment, roads, & how many more things we all need & use are government provided to a great extent. Isn’t that socialism? So why is health care considered some kind of special category that can’t be included? Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians I’ve talked to think we have a barbaric health care system.

    ‘Nuff o’ that. Just wish Baen had some kind of notification system to let me know when Neogenesis goes eARC. Until then I have TGE & AofE to re-read…

    Much Obliged for your efforts, Bob

  5. While it sounds like the deal isn’t going to exactly make you High House at a single stroke, I’m still glad that you’ll get money coming, and we’ll get books coming, for a good while into the future. My congratulations!

  6. I’m very glad to read that there will be more books! Some of my most favorite stories are the ones you write, and I look forward to more.

    And more cat pictures, too 😉

  7. Changing “buy me a coffee” to “buy us cat food” seems to imply a bad change of fortune. As in; ‘we’re reduced to eating cat food, and need help acquiring it’. Not the best of circumstances, IMHO.

    Jim C. Hines has also written about the great piles of money made as a writer. Of all the authors I follow online, I’ve yet to know of one who has signed the “Rich and Famous” contract like Kermit and crew had in ‘The Muppet Movie’. It seems to me that writing is a passion, and definitely not a ‘get rich quick’ scheme.

  8. The Liaden books are in my “must buy” category, along with a few other authors. I look forward to purchasing six more of your books!

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