Like cures like

You would think that the persnickityness of the proofs would have me knitting garter stitch washcloths, but nope. Leaves. Who knew? There’s a homeopathic principle that says “like cures like”, and it seems to be the case for me this time. Somehow, even though I’m still busy writing stuff like this on a manuscript:


(Added later, when seeing some confusion in the comments: I wrote that note. The red marks are from the editor, who is trying to change a sentence so that it begins with a conjunction. The black note is from me, where I am “stetting” her. I thought it was extra funny that I was correcting her while simultaneously making two errors (the misspelling of “conjuntion” and “sentance”) but perhaps you have to be in my rather frayed frame of mind to find that rippingly amusing in a terrible but ironic way. Har-dee har-har. I may need a nap.)

I feel a real relief in the tiny, little, perfect leaves that are “just so”.


The Deadline for getting this proof out of here is today, so I’m copping out on the real blog writing and answering questions from yesterdays comments.


I am currently reading The Yarn Harlot’s Guide to the Land of Knitting, and I noticed that it’s “color” and not “colour”. I love seeing that extra u in words (I secretly wish I were Canadian), and I wonder where the decision to leave the u out comes from? Is that the author’s choice? the publisher’s? Does customs take the u out when the book comes over the border?

It’s definitely the publishers choice. They get my manuscript with Canadian spellings, but they are an American publisher, so my choices are changed to reflect standard American spelling. The very first time that I encountered this, my copy editor phoned and told me that the manuscript was very clean and they liked it and they were just “going to correct my spelling.”

“Correct my spelling?” I queried. (I am normally pretty careful about spelling. I have a multitude of flaws I freely admit, but a am a good speller.) “Are there lots of errors?”

“No, no” she backtracked “we’re just taking out your Briticisms.”

“Briticisms?” I said.

“Yeah, you know, added “u”s, extra Ls… Briticisms.”

“Hmmm…. ”

“You don’t call them Briticisms?”


“What do Canadians call it then?”

” English.” I replied


Okay, I’ll be the rude, impatient person and ask what we really all want to know. How soon can we expect you to haul yourself around the planet for signings? And when can we start clamoring (and bribing) for our favorite cities to be on the list?

It’s not rude to ask. I’ll be on the road for this book April 2nd. As far as I know, there are 20 cities booked, pretty much back to back. When I have details, you’ll have details. (…and for the record, I believe the publicity department to be fairly immune to bribes, or I would have had a seven day book signing in Fiji by now.)


Why is it more expensive at rather than…. is it an american publication ?

Yup, and all American books (and a lot of other American things) are more expensive in Canada. American books are distributed in Canada by (not surprisingly) Canadian distributors. The price rises to cover the distribution costs. A lot of people believe that it’s the exchange rate that causes the difference, but as many Canadians discovered this year when our dollar was at par (or above) the American dollar, it didn’t make the book prices on par.


How long (in general, I know all your books are different lengths)is the first manuscript in terms of word processed pages? I’m guessing it’s different than what is type-faced, justified, headed, and illustrated in the final version.

It depends. Manuscripts are managed by word count, but books are pages. (My books are usually between 25 000 and 50 000 words.) I would guess that I lose about 3-10% in the editing, but it’s pretty variable. Usually the publisher has an idea how long the book should be – or must be… have a look at a book from the side and you’ll see that there are “sections” of paper. When they print a book they can add one more of those, or one less, but not a part, and as an author, your work is trimmed to reflect that. For example, this new book needs to be 160 pages. After my work was typeset and made pretty, I was told that I was coming out at 8 pages too long. Part of this last part of the process is deciding what 8 pages should go. (I hates it – but I’m trying to be mature.)


One reads about authors getting huge advances to write books … is this true or does it depend on whether your name is, say, Stephen King or Joan Didion or Stephanie Pearl-McPhee?

One does read about that, and yeah. It does depend on your name and reputation. (Hint: my name is not Stephen King.) An advance is exactly that. It works like this: A publisher makes a guess about how many copies they think a book will sell. They offer the author that money “in advance”. The author writes the book, the book is published and (with a little luck) the book starts to sell. The author gets a portion of the book when it sells. That portion is called a “royalty” and it’s usually somewhere between 4 and 15% (depending on your name and publisher… think under 10% for “not Stephen King” types – the industry average for a paperback is 6%.) of the price. If a book is $10 the author will get a 60 cent royalty for every book sold – assuming the royalty is 6%, which – a lot of the time….it isn’t.

So the book sells, and the author waits, and every time someone buys a book, 60 cents goes into their account with the publisher…BUT, the author has to pay the publisher back the advance before they make any money. If you got a $10 000 advance, a book needs to sell more than 16 THOUSAND copies before the publisher owes the author any more money. Only once you have paid back the advance do you get any more, and if your book never sells 16 000 copies, you would never get any more. (Technically, without a clause in your contract that says otherwise if a publisher paid you $10 000, and your book only ever sells 2000 copies, they could ask for their money back, which is a black nightmare that haunts the dreams of all writers. I don’t think it ever happens though.)

In addition, an author is not paid for being on tour, or otherwise promoting their book. If you are lucky (and I am) being on tour doesn’t cost you any money and the publisher covers the costs. That’s not always the case though, and it’s difficult for many writers to lose that time to income earning. I remember when I started all this, and was boggled to learn that out of all the people involved in selling a book, the author earns the least per book. (Although I don’t really know a lot of rich publishers or booksellers either.) It explains why a lot of writers work so hard to keep the books coming. It’s the only way to earn a living at it….and it isn’t just the case for middle of the road writers like me. I was listening to Nino Ricci on the CBC a while ago and he said something to the effect that if he added up all the time he spent writing, revising, proofing and promoting, he would have earned more working at McDonalds – and he’s a bestselling, award winning novelist.

In short, yeah. Authors get advances. No, they are not usually huge, and I think you really have to love writing if you want to make it your day job.


Although you do get to knit leaves at work.