The frivolous side of publishing

I first knew I wanted to be a professional writer when I was seven years old. (I remember announcing it to my mom, actually. It was an Event. Luckily, being a very supportive parent, she didn’t laugh at me when I said it.) I’m going to be 32 next month, around the same time that I get the first payment for my first trilogy. That marks 25 years of waiting for that first novel check to arrive…and almost 25 years of daydreaming about how I’d mark that moment.

Yeah, this is 100% frivolous…but working toward publication is such a long, hard job (unless you’re one of those w√ľnderkind types who woke up, decided to write a novel, and immediately sold it, in which case, I will try very, very hard not to feel sick with envy), and one of the ways that I, personally, coped with the long years of submissions and rejections and the long line of beloved, abandoned manuscripts was to fantasize about just what I would buy for myself to mark the moment when I was paid for my first book. I don’t think I’m the only one…am I?

There are all sorts of routes to take here. There’s the Serious Pro Writer route – maybe a really fancy new printer? or a $200 fountain pen with a 14-karat gold nib? There’s the Passionate Reader route – how about a Sony reader, or a Kindle? And then there’s the most frivolous route of all, which is the route I finally decided on, back in my 20s: jewelry, the symbol I get to wear for the rest of my life. (Well, I hope so, anyway. My fingers actually permanently changed size after my pregnancy…)

So as the moment finally gets closer, during the rare times when I’m not working on Book 2, brainstorming the official Book 1 title with my editor, or just looking after my son, which takes up most of my days, I’ve been letting myself fantasize again, with purpose this time. Do I go the incredibly-tempting route for a historical fantasy author by buying a tiny piece of antique jewelry from “my” period (late-Georgian/early Regency)? Do I try to get a ring or a locket made with a line from my novel?

What would you do to celebrate selling your first novel? Or: what did you do?

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  1. 1. Kathleen Foucart

    I love the jewelry idea! (Especially since I also write what I call “Regency-ish” & love the jewelry!)

    I haven’t let myself think about this too much, because I feel like I’ll jinx myself (I do that a lot- at least, in my mind). But knowing me, I’ll probably buy copious amounts of books. :)

  2. 2. Polenth

    My first short story money was spent on a water snail (as a pet, not to eat). But further moneys will probably be spent on doughnuts. I’m a person of simple tastes. Mostly sugary ones.

  3. 3. Tim of Angle

    Have someone I didn’t like whacked, now that I could afford it.

    Hey, you asked….

  4. 4. domynoe

    I have to admit, with where my family has been at of late, if I got a decent payment…we’d have to take care of needs: clothes, new mattresses, a vacuum cleaner. I’m sure I’d sneak in something “for me”, like, maybe one of those wireless printers. lol

    When I sold my first short, though, I bought a coffee mug. Front side has one of The Writer At Work comics. Back side says “Finally published and all I got was this coffee mug.” Obviously not a pro sale, but it worked for me since I collect coffee mugs. And the TWAW artist put it up on his Cafe Press store for me special. ;)

  5. 5. Stephanie Burgis

    Kathleen, for some reason I hadn’t realized you wrote Regency-era stuff – that’s so cool! And isn’t the jewelry gorgeous? :) But yeah – books are a very, very tempting way to go!

    Polenth, what a delicious solution. ;)

    Tim, that’s going to take one big advance! I thought I was going the really expensive route, but comparatively, I now feel stingy! ;p

    And domynoe, I LOVE the sound of that coffee mug! So perfect. :)

  6. 6. Marcy

    I love the jewelry idea. I don’t wear much, but the few good pieces I do have are special – mostly, I got them from my mother and every time I pick one up I think of her. Sometimes I wear what I call her “power ring.” I also have a ring of my dad’s, which also seems like a talisman every time I wear it. And I think you must feel the same way about your tiara.

    So I’d definitely go for the jewelry. It won’t wear out, you won’t outgrow it (if it’s not a ring! :) ) and eventually, one of your children will have it. I’d get something expensive enough that you feel pampered, but not so expensive that you feel selfishly overindulged. I’d go for something you can wear a lot, made out of REAL gold and REAL stones. Maybe an actual antique. After all – you have a real career, so you should get something suitably elegant to celebrate it.

