We’re looking for somewhere new to rent, and I mumbled about a lovely place that costs an impractical, um, *checks conversion rate*, $2350 a month. This caused someone (that I have known since childhood, so while it was cheeky, well, actually, total strangers ask these questions too, so) to ask the following question, and since I wrote out the answer anyway, I thought I might as well post it.
“I thought successful authors like yourself made a lot of money? Am I way off base?”
Here. I’ll talk some real numbers.
For example: my most recent 3 year average income is about $47K gross, which sounds pretty good. However, that’s with my best *ever* year of writing income as part of the average. If I take that year away and factor in something more normal, my 3 year average is more like $34K, which still isn’t half bad, but it’s not stupendous amounts of money.
But that’s gross. Before I ever even see that, 15% goes to my agent’s commission, which brings a more normal average year down to about $29K. Then you convert it to euros, which on average takes about 30% away from the take-home, which puts it at about €20K. It’s a living, but it’s not what most people would call a lot of money.
Furthermore, I write fast. Less fast now that I’ve had a kid, but I still write fast, around 300,000 words/3 books a year. So if you pretend the money you’re getting paid is for the book you’re working on right now (which is really not how it works, but that’s a different long story) that’s about $10K (or €6.7K) per book. And again, I write fast, so a 100K book (an average Walker Papers novel, for example) takes me 100 hours.
That makes my hourly rate look really good, even if you add another 50 hours on top of that for revision and editing and everything. But I rarely get to write a book in a straight shot, so it’s usually more like 6-12 weeks of work. I mean, I can and have and no doubt will again do 10-12 hour writing days for several days on end, but a more normal (pre-child) writing schedule was about 4-5 hours a day. Which is not, I realize, something to cry in one’s beer about. :) But the point is a great hourly rate doesn’t necessarily mean a lot of cash, because of how the system works.
The people you hear about who make a lot of money? JK Rowling, Stephen King, Stephanie Meyer, Michael Connolly? They’re the outliers. Writers’ lives and incomes are not like they’re portrayed in the media or movies. They’re the rock stars compared to the garage bands.
CanGames 2013 Day 1 Report Since the convention is already two days day over, I figured that I should start posting up the reports on the weekend that was at CanGames 2013 today, while I have the chance. I don't really know how long and detailed these reports will be, as I didn't take as many notes about the convention events as I usually do. So lots of this stuff is from memory and my notes the morning after, so to speak. However, there are some photos from each day of the convention that will go into these reports, so you'll get a bit of perspective, if nothing else, that way. This post, and the rest covering the events of each day at CanGames 2013, is behind the cut.
And there you have the write-up for the Friday of CanGames 2013. I hope it wasn't too long for folks, and those who've read this day's write-up enjoyed it. The write-up for Saturday at CanGames will have several photos as well, trust me. :)
Home From Work Got home from work and running a few errands just about half an hour ago.
Looks like there's going to a thunderstorm or two in the Ottawa future, as the sky is quite nasty looking and the dark clouds and somewhat cool wind are making things look worse than the current conditions are.
In the meantime, it's time for me to relax, have a cup of tea, and then post the first of the CanGames reports for the year. :)
Ben Kuchera: There is something deeply strange about seeing Call of Duty: Ghosts running on the next-generation engine that will fuel the future of the series. The first thing that jumps out at you is that it does not look that much better. There is no moment where you gasp in joy, or your jaw drops open. Instead, you’ll notice a moment here or there where things look almost uncanny, or you’ll get a sense of seeing more detail than you’re used to perceiving. Everything moves very smoothly. It begins to sink in slowly, and soon you begin to pick up little details and effects that may…
Gabe: Time for another episode of the number one webcomic reality show on Penny Arcade, Strip Search! I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but I will say that the elimination you will see this Friday was epic. -Gabe out
Headed for Conquest I hear that everything's up to date in Kansas City, so I'll be headed that way tomorrow to see for myself.
ConQuest beckons; KC's annual regional convention, one of the best. Should be a good time. Patrick Rothfuss is GOH, John Picacio will be there, along with Brad Denton, Caroline Spector, and all of my old KC friends and partners in crime. I'll be doing a reading, doing a panel, eating too much barbeque, drinking too much bheer.
