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Protagonist
October 29th, 2006, 02:10 PM
On average(Excluding sensationalists who take off like rockets) how much does a writer usually get for their first book?

Ward
October 29th, 2006, 02:35 PM
I believe the average for genre stuff is around 5k as an advance...but don't neccessarily expect to see any roylaties even if that clears.

The grim reality is that for most writers they need to sell multiple novels over many years and demonstrate a real consistency of sales and establish a name before they can approach a living wage. In the meantime, there's the day job, the spouse, or the trust fund to keep them going.

Protagonist
October 30th, 2006, 12:59 AM
Is this also the standard for writers who actively publicise their books?

James Barclay
October 30th, 2006, 03:12 AM
An advance has little to do with how much an author might publicise their book. Publishers expect authors to work to sell their books in any event. And so we should.

The advance relates more closely to the publisher's view of the worth of the novel in the marketplace. Typically, first novel advances are relatively small because a new author is a risk and sales are an unknown quantity. There are exceptions of course.

5K is probably about right as an average for a first novel, particularly given some publishers offer nothing at all...

And a word of caution. Chasing the big advance might be great in the short term. But if your book does not make the big sales, your career might be brief.

NOM

KatG
October 30th, 2006, 04:26 PM
A publisher doesn't buy a book. A publisher buys the licensing rights to publish the book in book form, and usually a few other forms as well. The author retains ownership and copyright of the work and is essentially forming a partnership with the publisher to produce and sell the work.

Those big million dollar book deals you hear about are not the purchase price for a book, then, but the advance against royalties the publisher has agreed to pay. As NOM said, the amount of the advance comes from the publisher's estimate of how much the author is likely to earn in royalties from the sales of the book.

If an author doesn't sell enough copies of the book to "earn back" the advance that was advanced to him, he gets to keep it all anyway and the publisher takes the loss. Until an author has earned back in royalties and licensing fees the total of the money advanced to him, the publisher does not have to pay the author any more money on sales of the book and from licensing subsidiary rights.

Large publishers can afford to give their authors an advance and take the loss if they gambled wrong. On new, first-time novels, most of the time a publisher does not expect to make back the advance money, but is willing to invest in the author. But quite often they will only give the author a small advance to minimize the potential loss.

A medium or small publisher can often not afford the loss of advance money that comes from low sales, and so does not give their authors an advance against royalties. They do, though, pay their authors their royalties on the books that are sold and not returned to the publisher. And there are a lot of people who self-publish. So even when you throw in the bestselling authors who get million dollar advances, the average amount all authors earn in a year becomes very low.

A first time author working with a publishing house that is large enough to offer advances may get paid an advance usually in the neighborhood of $2,500 U.S.-$7,500 U.S. The type of novel, whether the publisher intends to bring the work out as a paperback or hardcover, and various other factors can effect what advance they will pay. The advance is also paid out not all at once but in installments -- the pay-out. The larger the advance, the longer the payment schedule will be strung out.

James Barclay
October 31st, 2006, 04:42 AM
Ah yes, installments... the way it works for me, and I think this is pretty standard but correct me if I'm wrong. A third of total contract advance on signature, so if you've signed a multi book detail you get a third of the advance for each book up front. Then, another chunk on submission of your manuscript for each book to the publisher, another chunk on trade papeback/hardback publication and a final chunk on mass market publication. So, a three book fantasy contract can easily spread the advance over four or more years.

And speaking briefly of publisher risks, it's worth bearing in mind that they are earning a profit from your book before your advance is completely earned out.

NOM

KatG
November 1st, 2006, 06:00 PM
Hmm, I'd rather see you get a somewhat better payout than that, NOM, but I don't know what's standard practice in Britain, and multi-book deals are often tricky. And it is to be hoped that you are now in the more rarified atmosphere of very large advances, so they can't do a shorter payout (we shan't ask, of course.)

But for a say agented mid-list author in the States with a decent track record, on a one or two book deal, a two installment payout -- half on signing, half on delivery of an acceptable ms. -- isn't that unusual. In the category markets, though, they often insist on payments rigged to publication, which is annoying, but the cost of a specialized market.


And speaking briefly of publisher risks, it's worth bearing in mind that they are earning a profit from your book before your advance is completely earned out.

Most of the time it is to be dearly hoped by everyone that they are, since if they mostly aren't, it provides much less incentive for them to risk taking on new authors and invest in them. Periodically, when a lot of books aren't earning any profit, publishers do lose incentive and contract to only taking on someone whose work they deeply feel will be a breakout book, (the bestseller mentality,) which is bad for everybody. Returns, and what booksellers are doing with them, are always a major issue in this, for both individual books and whole lists.

Traditionally, publishers have been able to float losses on frontlist books where authors are building up their audiences because of the steady sales of their backlist. This is still the case, the Internet having helped it but other sales factors making it more difficult. The whole situation drives publishers' multi-media parent corporations up a wall, books not having DVD sales to fall back upon. :) It's why book publishing is the poor relation, but nowhere else is there such a willingness to try out new artists.

James Barclay
November 2nd, 2006, 05:01 AM
I'm not at all unhappy with it working the way I described, as it happens. A third up front is a good hit to take you through the writing process and splitting the rest up by submission and publication is good for tax reasons and provides that hint of 'regular salary'.

Another thing to remember is that once a contract is well underway, you'll be getting advances simultaneously for trade paperback of book two, say and mass market of book one. Also, assuming sales are decent and your publisher wants to sign you up for another deal, you'll have contracts overlapping. All makes for a good income stream and then the royalties (be they blessed cos when they come they indeed an achievement bonus) are icing on the cake.

Haven't reached that very large advance rarified atmosphere just yet, KatG, but on the other hand I don't have to do office work any more so you'll not find me complaining (except about why I haven't yet sold The Raven in the US and why Peter Jackson has so far overlooked my works of rare genius which would obviously make amazing films :) )

NOM

KatG
November 2nd, 2006, 09:05 AM
The problem with arts stuff is that you can't make sensible business projections of what you are likely to earn in X number of years, like other folk can with their plans and capital investment reports. Mostly you have to be prepared to earn next to nothing, but hopefully get published and try to reach an audience. Maybe much nicer things will happen, but there are no guarantees.


Haven't reached that very large advance rarified atmosphere just yet, KatG, but on the other hand I don't have to do office work any more so you'll not find me complaining (except about why I haven't yet sold The Raven in the US and why Peter Jackson has so far overlooked my works of rare genius which would obviously make amazing films )

Don't you know someone who knows Alan Rickman or something? :)