After A Contract, Then What?

After I sent in my signed book contract, I sat back in my recliner couch, ate dark chocolate truffles, and quit my day job.


Even though I'm receiving a good advance for a first time author, the amount I'll make this year from my writing would certainly not be enough to live on, even if I didn't have five children.

My advance will generously cover my writing-related expenses (editor, conference, contests, etc.). But after taxes are extracted and writing bills paid, there won't be much left, hopefully enough to take my family on an overnight celebration trip to the indoor water park that I promised them.

I have to gently explain advances to non-writing family and friends who assume that once we're published we're suddenly earning a decent income. When I break down my advance over three years of writing, they're able to get a much clearer picture of the money an average writer makes. Inevitably I get a look of sympathy.

While I'm grateful for the money to help offset my expenses and treat my family to a mini-vacation, I'd write for absolutely nothing other than the pure joy of creating. I know most writers feel that way. To get something published is a huge bonus and honor, above and beyond the pleasure we already find in the process of writing.

So now that my contract is signed and sent in, it's back to work. Currently, Bethany House editors have Book 1. (In my next post I'll share my experiences so far working with in-house editors.) Soon, this talented team will send me feedback on the changes I'll need to make as I begin the re-write process.

I'm also in the process of researching ideas for Books 2 and 3. The editors are encouraging me to write an American setting for my next historical. In previous posts, I explained that as a new author I need to build a readership. I'm learning the most efficient way to attract readers is to gear my books toward the settings and eras that are selling best.

I've recently emailed my editor at least six different story ideas. I typed a one page overview for each, similar to a synopsis. The editors at BHP will take all these possibilities for Books 2 and 3 to an editorial team meeting. There they will evaluate the pros and cons. My hope is that they'll like one, and I can get writing again soon.

Wherever we're at in the writing process, we don't put forth time and energy toward our books because we hope to one day be rich and famous. We accept the fact that the writer's life includes little glamor, long hours, and minimal pay.

Instead we write because the intangible rewards far outweigh everything else. Through our writing we're transported out of the daily problems of our earthly life; while we're in our imaginary worlds, our hopes and dreams come true; and then, when we return to real life, our steps are lighter and our smiles brighter.

Writing recharges me, and because I'm renewed through it, I'm better able to love those around me.

What are the intangible rewards of writing for you?


  1. Oooh, having to think. LOL Does 'it makes me feel good' count? LOL

    Great insight! I just had to explain to my husband how the advance works because he thought poof, sell a book, have an income. It just doesn't work that way. I hope you all enjoy your minivacation and that you hear back on your ideas soon. :-)

  2. I think the feeling of accomplishment ranks high with me as an intangible reward. It is a huge feat to complete a book! I you feel that at the end of every book? ;)

  3. Getting to breathe... seriously. there was a time when writin, among other key players, really helped me to just keep breathing. Great post. I am so interested in the whole process. Please keep us posted.

  4. Well one huge reward is clearing my head! All those thoughts just swirl up there until I get them out on paper/screen. Then I have room to think again. :)

    I think another reward is the hope that even just a sentence, somewhere, sometime will make an impact. When I read, I'm an underliner. (That's why I hate borrowing books. I can't read well if I can't mark up the book.) To think that maybe someday someone else would underline words I wrote would be a huge reward beyond monetery gain!

  5. Wow! It sounds like you're going to be working harder now then you were before! It's all worth it and the water park sounds like a fun treat for your family. Enjoy! :O)

  6. Oh, I so hear you, girl! When I "came out" to my students, their first response was, "ARe you going to be rich and famous?" They all have visions of JK Rowling in their heads.

    Like you, I'd write for nothing. The idea of being published excites me for two reasons:

    - validation for the hard work I've done (getting to hold that book will be SO amazing, should God choose to bless me in that way)

    - being blessed with the gift of offering encouragement and hope through stories

    Love ya!

  7. I write out of obediance usually. God called me to write and to put the gift on a shelf and let it get dusty... well, that wouldn't be very God-honoring me thinks.

    I want to be published... yes, in the hopes of making a wee bit of money to help supplement our income, but also I write to hopefully bless someone through my stories. My audience are Christian women, so I don't have huge grandeur dreams of someone being "saved" through my writing, but if a tired mother reads my book and gets a laugh out of it and is uplifted a bit... then I've done what God's called me to do.