And even before the con, we'll have the road trip. I will be hitting the road with my Aussie friends, and driving right through the heart of Tornado Alley, which should be an... ah... adventure. If you're in Oklahoma or Kansas and think you see me passing by, you may be right. The Big Well beckons... along with Dorothy's House, Pancake Boulevard, the Cosmodrome, and the Elevator of Terror (you can't make this stuff up).
Tuesday Morning, Back at Work It's Tuesday morning, the day after the long Victoria Day weekend here in Canada, and that means it's back to work.
Woke up this a.m. to see the weather was relatively cool, muggy, and wet. That explained why my back and hands were hurting somewhat, but that didn't mean I couldn't get up for the day. To be honest, it was nice to get back to a morning routine and have to think about getting to bed earlier in the evening so as to be able to get up for work and such. Had a good breakfast - omelette with cheese, ham, and some veggies - and then went in to work after showering and dressing for the day.
I came in to work around 7:15 am, and found my desk piled with work from the Thursday/Friday period, so there's been enough to keep me busy with stuff here. Donna and I chatted a bit about CanGames 2013, and she told me that perhaps she would try to go for the Saturday gaming in 2014 if I were to run something again. (Like I won't, right?) Work's been busy, so I'm going to focus on that for the rest of the business day, and see how I feel after that.
I need to stop at the bank on my way home and take care of some business there, and then it's likely when I get home that the first of the CanGames blog entries with pictures will go up here.
Still somewhat tired from the events of CanGames, but feeling much better than I expected to. ::knock on wood::
For those who aren’t in the know, the Spiel des Jahres are the Oscars of board gaming, only with a lot more credibility and less dresses. In Germany, winning is a big deal, because it really is a nod to being something above and beyond just a good game, to being a great game – and that can really drive up sales. Previous winners have been games which have changed how the industry and the hobby have functioned, like Carcassonne and Settlers of Catan. Recent winners include game-changing designs like Dominion and the genius of Seven Wonders.
Also, if you don’t know, we’re currently in a gaming golden age, so in 2011 the SdJ expanded from one category to three: kids games, general, and the Kennerspiel, which is like the board game geek’s games, the connoisseur’s game. That way they can include games that are brilliant in the general category, even though they might not bust your brain with their brilliant strategy of cube assembly. That said, Seven Wonders won the Kennerspiel in 2011, though some might call it quite light (the gorgeous describing fun of Dixit won the general). Both of those were highly deserved and I own both. 2012 it went to Village and Quirkle, respectively. Quirkle was noteworthy because again, like Dixit it was very family friendly – easy to teach, quick to play and full of symbol matching that was good for kids and brains.
Because they now have three categories, the jury can only nominate three games for each. The jury also recommends some games they think were of a high standard, because again: GOLDEN AGE, and because three is hard to get to. It’s a hell of a thing to get on that list. So let’s talk about them.
On the Kennerspiel list, we have some usual suspects: Brugge and The Palaces of Carara are both games about history, and about trade, and Brugge is an action-chosing game not unlike Puerto Rico and Race For the Galaxy, but with personalities and genius card matching. Carara has an insane spinny-thing in the middle but it is also familiar territory in that it is about balancing how much you benefit others to get what you need yourself, and multiple paths to victory in buying and selling. These games are probably great but I’m less interested in them then the third name on the list: The Legend of Andor. It’s important for two reasons: one, it’s co-operative, and two, it’s about telling a story.
From the blurb it seems not unlike Runescape or Descent, telling the tale of brave adventurers heading on a quest, but without a GM to foil them – instead they face a combination of the usual collaborative board game randomness and resource juggling, but also a story deck that builds a narrative. Exactly how that’s achieved I have yet to see but it’s interesting as hell. More and more storytelling games are coming out (look at Mice and Mystics, for example, which is effectively an RPG) and here is one not just on the SdJ list but on the KENNERSPIEL Des Jahres. A storytelling game that ranks with Settlers and Seven Wonders in elegance and design AND strategy? That’s amazing. It’s also, perhaps an indication of a trend: as the golden age grows, more and more of us are playing, and less and less of us like competition – and love stories.