  7. 7. jen fu

    Jewelry is a lovely and emblematic idea! Especially something gorgeous and precious and antique. I plan on being slightly less ladylike, and getting an extremely symbolic tattoo. I am ordinarily not a fan of Deep and Meaningful Tattoos, but I think I can make an exception in the case of the event of my first major publication.

  8. 8. Kelly

    How about getting a tattoo? But I wouldn’t do that either, though some of my dearest family would :) I would like to say that I’d save it for something important, emergency fund, pay off debt, down payment for house. But a little something sparkly would make me so happy- jewelry is so pretty! A locket perhaps seems so romantic!

  9. 9. Kari Sperring

    Hi, Steph!
    With the first half of my advance, I bought an antique sword — 18th century officer’s small sword, with a 18th c hilt and a 17th blade which has been cut down from a rapier.
    It just seemed like the right commemorative thing. I had wondered about a laser printer, but…
    I enjoyed meeting you at Eastercon.
    Kari

  10. 10. Karen Healey

    I think I bought cocktails. That sounds like me.

    I hadn’t actually thought of a commemorative thing, but now I’ll definitely have to do something memorable when the book comes out!

  11. 11. Shawna Lenore

    I think about this way too much for my own good! Of course, it would depend on how much money I actually made, but I’ve considered everything from a skull and crossbones tattoo to a trip to England and Ireland. I think some kind of antique jewelry would be fantastic, too!

  12. 12. Stephanie Burgis

    Marcy, I love your point about your parents’ jewelry. And you’re right – my tiara is such a talisman! I put it on every time I need to write but am feeling insecure about it. And I really like your point about the balance between luxuriant pampering and selfish-feeling indulgence.

    Jen, if only I wasn’t such a wimp about pain, I would totally go for the tattoo! I can’t wait to see pictures of yours (or see it in person at a con!) when you get yours!

    Kelly, I loooove lockets – that is a really good idea…

    Kari, I am gasping in delighted envy at your sword! If I didn’t have a baby who will soon turn into a little boy who’s into everything, I would be sooooo tempted to follow your example! What a perfect gift for yourself. And it was great to meet you at Eastercon! :)

    Karen, I think you definitely need a MASK, just like the one in your novel! (But if it works like the one in your novel, you have to promise never to bring it to Barry-camp… ;p)

  13. 13. Stephanie Burgis

    Shawna, I am right there with you – I’ve spent years fantasizing about it! :) It can be so much fun and such good escapism when the rejections are tumbling in….

  14. 14. Kelly McCullough

    Printer, really, really nice duplexing black and white laser printer, oh and a comb bind machine (they’re) cheap. With the combination you can put together your own beta copies or for first readers and reading copies for friends and family who want the next book before it hits the stand and you can do it in minutes. I lurves mine with a deep and abiding passion and they make my life much easier.

  15. 15. Karen Healey

    I have the bracelet like the one in the novel, actually! My excellent friend Rachel made it for me.

    … it doesn’t work, but it’s awfully charming.

  16. 16. Stephanie Burgis

    Ooh, Kelly, that’s an idea I never would have thought of, but it sounds brilliant! What a great idea.

    And Karen…sigh. What can we say? They just don’t make magical bracelets like they used to…
    ….but what a fabulous friend!

  17. 17. Liane Merciel

    Awesome. I’m blowing half my advance on a custom-made ring in the next month or so. Thought I was the only one who’d be so crazy-frivolous, especially in this economy.

    To me, the novel advance feels like “free money.” I don’t feel like I worked for it; it seems like a very fortunate windfall that came from a hobby I’d have done anyway. Since my day job pays the bills and covers my budget, and I have absolutely no intention of leaving it to write full-time, I can’t muster that much guilt about using the “free money” for an indulgence.

    Of course, I’m also a confirmed jewelry addict, so quite possibly I’m just making excuses for my bad behavior, but oh well. Now is a great time to pick up jewelry; prices are lower than they’ve been in years. So go for the sparklies!

