One of the nicest things about having your book get published is all the interest and encouragement that your friends give you. People will go out of their way to tell you how much they enjoyed it (presumably those who hate it manage to keep it to themselves, much like the way friends won’t tell you that your baby is actually quite ugly, or that your voice grates upon their ears like someone is slaughtering a giraffe.) Friends will send you reviews from the other side of the world, or let you know that they have foisted a copy on someone else, and that the someone else has said they’ve enjoyed it. It’s really encouraging.
In the past few weeks, however, I’ve had the pleasure of a completely new form of support. Various friends have put The Rook forward for their book clubs to read and then invited me to come and talk about it. I’ve taken this as license to come and talk about myself, and eat whatever cake is available.
It’s actually very cool, whilst simultaneously terrifying. So far, the book clubs that I’ve been invited to have consisted of sophisticated and elegant older ladies (older than me, anyway). These ladies have all, withouth fail, been extremely kind. However, it has been clear that supernatural thrillers set in the public service are not their usual selection for bookclub. A phrase that I’ve heard frequently is ‘Normally, I would never read this kind of book…’, which is the kind of phrase that can either introduce lavish praise, or withering condemnation.
Of course, they were all too polite to unleash really withering condemnation, but it’s evident that for a few readers, The Rook was agony. Others, however, were bewildered to discover themselves enjoying it, which is very cool. In one of the clubs, they went around the room, and said if they liked it, or not, and why, or why not.
While I sat there, eating cake.
The process led to some very interesting and unexpected questions, but having someone flatly state that they couldn’t get into your book, and couldn’t get through more than a couple of chapters is always a little bit crushing. I expect it’s like being on one of those reality shows where you stand up in front of judges, and they candidly discuss your strengths and flaws while you smile weakly, and can’t throw your cake at them.
Anyway, we talked about the book, and where I got my ideas from, and the process whereby a book in my head becomes a book on your shelf. One thing that everybody was quite interested in was how the money works, so I thought I’d explain it to those blog-readers who aren’t familiar with the process.
So, I wrote the book. And then, after a few adventures, I got an agent (the incomparable Mollie Glick of The Foundry Literary + Media). And, after a substantial amount of work, Mollie decided that it was time to put it out on the market, and see if some extremely clever publisher with excellent taste would like to purchase it. Fortunately for me, one did. Little, Brown & Co (yesssss!) purchased the English rights to The Rook. This means that they have the exclusive right to print it in the English language throughout the world.
Now, a few people have asked after the royalty cheques that I get. This is the thing that people know about authors – they get royalty cheques. For every book that’s sold, the authors gets a bit of the money. True, enough. But, the book can take a while to sell, and so sometimes an author will receive an advance against those royalties. It’s some money that I get right at the very beginning, to keep me in comic books and bowler hats. Before I get any more monies, enough copies of the book have to sell and enough author-royalties have to build up to pay off the advance. Until then, I get no royalty cheques (I’m not complaining, let me hasten to assure you. This system works just fine for me.)
“But hold on,” I can hear my Australian readers say. “I purchased a copy of The Rook here in lovely scenic Australia, and it’s got HarperCollins on the spine. There’s no mention of Little, Brown & Co. What the hell are you trying to pull here? I should come around to your house, and steal your doormat.” And they make a good point.
Now, Little, Brown & Co. holds the worldwide rights for English. But, it may be that they don’t wish to publish it here in Australia, for whatever reason. They can then choose to distribute the book, or to partner with an Australian publisher to publish the title there. By doing this, they not only get an advance (which would go in part towards paying out my advance with Little, Brown), but they also give the book a chance to be ‘published.’ By which I mean that the book is not merely carried by the shops, but that an Australian publisher can use its local know-how and contacts to market and publicise the book, which gives it more visibility, which hopefully will lead to more sales.