Am I seeing what I want to see? Well, then consider this: two of the three general games are also collaborative. Quixx is a fast-paced dice game where you have to sort of get yahtzee, but all together, and other people can help you when it’s your turn. And Hanabi is a mind-bending card game where you can see everyone’s cards but your own, and you have to try and give limited clues to your friends so you all play your cards in the right order and on the right piles. Again, nothing against Augustus, the third entry, which is like super bingo: pulling random things out of a bag to match sets on cards, but you have to choose which cards to finish and which to abandon – it’s just not collaborative, so doesn’t prove my thesis.
I also want to mention La Boca, a game where two people work together to assemble blocks to fit the prescribed pattern – but they sit opposite each other and can only see their side of the object they are creating. It’s on the Recommended list from the judges, and like Hanabi is a game about communication: those who do it better, win more. And about teamwork, even if each team competes with others. I think this is a really interesting trend that looks at what we can use games to do – to not just teach maths or problem solving, but how to actually be better human beings, and celebrate those things.
Of course, this is just this year. Next year, it could be all cut-throat backstabbing Werewolf clones. But it’s definitely worthy of note that this year, half the games on the list are collaborative, and one of them is about telling a story. That has my attention. Oh yes.
Not all of these games are out in English yet, but you can read all about them on Board Game Geek. I also accept review copies.
So I have a reader, a woman whose name I know from the occasional email and several crowdfunding campaigns and chatting here and there over the past few years. Nice lady. Someone I think of in that fuzzy “friend” territory that the internet creates, you know?
Acquaintance, however, is probably more accurate, since I didn’t learn that her oldest daughter is affected by something called Smith Magenis Syndrome until a few days ago, when Eleri cautiously announced she was doing a fundraiser. For their daughter, SMS causes behavioral issues, developmental delays and sleep disruption. She’s currently at a theraputic facility, and while she’s gone, Eleri is hoping to make their back yard a safer place for their little girl.
They’re aiming for what seems to be a very modest $2500, and are 10% of the way there. If you’ve got a dollar or ten to spare, maybe send it their way? Eleri’s been very supportive of me over the years, and I’d love to be able to help give some of that back to her.
VAPORWARE Friday, the fine folks at JournalStone will release my novel VAPORWARE. It has been described as a "video game ghost story", a sort of Fatal Attraction for the digital age where being "married to the job" means something a little different and a lot more dangerous. You can find it at the JournalStone site, or at amazon, or any number of other fine purveyors of reading material.
So why write a book about making video games? It's not just a case of "write what you know". I know a lot of things, entirely too many of them relating to who's playing shortstop for various minor league baseball teams. It's a question of "write the stories that you can tell because you know them well." And I know making video games well. I've been doing it for fourteen years, working on big games and small ones, smooth projects and rocky ones, best-selling titles that won Game of the Year awards and projects that got canceled and dropped by the wayside. I've got stories, and I've heard stories - from friends, from professional peers, from long-term industry veterans and people who left the industry after one product cycle. And I've heard the stories people outside the industry try to tell - yet another "video game monster escapes!" or "get zapped into a video game and fight monsters!" story that leaves behind the most interesting thing about video games. No, not interactivity. That's the most interesting thing about the games themselves. But the really interesting thing about games is the people who make them, and what they do to make something go from notes on a whiteboard to fully realized experience. It is not, contrary to the commercials you might see, as simple as "tightening up the graphics on level three". It's long work and it's hard work and it asks as much of you as you are willing to give it. Sometimes that's a late night. Sometimes that's a weekend. Sometimes that's 80 hours a week for months on end. And why we do it, and why we keep on doing it - that's the interesting thing, and sometimes it's the scary thing. At least to me. And that's a little of why I wrote VAPORWARE.
