Book Advances

Discussion in 'Writing' started by Pluvious, Apr 16, 2003.

  1. Pluvious

    Pluvious Challenge Assumptions

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    Does anyone have any inside information as to how much a first time author actually received for a book advance? Someone relatively famous I mean (Jordan or Martin maybe).

    From what I understand most published first time fantasy authors can expect a $3,000-$5,000 advance. Does this sound accurate? What about mainstream or other genres?

    Also, does anyone have any examples of how much a professional author made in a normal year from books alone?
     
  2. rotty1021

    rotty1021 New Member

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    Not sure if there's any truth to it, but I read somewhere that Jordan gets $200,000 in advance for each book.
     
  3. KatG

    KatG Effulgent Staff Member

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    I'd expect that Jordan gets a good bit more than $200,000 per book at this point.

    An advance is the publisher's best guesstimate of how much they think you, the author, will earn in royalties. If you don't earn that much money in actual sales, then the publisher has to eat what they paid you as an advance, so they do try to err on the side of caution. They have to pay a good bit to keep bestsellers, but bestsellers actually have less money leverage in the marketplace than they used to. They were throwing a fair amount of money around at sf/f authors a few years ago when the market took off in the nineties, but that's over for the moment and financial prudence reigns once again.

    So yes, the standard advance for a first time sf/f writer, who will maybe have a small hardcover printing and a larger mass market paperback printing that will sell somewhere in the 25,000-50,000 copies range, is usually going to be around $2,500-5,000 U.S. as an advance, if it's a good-sized house. (Smaller houses may pay less or no advance at all.)

    Romance is about the same, and it's not an unusual first-time advance for other genres or mainstream, but there's less standardization in mainstream fiction. A new writer whose book is considered hot and is the subject of an agent auction might be looking at a five, six or even possibly though rarely, seven figure advance. But that kind of money is seldom to be found in sf/f publishing because the genres don't have the potential audience to sustain it.

    Quite a few years back, the average annual income for published writers -- which includes everyone from Stephen King on down -- was estimated at about $4,000 U.S. I imagine it's risen a bit since then, but not that much. It's hard to make a living at full-time writing and agents and editors often counsel new writers not to quit their day job. I know of many authors who have been published but still work in another profession. But the problem is that you can't predict it all that accurately -- you can't know what new writer will take off or how a particular career will develop. So don't plan on buying a lot of stuff if you get sold, I would suggest, but don't count it out entirely as hopeless either.
     
  4. I Brian

    I Brian SFF Chronicles

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    All depends on the publishing house as well. Have it in my head that a common figure would be around $500-$3000 as an advance - but that the advance is less than the royalties due if sales targets were met.

    10,000 books sold with $0.50 going to the author per sale would equal $5000.

    I figure the publishing house would aim to sell a few more, though.

    And, of course, as soon as you factor in agent fee and taxes if all get much further reduced:

    $5000 - 15% agent's fee

    = $4250

    $4250 - 30% (approximate taxes due (such as National Insurance on top of Income Tax here in the UK)

    = $2975 NET profit.


    So...hm...not a rich living at first.

    Darn it!
     
  5. choppy

    choppy The Great Flying Bear

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    I've heard that a typical first Canadian novelist can expect to receive a few hundred dollars. Sometimes the book earns a little more, sometimes not.

    It's nice to dream about that phone call where you're told you're going to get a checque for $200 000.00, but I'm not quitting my day job either.
     
  6. Pluvious

    Pluvious Challenge Assumptions

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    For a major publishing house? If so then they are being ripped off. You can easily write a small magazine article here in the states and make a few hundred dollars. And a thousand or more for a few of the larger ones. So, if you can't get an advance from a major publishing house for more then a couple thousand then something is wrong.

    I know its difficult to get published and make money but there are many people who do just that. Obviously, if you want to be a full time novelist you need to either be a best seller or write proflifically. Nothing wrong with writing part time though.
     
  7. mistri

    mistri Special Member

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    Maybe they don't want to write magazine articles - or do, but don't have the skill for it - I know I'm not very good at writing nonfiction (with a couple of exceptions).

    The publishing scene is very small in the UK compared to the US. Many authors here earn very little. They are not necessarily being ripped off, but the publisher might not be able to afford advances that wouldn't be earned back. Sure, they could all send work to the US instead, where advances are probably higher, but that would just result in too many submissions to what are already overloaded publishing houses.
     
  8. Lucky Joe

    Lucky Joe My bowtie is too tight

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    I was reading an article where a fairly well known children's author in Australia said he generally gets AUD$2000 a book. I can't remember his name though.
     
  9. Pluvious

    Pluvious Challenge Assumptions

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    My point was that magazine articles require much less time and effort then books. According to writing books I have read many freelance authors put out articles in a week or less and earn a few hundred dollars from these articles (with reprints often more). Compare this to a book that can take up to a year or more. I wasn't suggesting that people should go out and write for magazines.

    Of course money might not be a priority for you. But this thread was started to find out what published authors make. If you are a professional writer I can't see how a few hundred dollars for six months or more work could be worth the effort. That sounds like a hobby.
     
  10. milamber_reborn

    milamber_reborn Barcelona!

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    Didn't Goodkind get a six figure advnace a while back? It would make sense knowing that poeple are going gobble up his next few books.
     
