I just got a royalty check for $2.29.
Break out the champagne! I’m not kidding…
I got my first royalty check in the early 1990s. It was for about $4,000. Celebration all around. Bills paid. A vacation with the kids. Feelings of euphoria…I had done it. I really was a professional writer, earning money for stories I’d made up!
All told, I sold about 800,000 books over ten years writing for Harlequin Intrigue, books made of paper. Books translated into French, German, Japanese, Icelandic (a surprise) and Turkish. The Turkish version was about 120 pages while the English language original was about 300, so I always wondered about how they’d so effectively edited…but I digress (not, alas, unusual for me).
My last royalty check from my life as M.L. Gamble was in early 2002. It was for less than the first, and was for the residuals on the seven novels I wrote for Harlequin Intrigue. Still a nice little amount, in my opinion. But as I’d taken a sabbatical from trying to publish new books and was concentrating on family demands and a new career, I knew it would probably be the last. For awhile, I told myself. I knew I had more books in me, because I was a writer. A professional writer. And, like the cliché says, writers write.
Now it’s 2013 and I am indeed writing for money, a professional writer once again. And money is part of why I write. Not the biggest part. I’ve gotten over the starry-eyed hope for huge money. But a part. My main focus is to do good books, develop a new following of readers who like my ordinary heroines who are confronted by extraordinary situations. But money is certainly an affirming, ‘professional writer’ component.
So, when I opened an envelope from the wonderful agency that represented my work as M.L. Gamble and found a check for $2.29, money earned for two e-versions of those seven paper books I’d written so long ago, my heart lifted. I smiled. I waved the check at the always-supportive-happy-with-any-success-at-all man I love and said, “Look, money!”
We laughed and hugged and did a fist tap. Told the beautiful daughter in London via g-chat, who woot-wooted across an ocean. Told the son in person, who grinned.
“You’re back,” he said. I am.
And that’s why we broke out the champagne.
Because after a decade out of the game, after a couple of years of researching and grappling with all this new, fabulously challenging and terrifying reality of publishing books NOT made of paper, I had earned $2.70. And I’d paid my old agent their cut, $.41. Happily. The new reality of what it takes to publish, and what form a book exists in when it is published, had changed completely. But that dear little check reminded me that I hadn’t changed.
I’m still a professional writer.