While I'm feeling somewhat tired, and am in a modicum of pain primarily in my lower right back and my left foot (as well as a few cramps in the left and right thighs), I have to say that I had a really good time and a mostly enjoyable weekend at CanGames 2013. The convention had a little bit for everyone - from children's games, through board games, miniature games, roleplaying games, and a couple of live-action events that I heard about - but I have to admit that I didn't have too much time to see lots of stuff. (Fortunately, I have a decent mobile phone and took some photos, and hope that a few others who took photos at the convention will share them with me or put some of them up!)
On this holiday Monday I'm taking it somewhat easy, have done a bit of reading, watched the past week's worth of episodes of Defiance and Doctor Who, am going to do some reading, sort out the gaming stuff and put things away, and get ready to write up some posts about my experiences at this year's CanGames (there will likely be three or four of these, with some photos as well).
I've got a footcare appointment for the end of the month, which is a good thing, as my feet need treating for the abuse I've put them through this past weekend at the convention, and have a bit of cleaning up around the place to to during the latter part of the week.
Ben Kuchera: Everyone involved with the upcoming reboot of the PC classic Shadow Warriors wants to make one thing absolutely clear: This is a reimagined version of the game. None of the original assets were used, although the main character, setting, and some aspects of the story and combat were retained. The interesting bit, however, is what will be missing. Getting the team together “At Devolver we had this idea of completely rebooting Shadow Warrior. It’s not an HD remake,” Devolver’s Nigel Lowrie told me over the phone. “At the time we were doing Serious Sam 3, I…
Tycho: What I actually said was “Yes Jamie, Thank You Jamie,” but that comic sucks. This comic improves substantially on reality. I met one of the guys on my team at the first Golf Tourney we ever did, and we kept in touch - he’s pretty sturdy, as I recall. And the “format” is Team Scramble, one of several co-op variants, which has everyone hitting from the best position each time and ultimately sharing in the best score. I would never say that this meant you should bet on my team, or whatever, or follow my curse-laden journal of horrors on #CPGolf,…
All I have to say is... Great episode, though there were parts that let me down a bit.
Yes, there were things that I really didn't like in it, and I question the continuity of some of the stuff that was contained in the episode, but overall this was a remarkable episode of the series, saw some closure of certain elements of the current story arc, opened up a couple of new ones, and left us on a cliffhanger until November 23rd and the 50th anniversary episode of the series.
Sunday, prep for heading away Yesterday was much like Saturday, except we also re-bleached Pez's hair and re-darkened mine. I also struggled with trying to translate the shop-closage notice into various European languages; many thanks again to fourcoffees for making sure that at least the Italian and German make sense. Today we have packed lots of parcels to send out. Our reward for getting them all to the post office in one go was cake and coffee in town, and we also have fancy biscuits to treat ourselves with just because.
We haven't packed yet, so that's the plan for the rest of the day along with general tidying-up and cleaning. Tomorrow morning I have to take our kitty to the cattery (it's okay, she's very happy there) and hope that P4G turns up in the mail before we set off.
Maria’s one of the other Luna alumni who got picked up at the same time I did. She’s done a kind of splendid shooting star rise, reaching the NYT with first book, and going on to take the YA world by storm since then.
This book might work better for that audience. There’s nothing particularly wrong with it (except a language thing Maria’s chosen to do in all her books which I understand but find jarring), but I was underwhelmed, which leaves me feeling like probably I just wasn’t a good audience for it. There were a few things I liked quite a lot–Avry, the heroine, is a healer who assumes other peoples’ injuries and sickness to heal them, and the way that worked is nice. There are murderous plants, which is always a good touch. There’s a romance that–
–actually, that’s one of my problems with the book, I think. The romantic interest pretty much comes across as a jerk, and I not only never warmed up to him, but I didn’t really believe Avry doing so either. Particularly since there’s a much nicer alternative.
Maria’s got a YA SF thing that I’ll be picking up, but I don’t expect to read any more of this series. Ah well. Can’t like ‘em all, even when people you know write them. :)
If you absolutely have to talk about the herd of laser unicorns that so unexpectedly appear at the climax of the latest Star Trek movie, but do not dare do so in public because your friends will look at you sadly for spoiling the film for them, THIS IS THE PLACE to talk about the laser unicorns.