So, Little, Brown & Co. sold the Australian English rights for The Rook to HarperCollins Australia, giving them the right to publish it here. Any advance, and the subsequent royalties from Australian sales, goes towards paying off my advance from Little, Brown & Co, bringing me closer to the point where I will see future little royalty cheques. Meanwhile, Head of Zeus in England has acquired the rights for that country. I don’t see that money in my sweaty little palm, but it’s doing me good. Like vitamins. Or democracy.
And, of course, there are all those other great languages out there in the world, each of which can be acquired by different publishers. For that, there is the glorious Stéphanie Abou, my foreign rights agent at the Foundry, who oversees foreign language sales. So far (and I am very excited about all of these), the following publishers have brought The Rook into their family:
Leya in Brazil
Beijing Pengfeiyili Book Co. in China
Baronet in the Czech Republic
Super 8 in France
Piemme in Italy
Azoth Books in Taiwan
and April Publishing in Turkey
With attendant advances, and future royalties (he says hopefully.)
And that’s how the money works. Pretty much. Of course, there’s also taxes and agent commission, both of which are entirely worth it, the former because your taxes (and mine) pay my day job salary (and buy us all some civilisation), and the latter because without the agent, The Rook would still be sitting on my hard drive, and not in your hands.
In other news, a friend of mine surprised me with a formal heraldic description of the crest from The Rook cover:
Arms of The Rook
Lozenge rond en soleil gris, quarterly sable and argent; first pot du thé argent, second tower sable, third cephalopod sable with six arms guardant, fourth lapin argent sejant; supported by lions gris rampant and surmounted by Spanish crown argent.
I rather like idea of being a cephalopod sable.
And in even more other news, there’s some new reviews of The Rook floating out there. But so that you don’t have to trawl through the internet, I have the links for them right here.
Talk Supe gives it four cauldrons (it’s not clear out of how many, but the official verdict is ‘loved it’, so I am going to assume that it is out of three cauldrons.) http://www.talkingsupe.com/2012/05/rook.html
Hit the Road Jacq gives it a short, sharp, whip-crack of a review. Very bracing. http://www.hittheroadjacq.com/Review.php?Title=The+Rook&Author=Daniel+O%27Malley&Publisher=Harper+Collins+Publishers+Australia&ID=399
The Goatfairy Review Blog gives The Rook 10 out of 10 cheesewands, an accolade that I have added to my professional curriculum vitae, and the draft epitaph for my tombstone. http://goatfairyreviews.tumblr.com/post/21444489723/the-rook-by-daniel-omalley
Crimespree Blog dissects the book at http://crimespreemag.com/blog/2012/04/the-rook-by-daniel-omalley.html
I talk about my dog, the peerless Sally O’Malley, at ‘Coffee with a Canine’. She looks much better in the photos than I do. http://coffeecanine.blogspot.com.au/2012/04/dan-omalley-sally.html
Buried under Books gives a charming review at http://www.cncbooks.com/blog/2012/05/09/book-review-the-rook-by-daniel-omalley/
And finally, a fun story with a happy (if somewhat belated) ending. Periodically, I will get a note from someone at one of my current publishers (Little, Brown & Co. or HarperCollins Australia) letting me know that something cool has happened. And this time, it was extremely cool. At Shelf Awareness, which publishes two newsletters (one for general readers and one for booksellers), there was an interview with Charlaine Harris, creator of the terrifically entertaining Southern Vampire Mysteries (now captured on deathless celluloid/silicon as the True Blood TV show). You can read the interview at http://www.shelf-awareness.com/issue.html?issue=1732 , and in it, Ms Harris describes herself as an evangelist for The Rook by (ahem) Daniel O’Malley!
Naturally, I was overcome with excitement. However, in the back of my skull, I couldn’t help but think “You know, ‘evangelist’ implies you’re singing its praises, and maybe wearing a robe, with a choir in the background.” So, I googled ‘Charlaine Harris Daniel O’Malley’, and I was led to this blog entry from waaaaaay back in February: http://www.charlaineharris.com/bb/bb230.html . Read it, and you will find that Ms. Harris wrote really nice, encouraging things about the book, and I never even knew.
This is like founding out that several months ago you were crowned the King of Switzerland, but that no one bothered to tell you.