On Reinvesting

This is part of the Bittersweet Book Launch case study, where Dan Blank and Miranda Beverly-Whittemore share the yearlong process of launching her novel. You can view all posts here.

by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

When I first got Dan’s estimate the day after our lunch meeting, I was overcome with abrupt panic. One of the strange things about being a working writer (or any kind of freelancer, I suppose) are the hidden expenses (or, put more euphemistically, investments) that one must make in one’s own career. A book advance is broken up over three or four different calendar dates (signing, delivery and acceptance, publication, paperback publication), fifteen percent of it goes to the (hardworking, deserving) agent, and a large chunk goes to taxes, so what sounds like a lot of money upfront actually turns into much less than a living wage. I’m so thrilled to have sold another book after five long years, and to be finally bringing income back into my home, to be helping my hardworking massage therapist/ book editing husband with some of our expenses, and that means that much of the money I will earn this year is already earmarked for non-writing life needs (preschool, rent, taxes, etc). It’s hard sometimes to remember that some of that money must be put back into my career, that it is precisely because I haven’t earned any income from writing in the past five years that I must reinvest some of this money I have now into my career with an eye toward what an investment could change for my writing future (often, I find it is easy to look at it the other way around). So that means trying to figure out how much of Dan’s estimate I can cover, and whether I can offer other values to him outside of purely financial ones.

Dan and I had briefly discussed the possibility of turning this process itself- the one I am writing about right now- into its own kind of cross-promotion for both of us, and as a way for me to provide a tangible value to Dan’s business, which I very much believe in. So I started to keep this diary with an eye toward the possibility that we might use it in some capacity, either as a blog or an e-book about the case study of putting Dan’s ideas about author platform into practice (which is very meta to imagine if someone is reading this in the future in such a future location- hi future! hope it’s sunny). I believe so strongly in the work Dan is doing, in the fact that it builds a bridge over that vast chasm of knowledge and/or promotional expertise that, in my experience, isn’t often covered by writers or publishers: that unnamed, liminal space between what is quantifiable (how many books sold, positive print reviews, etc) and what isn’t (the generosity of an online presence that ushers new readers toward ones book, and the ideas within it, effectively). Dan and I believe in generosity, and I admire how he talks about being as generous in one’s online life as one is in one’s real community. I like to believe that as a mother and friend and family member, I am generous, but it is so difficult to know how to translate that personal trait into something equivalent online. So I am thrilled by the possibility of seeing how to go about that through someone else’s eyes, if baffled about how I would go about doing that on my own.

It is hard for me, after years of feeling so dejected about what went wrong with my first two books sales wise, and trying hard to sell books over the last five years, to remember that the advance I have earned from Bittersweet may well be just the tip of the iceberg, that I don’t need to be like a little squirrel hiding her precious acorns under the biggest tree. For the first time in a long time, I know that I will be earning money for the next two years (and hopefully more). It’s hard to let go of that doubting, let-down self, the one who could only rely on herself and her work. There is something selfish and yet self-protective about that way of life- nothing lost, nothing gained. But I’m ready to try things a different way- to try extending a generosity toward a readership I don’t have, to building something more for my career than just blind faith that my book is good enough to simply rise to the top. Publishing doesn’t work that way, at least not anymore. Time for me to join the twenty-first century. So I scrounged through my bank accounts and made a decision that I believe will have a lasting effect on not just this book, or my career, but my life. Yay to working with someone who believes in this journey!