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October 2019
A Message from Kristin Nelson

Financial Literacy for Authors

Kristin Nelson

Money, so they say, is a taboo subject, so don’t expect fellow writers to spill financial details. 

Until now. Hats off to Heather Demetrios for pulling back the curtain and being brave enough to share her mistakes in the article “How to Lose a Third of a Million Dollars Without Really Trying.” It’s considered gauche to talk about money in this industry, yet it’s probably one of the most important topics authors should be discussing. 

Agents are often in a weird position when it comes to talking to our clients about money management. On one hand, we are the author’s business partner; on the other hand, we aren’t their parent. We don’t want to make assumptions about an author’s financial responsibility (or irresponsibility). 

Over the years, when I have a debut author who has landed a big advance, I have asked for permission to put on my mom hat and give counsel. If the author says yes, I offer these four pieces of advice:

  1. When the advance comes in, don’t wait. Cut a check for 25% of the total that has come in and mail that check to the IRS right then and there. I’ve heard too many horror stories of authors finding themselves in real trouble when April 15 rolled around and the money was already spent.
  2. Ever heard of the adage “pay yourself first”? Most people don’t know exactly what that means. Well, in investing terms, it means immediately placing the maximum percentage allowed by the IRS for that particular tax year into a retirement account (i.e., a Roth IRA, IRA, Vanguard S&P 500 fund, or similar). 
  3. If you have a mortgage your advance can pay down (or, better yet, pay off), that is worth considering. Owning your home outright can create a lot of financial freedom. If you have student loans or other debts, consider eliminating them. 
  4. Connect with a financial advisor who only charges by the hour rather than taking a percentage of your investments. This is a way to gain expert advice on reasonable terms—especially for authors who feel lost in the weeds about this whole investing and saving-for-retirement thing. Garrett Planning Network is a good resource that can hook you up with a fee-only certified financial planner. 

In the end, the best way to think about your advance is to take that amount and divide it by, say, three years. What would the author’s annual salary then be? For example, if an author is lucky enough to get a $150,000 as an advance (sounds fab, right?), that’s $150,000 minus 25% in taxes, which equals only $37,500 a year for three years. If that’s your sole income for those three years, that might be a bit sobering. 

My client Courtney Milan once told me that a blog article I wrote a lifetime ago on authors and retirement really made a difference in how she managed her money. I wish I could find that original blog post, but chances are good the info would be outdated anyway. For more up-to-date info, here are my recommendations for retirement planning:

So thank you, Heather, for getting the ball rolling for authors to talk about money. Mentorship tends to be a key factor for success in publishing. So let’s not be shy about discussing this topic. 

Recent News
Think Like an Agent

Books That Go Bump in the Night

By Angie Hodapp

Happy October, Friends! This has always been my favorite time of year. I love sweaters and scarves and fall leaves and pumpkin spice. I love the chill in the air…but what I love even more is a good chill down my spine. So horror writers? To celebrate this most wonderful time of the year, this one’s for you: here are three things we at NLA look for in horror submissions.

Literary or upmarket prose. We’re unlikely to request anything that leans too heavily on cheap scares, gratuitous violence, or gore porn. But send us a more cerebral, psychologically challenging work that demonstrates the tense, suspenseful, unsettling, atmospheric slow-burn of masterful horror writing, and you’ll definitely get our attention. Read 100 reviews or blurbs for bestselling horror novels and count how many times the words “tension” and “suspense” are used. So much of a writer’s ability to bring tension and suspense to the page lives in their writing style and voice. In the horror space, we’d love to see the next big crossover project—the one publishers are going to release in hardcover, the one booksellers are going to set out on their front-of-store displays because the writing is so artful it has the potential to capture readers who “don’t read horror” as well as those who do. 

Premise. There’s no shortage of gorgeous, voicey prose in the slush pile, but a solid, unique, fresh, high-concept premise? That’s rare. This is where being well-read in your genre is so important. Know what’s already been done and by whom. A query that hits me with a premise I’ve never encountered, one that makes me think how in the world is the writer going to pull that off?—you can bet a query like that is going to get me to read the sample pages. Many a horror premise is often built on a corporeal fear that, when confronted, leads to some sort of psychological disintegration: being buried alive, abducted, trapped, imprisoned, or tortured; being accused of something you’re innocent of; getting lost; being chased; encountering any supernatural beast or force…the list goes on. Plenty of great horror plays on more than one type of fear. But premise can also be built on a real horror, like slavery, say, and then amplified or twisted in some way. Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation explores an alternate post-Civil War world in which slavery has been abolished—but when the dead soldiers rise up off the battlefield as zombies, the new American government forces former slaves to train as zombie fighters, claiming they have a natural immunity to zombie bites (which everyone knows is a lie). So Dread Nation offers us the horror of both a real and an imagined-but-plausible injustice to grapple with, as well as the external threat of zombies. Rather brilliant.