  11. Aidan Aasarin

    Aidan Aasarin moderated

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    I have heard the same rumors of Jordan and Goodkind receiving six figure advances, but never could locate any articles or interviews to validate those. I take it as fact though, since they do seem to sell VERY well( I guess it also helps to have SO MANY books in series that your royalties would rise exponentially).
    Between true sales figures not being public domain and the fact that most authors remain aloof of the world (on the internet anyway), all anyone can do is guess unless they know an author personally. There are two authors who maintain webpages and weblogs that I occasionally lurk at that give me an impression of living a simple, but comfortable middle-class lifestyle. Steven Brust and Orson Scott Card. Again, I have found no information to indicate how much they make, but they do write full time and exclusively it seems. I don't have the nerve to Email them and ask. It seems like that would be tacky. Has anyone had the oppurtunity to meet a notable author? If so, have they by chance mentioned how much they make?
     
  12. mistri

    mistri Special Member

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    I, personally, would prefer my writing to one day be a professional fulltime career. I just didn't like the fact that you suggested that writers were being 'ripped off' for not submitting to markets like magazines in the states. Also be careful of your tone. Your reply sounds as if you are telling me my writing is *just* a hobby. At the moment that's what it is, but you sound as if you are putting me down. If that's what you wanted to do, fine. If not, think about what the tone of you write.

    But to be more on topic, an author could sell one book for just a few hundred dollars - but that could take off and lead to something better. Remember I don't always post what I would personally do - I never said that I would happily accept a few hundred dollars for a fiction book or that I wouldn't submit to magazines in the states (in fact I have done). But it annoys me when I see people say things that could hurt other writers (yes, even 'hobby' writers) and so I feel compelled to defend them.
     
  13. mistri

    mistri Special Member

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    Authors don't usually want to talk about how much they make. Occasionally it will come out in a pr move, to make the publisher or an agent look good, or to shout out, look I'm worth this much. But authors are quite a private bunch, usually, and either feel they can't talk about it, or worry they're earning less than their counterparts, or even worry that they earn more. Of course publishers probably wouldn't want authors to discuss the nitty gritty of what they earn in public either, though I don't know if they can stop them through contractual stuff. (Yes, I'm generalising a lot).

    Also the figures you hear in the press will often be for a multiple book contract - i.e $100,000 over four books, rather than just one.

    I did hear that Goodkind's agent hit a million dollars with his last contract - but for how many books and whether that includes foreign rights I don't know.

    Sometimes an author is worth more to a publisher than sales alone. The publisher will pay for an author's reputation adding value and interest to their list, or they've already invested a lot in an author, and aren't willing to lose their investment. Book sales will play the biggest importance when it comes to money - but there are often other factors.
     
  14. Pluvious

    Pluvious Challenge Assumptions

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    Mistri,

    I didn't realize you were taking my responses to be directed towards "you" personally. I see now that my use of the word "you" could be interpreted as a direct response to you as person, as compared to "you" people in general (which was the intention).

    However, I'm uncertain why you were upset about the "ripped off" comment. This was clearly directed against any abstract author that received an unfair amount of money for the work put forward. That's an attack on the industry/publisher and not any author.

    I apologize for the misunderstanding and will attempt to be more clear in the future.
     
  15. Lucky Joe

    Lucky Joe My bowtie is too tight

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    Didn't Jeffrey Archer just sign a $10,000,000 deal for something like five books?
     
  16. Mamb

    Mamb Master Blaster

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    Pluvious, what sort of magazine articles are you referring to? Just general market stuff, or short stories in fantasy magazines?
     
  17. mistri

    mistri Special Member

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    I'm sorry - I do realise that I probably come across as being too defensive at times. I just felt that authors who receive low amounts are not necessarily being ripped off just because they could earn more elsewhere for doing something different.
     
  18. I Brian

    I Brian SFF Chronicles

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    Just remembered - when I said $500-$3000 I forgot to mention that the actual advance depends upon the extent of world publishing rights sold. National only rights would lead to a smaller advance.

    And do note all - an advance is not the actual wage or profit an author gains - that's the royalties. An advance will always be larger for larger authors, but the actual advance itself isn't the end-all of being published.

    A low advance should never be an issue, because it comes out of author royalties anyway. Think - published, think - sales, think - marketing.
     
  19. rotty1021

    rotty1021 New Member

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    Off topic, but...I wonder how much JK Rowling gets in advance for each Harry Potter book.

    And on a side note, I've read a list of the wealthiest entertainers in the world, and it said that Michael Crichton is the richest author alive. But that must have something to do with all of the movies he's made.
     
  20. Richardb

    Richardb I like what I like...

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    There are thousands of active published authors out there, and the vast majority of them have to grind out several books a year to even pay the bills, I imagine. I saw something from an author a few months back that went through the mechanics of making a living as an author. Can't remember the name, as it was not somebody I read. As I recall, this person was fairly well known (you can find about a half dozen of his books in any normal bookstore, as the story went). He said that the average first fun publishing of his books would get 20,000 to 50,000 books printed, (paperbacks) and he would make something like a half a buck plus on each by the time returns and everything netted out. Then reprints would come out in runs of 5,000 to 10,000 with the same return.
    If this is true, and this is a comfortable second tier author (assuming Jordan and friends are first tier rich guys...) then this would seem to indicate that an most authors have to work their butts off to make a middle class living. I image that is why the majority of stuff on the shelf is from folks who have other jobs, and a small percentage actually live off of writing dollars.
    There was a time when I thought it was as easy as getting something published and then you are just rich...
    Making a living at writing is no different than anything else. Work hard and you may be able to do it... but only the top 2% are really getting rich at it.