Making Tons of Money Writing Fiction? Or “The Case of the Missing Advance”


Scott: An accountant. Hair parted neatly to one side, slightly awkward, mid-thirties, three-piece suit.

Anne: A writer. Early fifties, wearing cute jeans and a jacket, an expensive but worn handbag. Her roots need attention.

Scott sits at a desk in his generic office. Anne knocks on the door.


Anne: Hello?


Scott: Hi, Anne? Nice to meet you. Come in, please.


Anne: Thanks for seeing me.


Scott: Of course, have a seat.


Anne: Great. [She puts her bag down and takes a seat in a chair across from his desk.]


Scott: So … what can I do for you?


Anne: Well, [She shrugs.] I’m a writer.


Scott: I see.


Anne: And there’s something wrong. My money? – it’s gone. I think there’s been a mistake of some kind. A banking error. Some kind of hacking perhaps. I need someone to go over the math with me, because the numbers aren’t making any sense.


Scott: And when you say “writer”…?


Anne: Fiction. I write novels.


Scott: Really? Anything I’ve read?


Anne: Well, novel. Singular. I’m going to write another, of course. Down the road. Some day. But the one I wrote is called Obscurity.


Scott: [pause] Never heard of it. Sorry.


Anne: Yeah, well…


Scott: But to be honest, I don’t read much. Or at all really. Now my Aunt Phoebe [chuckling], she was a reader. She was very weird.


Anne: How so?


Scott: She read a lot, but really a lot. Like all the time.


Anne: And that’s weird because…?


Scott: It was crazy. She made everyone whisper in her house because she was always in the middle of some book.


Anne: Like in a library.


Scott: [He snaps] Exactly. Her house was like going to the library.


Anne: Sounds lovely.


Scott: But back to your finances…?


Anne: Yeah, so the problem is, I keep losing money and gaining weight, and I’d love to turn that situation right around, you know what I mean? [She waits for him to laugh; he doesn’t] You can see here [She takes a ragged piece of paper from her bag] I received an advance for my book.


Scott: Mmmhmmmm.


Anne: And it’s gone.


Scott: Gone?


Anne: Poof.


Scott: Oh my. So we should review your deposits and withdrawals, and find out what happened.


Anne: [She hands him the paper.] I’ve jotted down the gist of everything. You know, fairly accurately.


Scott: [Studying the paper, leaning forward so they can both see it.] Yes, I see your advance here, and you say you deposited that?


Anne: Oh yes, immediately! Like the second it came. I posted an Instagram of me at the bank.


Scott: And then I see a few expenses… You withdrew $500 for “partied like it’s 1999”?


Anne: Well, yes, I mean, I published a book. I’ve been trying to publish a book for fifteen years. So when I got the check for the advance, it was certainly just cause for celebration. Wouldn’t you agree?


Scott: Fair enough. And “book tour shoes”?


Anne: I think that speaks for itself.


Scott: And next you have a deposit here labeled “one million joy-dollars” – ?


Anne: I was feeling really happy about getting published, so I made a note of the influx of happiness coming into the checking account of my life.


Scott: So … those don’t count those as actual dollars then, do they?


Anne: Well, if we’re going to be pedantic about it—


Scott: We are.


Anne: Then no, those aren’t actual dollars.


Scott: Okay so [He gets a red pencil and marks up the paper.] … the same goes for happiness-cash, elation-dough, and ecstasy-buckaroos?


Anne: Right.


Scott: That changes things considerably. And I see after that a rather large withdrawal marked “thinner, younger, more balanced me.”


Anne: I joined a health club, got a facial, and went on a yoga retreat.


Scott: That adds up.


Anne: Worth every penny.


Scott: Wait — What’s this “Facebook expenses”? Who pays for Facebook?


Anne: I do. I started to get really anxious about book sales so I paid $1000 for Facebook ads. Very strategic, highly targeted.


Scott: And did they work?


Anne: I have no idea.


Scott: What’s this other “$10,000 for PR”?


Anne: Books don’t sell themselves, Scott.


Scott: I see. And under the heading “non-negotiable, essential spending” – It says “X = $300”?


Anne: X = Xanax.


Scott: Ah, okay. And what’s “WWOWW!”?


Anne: Wine With Other Women Writers.


Scott: And why is that listed under “essential spending”?


Anne: [pause.] Are you seriously asking me that?


Scott: What about other income? Royalty payments? Are those on here somewhere?


Anne: Not exactly. But as Alexander Pope said, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.”


Scott: Right. Any free-lance writing?


Anne: Oh yes, lots. Articles, humor pieces, interviews.


Scott: [He turns the paper over] So… where are the payments for those?


Anne: [Laughing] Oh Scott, you’re hilarious.


Scott: Look, Anne — this business model isn’t … It’s no good. How do I put this? It’s obvious— to be perfectly straightforward — that you’re just plain losing money as a writer. You’ve got to stop this catastrophic hemorrhaging of cash.


Anne: But I’ve been investing my money.


Scott: Oh, thank God. You have investments?


Anne: No, I mean I’ve been investing in me. In my brand. In my second book.


Scott: But you don’t have a second book.


Anne: Not yet, I don’t. [She gets up, tucks in the chair.] This meeting has been extremely helpful. Wonderful, in fact. I’m so glad I met you.


Scott: But why? I mean, I’ve just told you that there’s no mistake. [He holds up the paper] You’re broke. You’re squarely in the negative. You’re completely screwed. You do know that your book advance was without tax withholding, right?


Anne: Sure, yeah, whatever. [Grabs her bag.] I gotta run.


Scott: Wait, what are you— ”


Anne: I just decided that my next novel is going to be based on your Aunt Phoebe. What a great character! The whole family tiptoeing around the house, books piled up in every corner? Yes! And I’ll call it… [she pauses] Tranquility.  [She opens the door.] Thank you so much!


Scott: You’re welcome?


Anne: [She turns back] I can’t exactly pay you at the moment, but you are totally going in my acknowledgments, so we’re even, right?


***** THE END *****


Author: Amy Poeppel

Amy Poeppel grew up in Dallas, Texas and left the south to attend Wellesley College. Since then, she has worked as an actor, a high school English teacher, and most recently as the Assistant Director of Admissions at a school in New York City. Her three fabulous boys are all off in Boston attending school, and she and her husband now split their time between New York and Frankfurt, Germany. A theatrical version of SMALL ADMISSIONS was workshopped at the Actors Studio Playwrights/Directors Unit. She later expanded it into her first novel.