  18. 18. Stephanie Burgis

    Yay for sparklies! :) What kind of ring is it?

  19. 19. Liane Merciel

    I haven’t decided yet. I love antique diamonds (my engagement ring is an old European cut c. 1920-1925) but I also kind of want one of the new super-premium Hearts on Fire or Whiteflash ACA cuts, sooo… we’ll see. Definitely a diamond of some sort, anyway.

    Which reminds me, if you do decide to go with antique jewelry and need help finding a reputable dealer, I might have a few recommendations depending on what period you’re interested in. :)

  20. 20. Stephanie Burgis

    Those all sound like gorgeous options! And I’d love any recommendations for dealers – I’m looking at late Georgian (around 1800), and the only reputable dealer I know about is Robbins Roost/Ruby Lane.

  21. 21. Misty Massey

    We were on a family vacation at the beach when The Call came, so the celebration consisted of two bottles of Ballatore Asti Spumante and about a thousand phone calls to friends and family to share the news. *grin*

    Later on, when the first advance check arrived, I was even more boring…I used it to open a savings account. I tell you, that savings account being there has made me way happier than anything else I could have bought with the money, so I guess it was the right choice for me. :D

  22. 22. Liane Merciel

    Hmm, Georgian is a little earlier than most of what I buy (I go mainly for Edwardian and art deco jewelry). I can recommend eBay dealer maryefine, who has some Georgian pieces now and then. Her pieces are authentic and prices generally reasonable.

    eBay dealer “nalfie” (store name: CJ Antiques Ltd) also has a good rep — I haven’t bought from this dealer, but friends have had good experiences — and deals in Georgian jewelry from time to time. IMO prices are a little high but you can always try bargaining if something catches your eye.

    Took a peek at Ruby Lane and thought most of the prices were high, although I guess since most of the dealers say they’re open to offers that’s only to be expected.

    …okay, enough procrastinating. I could do this all day, but probably shouldn’t, however tempting it is. ;)

  23. 23. Stephanie Burgis

    Misty, I totally hear you on the savings account! Sometimes that’s exactly the right kind of treat. :)

    And Liane, thank you so much for the suggestions! I will be looking up both of those dealers.

  24. 24. glenda larke

    I bought a beautiful high definition telescope. I still have it, still use it, often, 13 years later. I never thought I’d be able to afford it.
    Never regretted the splurge either!

    To look at the stars? No, I’m just a bird watcher. And that scope has been with me all over the world…

  25. 25. Stephanie Burgis

    Ooh, what a wonderful gift to yourself. I love that it’s traveled with you to so many places!

  26. 26. glenda larke

    Whatever you do, buy something that you will always have. Believe me, on your career path there will be moments when you need to be reminded why you do this…:)

  27. 27. Lydia Sharp

    I celebrated the completion of my first draft by buying a completely unnecessary, totally overpriced, blinged-up new watch. I’m currently still working on editing and revising that novel, but whenever I wear the watch, I get comments about it, and I use that to ease into a conversation about my book.

    Once I sell it, I like the idea mentioned above about the savings account. Sounds like a good way to balance out the unpracticalness of the new watch. :)

  28. 28. Stephanie Burgis

    I love that the new watch isn’t just a lovely symbol for you but also a practical way to start conversations about your writing! How perfect.

    And I absolutely agree about the balancing act. The first thing I’m going to do when the check arrives is set a massive chunk of it aside for student loan payments. But I’m really going to enjoy putting a small percent of it aside for my own gift, too. :)

Author Information

Stephanie Burgis

Stephanie Burgis is an American writer who lives in Yorkshire, England, with her husband, fellow writer Patrick Samphire, their son "Mr Darcy", and their crazy-sweet border collie mix, Maya. Her Regency fantasy trilogy for kids, The Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson, will be published by Atheneum Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, in 2010, 2011, and 2012, beginning with Book One: A Most Improper Magick. She has also published short stories in a variety of magazines, anthologies, and podcasts, including Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Escape Pod. You can find out more, or read/listen to her published stories online, at her website. Visit site.

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