Plot. It’s such a disappointment for an agency reader to get halfway through a manuscript that’s artfully written and that promises a cool, unique premise, only to realize the author is a little lost in the weeds when it comes to plot and structure. Plot is hard, but I firmly believe that anyone who devotes themselves to learning it, can. Start with Story Genius by Lisa Cron and Anatomy of Story by John Truby. For horror specifically, have you honored your contract with your readers by building speculative elements and conflicts that are uniquely creeptastic but that don’t strain their willingness to suspend their disbelief? Have you avoided falling back on deus ex machina? Have you developed complex characters in physical and/or psychological distress—or have you made the threat of that distress terrifyingly palpable for readers?

Prose. Premise. Plot. Any manuscript, regardless of genre, that delivers all three is definitely a manuscript we want to see. Happy Halloween!

Kristin's Book Club

If Greek Gods Are Your Jam

Without a doubt, author Madeline Miller is talented. Her second novel, CIRCE, the story of the Greek god of the same name from Homer’s Odyssey, is beautiful written and lyrical literary work. If you are a fan of Greek mythology and enjoy being immersed in a world that humanizes the gods as characters, then definitely put this novel on your TBR list. CIRCE, at its core, is a coming-of-age story. A young goddess—daughter of a nymph and Helios, the God of the Sun—learns to embrace her own witch power and decide whether she will align herself with the gods who created her or give her loyalty to the mortals, whom she has come to admire and love. 

At book club, CIRCE had a mixed reception. Those who loved it were passionate about wanting to stay in that world and sink into the voice and the writing. Given how long this work stayed on the New York Times bestseller list, that seems to be the prevailing reaction. Those who couldn’t quite sink into the narrative, despite admiring the writing, found the story slow and internal, more of a character exploration. 

For this title, you’ll have to decide for yourself whether it’s your jam. 

Next up, a nonfiction work on medical curiosities over the ages: THE MYSTERY OF THE EXPLODING TEETH by Thomas Morris. As I’ve already dipped in, I will say this work is not for the squeamish or faint of heart. 

New Releases

Rebel

by Marie Lu

With unmatched suspense and her signature cinematic storytelling, #1 New York Times–bestselling author Marie Lu plunges readers back into the unforgettable world of Legend for a truly grand finale.

Eden Wing has been living in his brother’s shadow for years. Even though he’s a top student at his academy in Ross City, Antarctica, and a brilliant inventor, most people know him only as Daniel Wing’s little brother.

A decade ago, Daniel was known as Day, the boy from the streets who led a revolution that saved the Republic of America. But Day is no longer the same young man who was once a national hero. These days he’d rather hide out from the world and leave his past behind. All that matters to him now is keeping Eden safe—even if that also means giving up June, the great love of Daniel’s life.

As the two brothers struggle to accept who they’ve each become since their time in the Republic, a new danger creeps into the distance that’s grown between them. Eden soon finds himself drawn so far into Ross City’s dark side, even his legendary brother can’t save him. At least not on his own . . .

Buy It Here:

       

The Art of Theft

by Sherry Thomas

Charlotte Holmes, Lady Sherlock, is back solving new cases in the Victorian-set mystery series from the USA Today bestselling author of The Hollow of Fear.

As “Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective,” Charlotte Holmes has solved murders and found missing individuals.

But she has never stolen a priceless artwork—or rather, made away with the secrets hidden behind a much-coveted canvas.

But Mrs. Watson is desperate to help her old friend recover those secrets and Charlotte finds herself involved in a fever-paced scheme to infiltrate a glamorous Yuletide ball where the painting is one handshake away from being sold and the secrets a bare breath from exposure.

Her dear friend Lord Ingram, her sister Livia, Livia’s admirer Stephen Marbleton—everyone pitches in to help and everyone has a grand time.

