It’s not about the money…

…well, not entirely. What am I babbling about now, you ask? I’m talking about receiving the second half of my advance, which I did last week. Yee-haw!

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s very gratifying to be PAID for my writing – it’s part of being a professional in any field, after all. But this particular check carries an extra payload of emotional oomph, seeing as how it’s for my first-ever book. There’s still some work ahead (a few rounds of proofreading, for example), but the bulk of the editorial work is complete, and getting the balance of the advance is a very concrete marker of that. I’ve fulfilled the terms of my contract!

My good feelings about that are a bit unexpected, because like all aspiring writers I sat through many long, dark nights of the soul while seeking representation and publication, and I didn’t envision delivery of the final advance check as a “hot diggity dawg I did it” moment. Yes yes, that might be because I didn’t actually know I’d get the advance in two parts, but it’s also because I was so focused on the twin monoliths of the book deal itself and the final release date.

The EMLA logo, natch.

Oh, it's always good when this logo's on the top left, whether there's a check involved or not.

It’s reasonable enough to think dreamy, gently wafting thoughts about that twinbill of moments, of course – the first one was fabulous, and I imagine the second will be fabulous too. But they relate to the writing work in a different way than that second advance check, which is much more specific in nature. The deal and the launch are tied to a variety of other processes – manuscript submission, for example, or Agent Joan negotiating the contract terms, or AALB/Scholastic deciding what their list will be for a particular season.

The second advance check is maybe less loaded with hopes and dreams and wishes made upon a star and so on, but right now it feels more directly connected to the work done by me. Not solely by me, of course – working with Signore Levine and his band of superhuman editorial ninjas has been an absolute joy – but that final check means I’ve held up my end of the deal! To take gross liberties with the title of fellow EMU Cynthia Levinson’s book, I had a job. And I did it!

This is a big deal, peeps o’ mine. I scrawled the very first words of the very first version of the very first page of Geeks, Girls and Secret Identities oh, about five years ago. That’s less time than it’s taken some people, and more time than it’s taken others, but I feel justified in saying it’s, you know, A PRETTY LONG TIME. And a pretty large expenditure of effort, too. Writing a book is the single hardest creative and/or professional project I’ve ever undertaken in my life, and all my fellow writers surely know how often I’ve stared into the pit of despair, struggling not to fall in. (It’s gross down there in the pit of despair.)

The “job” verbiage I so outrageously pilfered from Cynthia seems very apt. It might be a little crass, sure – Get money, dawg! Mike J. needs to got paid! And we could certainly jaw at each other about the hardships of pursuing artistic integrity in a world of vile commercialism, or the validity/invalidity of putting a price tag on creative works and so on and so forth. But ehh, right now I just don’t feel like it. In fact, I’d rather read Amy Goldman Koss’s blog post about the perils of working for free and feel grateful for pulling down a few dead presidents! Ka-chow!

If you’ve ever read Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff, you may remember that scene where astronaut Gus Grissom is speaking to the Convair employees who built the Atlas rocket used for his moon shot. Stymied for what kind of inspirational thing to say to the crowd, he blurts out the terse, dry-as-dust phrase “do good work.” And the Convair employees went wild! They loved it, and I know how they felt.

This is a tough industry, with sky-high standards and opportunities for self-devaluation at every turn – capturing a flag as clearly defined as the second half of the advance is gratifying, you know? Hopefully there’ll be a day when I receive the umpteenth advance check for my corresponding umpteenth novel and think “well, that was nice, but ehh, the novelty’s worn off.” I’m not there yet, though. I’m liking the novelty. It’s the end of the advance, and I feel fine.

Please punch me in the face if I ever use the word “dawg” again,




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23 responses to “It’s not about the money…

  1. I am on board for celebrating every step of the journey, dawg! Thanks for reminding us to take the time to do just that–and congratulations!


  2. Dear, Mike,
    I haven’t gotten the second half of my advance check yet, so I am having a hard time understanding what you are talking about. Please forward your check to me (signing it over first of course) so that I will have a bit of perspective on this and be able to leave you a real comment.


    P.S. Congratulations on work well done, and savor that good feeling as long as you can. You’ve earned it.


  3. Yes, those checks are more than money, they are validation. 🙂


  4. I remember when I got my first check from Highlights magazine for a story I wrote. I almost didn’t want to cash it. It had the Highlight name and logo on it! It was proof someone liked my work enough to pay for it! I stuck it under a magnet on my fridge for several weeks and then decided I was being stupid and cashed it. I should have taken a photo first!


  5. J. Anderson Coats

    Can we poke you in the eye if you ever say “ka-chow?”

    And one can have worse companions than dead presidents. Just sayin’.


  6. I appreciate your words… “writing a book is the single hardest creative and/or professional project I’ve ever undertaken in my life.” I am so with you! I tell my non-writer friends that it would be easier for me to go back to school and earn another bachelors degree, than to write a book. They look at me strangely and I swear they don’t believe me. Only my writer friends understand.


  7. And, um, no streaming pure O2 during your pre-launch party.


  8. love the post so much that I will forgive you for encouraging Audrey to use that word. Enjoy!


  9. Congrats! It’s great that you are celebrating along the road to publication. Enjoy every aspect of this journey.


  10. Natalie Dias Lorenzi

    Mike, I say that if getting the last advance check is this much fun, let the royalty checks commence! Dawg.


  11. Lynda Mullaly Hunt

    Yeah, perhaps instead of just two payments, $20 every day could be fun. Erin wouldn’t mind.


  12. Cynthia Levinson

    Hey, Mike, I’m happy for the title of my book to be used in practically any context!


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