  8. Jody, I agree with you and many of the commenters. Most of us write because we have to write, certainly not for the monetary rewards. Although a small minority of authors make a nice living with their craft, it's a small minority indeed.
    One more thing while we're discussing advances. This isn't a gift or a bonus. It's an "advance against royalties." If the book doesn't do well, there may not be much more income from it. On the other hand, if the advance is small and the book sells well, there'll be more coming in. But the advice of "don't quit your day job just yet" remains good.

  9. I think so many writers know this, intellectually, but keep up with the dream that theirs is the book that will grasp a record-setting advance. Thanks for approaching this with truth and tact, and reminding us we have to be level-headed with our expectations.

  10. Great question.

    Releasing characters out into the world and out of my head. :D

    Being in step with God's vision for my life.

    The endorphin high that comes from putting words on a page and at times reading something I wrote well.

    Demonstrating to my children the worth of following my passion.

    Just a few for me.
    ~ Wendy

  11. I love that indoor water park!!!

    I just like feeling like I've accomplished something, that someone (anyone) likes it and I made someone proud.

    Money is just the icing on the cake.

  12. I think the intangible notion that you CAN actually write, or at least that a group of people (editors, agent, etc) thinks you can would be quite wonderful.

  13. Just the pure joy of writing. I am happy when I'm writing. It is interesting to hear how your publisher has to approve your next book idea. That has to be hard to wait for them to get back to you. As I've said so many times, thank you for sharing your journey with us. I've learned so much.

  14. I love connecting with people at a heart level. I love it when something I've written inspires them to make a change in their lives. I love it when I write something, then go back and read it later and think, "Wow, this is incredible." :) I love giving back what God has given me. I. Just. Love. To. Write.

  15. I love watching my characters develop until they actually have something to say. Writing is cathartic for me. If I can release my emotions onto the page I feel better.

  16. While I agree with your post, I have to add that I want more than that. I want to show all the people who didn't believe I could become published that I wasn't crazy. I really can do it.

    Lynnette Labelle

  17. I so agree, I need no money for this. Although I could use the money it's not in any way why I do this. I write for the sheer joy of glorifying the Lord. I'm so glad you get to do what you love without excuse. A book contract would sure evaporate a lot of excuses for me. ;)

  18. It certainly makes me happy, so I suspect my family and friends gain from that. It helps me grow in faith and knowledge, so that's an added bonus too. And on occasion it makes me do weird things that is sparked in the creativety process or for research, and the girls love that when they get involved, too.

    This also reminds me of Debbie Macombers keynote. By following my dream and desire to write, I'm showing my kids that they have the right to follow theirs and that it is just so awesome in my eyes.

  19. The intangible reward is knowing that I now have records of the way my kids are. So, when the inevitable day of "Was I ever like that?" when asking about their own kids, I can point to my writing and say, "YES."

  20. What I'm really seeing in your posts, Jody, is how much writing is truly teamwork, with many thoughtful contributions from various people! As for rewards of writing, there are many, but I especially agree with what Wendy said above, letting her children to see the worth of following a passion. Such an important life lesson ...

  21. If I didn't write, I think I'd go crazy! (Well, crazier than I already am. And I'd probably take my husband along with me as he's told me before I'm happier when I'm writing.

    I write for a sense of accomplishment, a sense that I'm actually contributing to humanity.

    I write for sanity; if I don't get those characters out of my head I'd go nuts right along with them!

    Thanks again for taking us on this journey with you! It's so refreshing and fascinating to get a writer's behind the scenes perspective.


  22. It's hard to describe the intangibles, but bleeding one's soul onto paper is how I've described the writing process, and it is oftentimes exhilarating beyond what one can put into words. Having the exchange with others through writing is also a blessing that would not be possible without publication or releasing our words in some form. I read once that when asked what their dream was, a majority of women who responded said that they would like to write. There's definitely something there that rises about the earthly satisfaction of it alone.

  23. To me, the reward is that I'm simply releasing this part of me that needs to get out. It relaxes & excites me at the same time.

    Enjoy the indoor waterpark!

  24. It's very interesting the process you have to go through to write your next book. It sounds like you better have a few ideas in your pot.

    I like feeling I get when I've written a really good scene and when people enjoy reading that scene.

  25. it's therapeutic. i feel like i slough off parts of me into the a good way. things i either don't want to carry anymore or parts of me i want to's just therapeutic. :)

    Where Romance Meets Therapy

  26. Jody:
    I couldn't have said it better myself!

    I think it's wonderful that you are explaining to non-writers how advances work, so they won't think you are getting rich in your leather reclinder, typing only two hours a day while munching truffles.