But nothing about this adventure is what it seems and disaster is biding time on the grounds of a glittering French chateau, waiting only for Charlotte to make a single mistake…

Buy It Here:

       

The Blue Eye

by Ausma Zehanat Khan

A band of powerful warrior women continues its resistance against an oppressive dark regime in this penultimate installment in the Khorasan Archives fantasy quartet—a series that lies “somewhere between N. K. Jemisin and George R. R. Martin” (Saladin Ahmed).

The Companions of Hira have used their cunning and their magic in the battle against the patriarchal Talisman, an organization whose virulently conservative agenda restricts free thought. One of the most accomplished Companions, Arian, continues to lead a disparate group in pursuit of the one artifact that could end the Talisman’s authoritarian rule: The Bloodprint.

But after a vicious battle, the arcane tome has slipped once more beyond her reach. Despite being separated and nearly losing their lives, Arian’s band of allies has remained united. Yet now, the group seems to be fracturing. To continue the fight, Arian must make a dangerous journey to a distant city to recruit new allies. But instead of her trusted friends, she is accompanied by associates she may no longer be able to trust.

Building on the brilliance of The Bloodprint and The Black Khan, this third volume in the Khorasan Archive series ratchets up the danger, taking the conflict to a darker, deadlier place, and setting the stage for the thrilling conclusion to this acclaimed #ownvoices fantasy.

Buy It Here:

       

Fireborne

by Rosaria Munda

Annie and Lee were just children when a brutal revolution changed their world. Where once, dragons were ridden by the aristocracy alone, now anyone–including the lowborn–can have wealth, an education, and even test into the governing class of dragonriders.

Now Annie and Lee are both rising stars in the new regime, despite backgrounds that couldn’t be more different.

Annie’s lowborn family was executed by dragonfire, while Lee comes from one of the aristocratic families that was slaughtered in the revolution. Growing up in the same orphanage forged their friendship, and seven years of training have made them rivals for the top position in the dragonriding fleet.

Everything changes when survivors from the old regime resurface, bent on reclaiming the city.

With war on the horizon and his relationship with Annie changing fast, Lee must choose between killing the only family he has left, or betraying everything he’s come to believe in. And Annie must decide whether to protect the boy she loves . . . or step up to be the champion her city needs.

Packed with dragon tournaments, political intrigue, and romance, Fireborne calls into question which matters most: the family you were born into, or the one you’ve chosen.

Buy It Here:

       

Batman: Nightwalker (Graphic Novel)

by Marie Lu

In this new graphic novel based on the New York Times bestselling novel by Marie Lu, the gates of Arkham Asylum imprison Gotham City’s darkest mysteries, and now they open wide to consume young Bruce Wayne. 

A new ruthless gang of criminals known only as Nightwalkers is terrorizing Gotham and the city’s elite are being taken out one by one.

On the way home from his eighteenth birthday party, newly-minted billionaire Bruce Wayne makes an impulsive choice that puts him in their crosshairs and lands him in Arkham Asylum, the once infamous mental hospital.

There, he meets Madeleine Wallace, a brilliant killer…and Bruce’s only hope.

Madeline is the mystery Bruce must unravel, but is he convincing her to divulge her secrets, or is he feeding her the information she needs to bring Gotham City to its knees?

With action-packed and shadow-soaked artwork by Chris Wildgoose, this graphic novel adaptation challenges readers to take a new look at Batman before he donned the cape and cowl.

 

Buy It Here:

       

Forever and a Doomsday

by Laurence MacNaughton

When insidious spirits from beyond the grave try to get their clutches on the apocalypse scroll, Dru Jasper and her misfit friends are the only hope for stopping doomsday.

Crystal shop owner and quick-witted sorceress Dru Jasper is the guardian of the apocalypse scroll, an ancient instrument of destruction held in check by seven bloodred seals. All but one have been broken.

Now, a chilling cohort of soul-devouring wraiths has risen from the netherworld to crack open the final seal. If Dru and her misfit friends can’t stop them, the world will come to a fiery end. No pressure or anything.

These freakishly evil spirits can kill with a mere touch, making them impossible to fight by mortal means.

To keep the apocalypse scroll out of their clutches, Dru must solve a 2,000-year-old magical mystery, find a city lost in the netherworld, and unearth a crystal older than the Earth itself.

Can she elude the forces of darkness long enough to save her friends and safeguard the scroll forever—before the undead break the seventh seal and bring on doomsday?

Buy It Here:

       
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