On Being Unplugged

So for Reasons, I decided to spend this last weekend unplugged. The rules were no cell, and no cheating by using my computer or iPad to check email, Twitter, texts, Instagram, etc. Netflix and Spotify were allowed (I’m not that strong).  From Friday night to Sunday evening, I would live off the grid, ala the 2000s and early 2010s.

Friday night was fine. I was ready to go to bed when I turned my phone over. It wasn’t too bed. But Saturday; well, Saturday taught me somethings.

I woke up Saturday, hot and tired. I had no idea what time it was and no idea what the temperature in my room was. Should I get up? I had no idea. Was it 7:30, 9. or 12? I decided to get up. Normally, I scroll through my social media first thing in the morning. But without a phone, I just got up.

But without social media distracting me first thing, I managed to start reading and got about 4 solid, uninterrupted hours in. So the first lesson of being unplugged: productivity goes up. Which I knew. But there it is.

After lunch it was time to run the weekend errands. And that was when I learned my second lesson: I spend a lot of time doing things I find boring. While we were at Lowe’s and Home Depot, I kept looking down for my phone. You don’t realize how often you do boring things until you have to pay attention.

By the end of Saturday, I was kind of cranky. While I had enjoyed my morning, I felt bored most of the afternoon. And I wasn’t a super fan of interacting with people without my phone to escape to. And I was still tired.

So I wasn’t too optimistic that Sunday would be that great as I went to bed Saturday night. I took a PM pain med and conked out.

But Sunday! Sunday!

I woke Sunday, feeling refreshed. Again, no cell so no idea about time or temp, but this time, I knew what to expect. I came out, had a nice breakfast, and then set up to read a fun book.

We had the usual quiet morning, had lunch, read, and then went swimming. But this is when I noticed the third lesson of the unplugged weekend: when you aren’t constantly checking your phone and seeing the time, you don’t feel anxious to get everything in.

I normally feel upset that I didn’t do every thing on my to-do list. I’ll get alot done, but still feel unproductive. But when you aren’t checking it constantly, you can focus more on what your doing and enjoy the activity more, instead of looking a head to the next to-do item.

By Sunday night,  I was kind of sad that being unplugged was over. And when I first turned my phone, the stress came rushing back. I had so many notifications! I’m an impatient person so I feel the need to check everything as they come in. But this unplugged weekend showed me that I need to step away more often to enjoy life.

The Reason behind Non-Compete Clauses, Lower Advances, and “Rights Grab”

Recently, I read a blog  against non-compete clauses. In the blog, the author argues that non-compete clauses are basically stupid and that “We’re seeing many publishers turn their backs on nurturing mid-list authors to champion quick-hit books.” It is really an interesting article, but also very short sighted in its argument.

FYI, non-compete clauses usually say that authors cannot have any other novel-length work come out for a full year before and after the book is published by that house from another publisher.

I understand that publishers look like big bullies to people, but there is a really good reason for this non-compete clauses: you don’t want to hurt your sales.

Hypothetically, say author A is publishing a YA book with publisher 1. That YA book is set to publish in June 2017. Now the author A wants to sell a second YA book, but publisher 1 passed on it and Publisher B is going to publish it in May 2017. Now if author A is a debut, guess what just happened: there are two books on the market and it causes problems across the board: awards, marketing, publicity, and for the author’s own sales.

Now, let’s change the situation: author A is publishing a YA book with publisher 1. That YA book is set to publish in June 2017. Now the author A wants to sell a second YA book, but publisher 1 passed on it and Publisher B is going to publish it in June 2018. Actually, that is fine. Publisher 1 passed on it, and the author and agent worked with Publisher 2 so that the books don’t interfere with each other’s sales.

Now let’s start again: author A is publishing a YA book with publisher 1, but also has a book at publisher 2. The editors work with the agents as much as they can to space the books  out so they are not directly competing against each other in the same season (spring, summer, or fall).

Non-compete clauses are not meant to stop authors from publishing books. They are meant to keep over-eager authors from hurting the sales of the book by flooding and over saturating the market. This is especially important with authors who are building their brand. When an author is not known, then having too many books on the market and not released in a controlled way does not help build your brand awareness.

Now let’s talk about these lower advances. Let me tell you something: you want the lower advance. Guess what, an advance is AGAINST your royalties. Which means that until you earn the amount of your advance in royalties, you don’t get your royalties. And if you don’t earn out, when you try to sell your next project, editors look at that and say, well you are not worth the super high advance.

But with a lower advance, you can a better chance of earning out and then it strengthens your position when you ask for a higher advance on your next book. Especially for mid-list author whose sales are steady, this is a much more practical and logical approach.

And for “rights grab”: yes, publishers will try to get the rights, mostly because we have the resources to sell those rights. But if your agent is good, they have some resources. Publishers are open to negotiation. Now here’s a tip: the higher your advance, the more the publisher wants to get certain rights, because they want to guarantee they can maximize a return on investment. YET another reason asking for a lower advance works in an author’s favor.

Overall, the best advice I could offer: ignore that other blogger, find a good agent, and ask smart questions: should I get an higher advance (pros and cons), what rights can you reasonable sell and what should I keep, etc.

And if you are a self-published author, don’t over saturate the market without building up your brand first.

*I do not speak for my publishing house, but as a logical, educated human who studied the publishing industry for grad school*