    What rewards do I receive from writing? I know I'm sitting in God's lap, hearing His whisper--sometimes His shout--flow through my viens and onto the page.

    If someone says, "Your column spoke to me right where I needed it this week," I realize I'm a package God has sent to bless someone. Not the gift, just the package. But it delights me nonethless to make a difference.

    Thanks for asking. YOU are making a difference too, dear Jody.

  27. I don't scrapbook, I burn everything I try to bake, and don't even get me started on crafts - but WRITING? Writing I can do.

    That's the intangible reward for me - being able to create, and hopefully making someone smile in the process :)

  28. Beyond the compulsion to write that only another writer truly understands, I write because it's therapeutic for me. Its benefits have evolved through the years, from allowing me to express emotions in words that I couldn't share verbally, to allowing me to manipulate fictitious lives when real ones were beyond my control, to simply providing a creative outlet for my imagination. But the best reward? The contentment and sense of wholeness that God gives me while I'm writing -- feeling that I'm doing what I'm meant to be doing -- that's such a blessing!

  29. There is something wonderful to be said about obedience! God said for me to write, and so I shall. Everything else feels mediocure anyway!

    Thanks for another dose of your fabulous insight!

    Blessings to you...

  30. Having someone read -- and appreciate! -- my work who otherwise would not have. Being part of the cultural "discussion" that happens when people read books. Having someone actually think hard about a new idea (or gain a new perspective on an old idea) because I wrote something.

    I have no idea if these things will happen even with publication, but I'm hoping!

  31. My characters go through the same emotions I do, so in some ways writing is therapy. I'm able to work their issues out to be a happy ending. I love that.

    Thanks for sharing your ongoing process with the publishing house. Very interesting!

  32. Jody, I love your posts.

    Writing solely for the joy of writing, as many writers say, certainly sounds magnanimous. I honestly can't say that's me. On the intangible side, I hope to give back some of the joy of reading that I've had in my life. I hope to inspire someone; I'm sure I'll annoy a few.

    But I also hope to make money. Some writers do make a living at it. I don't know whether I ever will. But remuneration for the hard work of learning craft and pouring my ideas onto the pages would be nice. I mean, otherwise, wouldn't writers simply email their manuscripts to all their friends and family, and post every finished manuscript to their websites or blogs? :D

  33. I write for the joy of creating, the sense of fulfillment and accomplishment, and because hanging out with writers is so cool. :)

  34. I've been writing since I was seven years old. Am compelled to do it. I write scripts for industrial films and videos, so I do make money. Writing fiction is something I do for my soul. Hey, you have five kids--me too. And in the last four years we have accumulated five grandkids too.

    Congrats, a three book contract is something to be proud of.

  35. Most published authors I've known have been able to make a decent living after several years. The key is to have several balls in the air at once. If you have two books a year and your advances are, just shooting on the low side here, $2, can't survive on $4,000 a year. But then you factor in those royalty checks twice a year and after a few years it's not so low. Plus you keep getting those advances to supplement it... The authors I know who have been most successful are the ones who are super prolific.

  36. I love the accomplishment of having a completed book with my name on the cover. Like you, I write because I love to.

  37. Hi Jody -

    For me, the sense of accomplishment comes from knowing I'm doing what God created me to do. When someone comes up to me and tells me a devotional or article ministered to them, I rejoice that the Lord has used me in some small way.

    I haven't had a book published yet, but I'm working on my craft. Excellence is a way to honor Him.

    Susan :)

  38. It is so interesting how the publishing world works. I love the way you are submitting ideas for your other stories. That must be creative fun.
    I didn't realize you had five children. Amazing is all I have to say. Hope you get your vacation.

  39. You have described it so well, the rewards of writing.

    But there is more. Why do the small brown bulbs push through the cold earth in March toward the light and keep pushing against the rain and wind, against the early spring chill? To spill their colors -- brilliant reds, sumptuous purples and blues, creamy whites, laughing yellows, dreamy pinks. Under the cold crust of the earth, hidden within, is the energy, the passion, the vision, the waiting bliss of bursting into the world and spilling the life within. This drives them forward, onward, in their stretch to the sun. It is the thing for which they were made.

    So it is with us.

  40. The ME time, the creativity, the therapeutic value, and the fun.


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