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Thread: Book Advances

  1. #1
    Challenge Assumptions Pluvious's Avatar
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    Book Advances

    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. #2
    Member rotty1021's Avatar
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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. #3
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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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. #4
    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. #5
    The Great Flying Bear choppy's Avatar
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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.

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    Challenge Assumptions Pluvious's Avatar
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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.

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    Special Member mistri's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Pluvious
    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.
    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.


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    My bowtie is too tight Lucky Joe's Avatar
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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. #9
    Challenge Assumptions Pluvious's Avatar
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    Originally posted by mistri


    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.

    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. #10
    Barcelona! milamber_reborn's Avatar
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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. #11
    moderated Aidan Aasarin's Avatar
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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. #12
    Special Member mistri's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Pluvious


    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.
    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. #13
    Special Member mistri's Avatar
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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. #14
    Challenge Assumptions Pluvious's Avatar
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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. #15
    My bowtie is too tight Lucky Joe's Avatar
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    Didn't Jeffrey Archer just sign a $10,000,000 deal for something like five books?

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