Advance for a First Time Author?

Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Black Dragon, May 27, 2011.

  1. Black Dragon

    Black Dragon Staff Administrator

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    Is it still the standard practice for an author to receive an advance from her publisher? If so, what is the average advance for a first time author in the fantasy genre?
     
  2. Kelise

    Kelise Scribal Lord

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    This news is probably a bit old, but: Author Advance Survey (version 2.0) at Tobias Buckell Online

     
  3. Telcontar

    Telcontar Staff Moderator

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    In short, yes. All traditional publishes BUY THE BOOK for a certain lump sum. This money is paid to the author in stages usually dependent on the progress of the book towards actual distribution and sales (for instance, upon publisher receipt of the final print draft, upon publisher finalizing typesetting, or other events). This money is the author's no matter how the book sells. It is the up-front price to the publisher to acquire the rights of a book.

    I've seen very little data about 'average' advance amounts. Almost none, in fact. It no doubt varies to a huge degree. I recall reading one literary agent's blog where she said this (not a direct quote, obviously): I do not offer representation unless I think I can sell the book for at least $12,000.

    This is of course because the agent earns 15% (standard rate) of the royalties paid to an author, including the advance. So If the agent sells the book for 12k, she earns $1,800. Given that negotiating the various contracts is a time-consuming process, this isn't that much.

    So to sum up - yes advances are the norm (if you're not being paid an advance, it isn't traditional publishing. Epublishing and such I don't know about), and the average advance for an author is 'who freaking knows.'
     
    Last edited: May 27, 2011
  4. GameMasterNick

    GameMasterNick Journeyman

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    I knows.

    "Traditional" publishers, mainly those presses in the mainstream (Del Rey, Baen, Tor, Forge, etc.) typically average advances around the $5,000 mark. None of the large presses I've worked with publish this information, but it's easy to extrapolate (and I have tons of anecdotal evidence from the upper-ups in these companies).

    The SFWA requires an advance of $2,000 (or first year royalties in excess of this total for small publishers or epublishers, with membership committee review) for a long work of fiction publication to count towards membership. Small fantasy presses that use traditional offset printing typically provide exactly that amount on all contracts.

    Epublishers typically offer no advances, but have made inroads because of the normally high residuals coming from that route. Many small presses either adhere to one or the other with only a small handful offering both options.

    Remember that an advance is taken out of the royalties you would normally get from the sales of the book. So if your book would earn you 2,000 in royalties in the first year, the advance is all you would get that year. A legitimate publisher will -never- require you to pay back an advance should it fail to earn out or put any money up front to publish your book (and at 2,000 a book should almost never fail to earn out its advance)... this is true of both offset printing commercial publication and legitimate e-publishing.

    Also remember that most legitimate publishers do not ask for life of copyright on your work. The standard book contract is for three to five years, after that the contract is renegotiated or rights revert to the author. Longer terms should come with a much higher advance or royalty payment and even the biggest named authors rarely get longer contracts. Publishers looking for longer contracts are often scammers looking to profit on the "long tail" of your work (playing a numbers game by publishing a large amount of ... questionable work ... in addition to your opus).
     
    Last edited: May 28, 2011
  5. GameMasterNick

    GameMasterNick Journeyman

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    Also, on lump sums... most legitimate publishers don't deal only in lump sums. They offer an advance, which is their best guess on what the book will earn over a certain period of time. Then, they provide the author with a certain percentage or flat amount of residual income once the advance has "earned out." Earning out means that the book would have earned the author under the residual clauses the same amount as the advance given. After that, the author receives residual checks (typically quarterly) from the publisher for the duration of the contract.
     
  6. GameMasterNick

    GameMasterNick Journeyman

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    Oh, and agents are increasingly setting benchmarks like the $12,000 mentioned above. This is true. I have dealt with (too) many agents over the past few years and most in the fantasy genre are moving in that direction. It also makes contract negotiation with them difficult (read: takes longer to sell your book) when they refuse to accept lower advances even though they believe the residuals from the book are worth over $12,000.

    As the head editors of many companies change, many agents are finding they no longer have the in-roads they once possessed to speed a work along to publication. I'm really unsure of the agent's place in the future of publishing at this point. They are great for protecting writers from overly harsh (or outright scam) contracts ... I know one big publishing house that has a boilerplate which remains laughable in agent circles... but that starting point allows them to do their jobs and negotiate to reasonable terms.

    Unagented authors are likely to sign that boilerplate not understanding that it is:
    1) A beginning point for negotiations and 2) grossly unfair to the author

    /sigh
     
  7. epublishabook

    epublishabook Apprentice

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  8. Seth son of Tom

    Seth son of Tom Master

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    so are you a fool to sign without an advance?
     
  9. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Scribal Lord

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    Not necessarily...A "non advance" publisher will usually give higher royalty rates than those that offer advances. If the advance is only $5,000 to $10,000 it's easy to earn that type of money back when the royalty rate is higher. My wife runs a small press (and she does not offer any advances) but the two top earnings last quarter made $64,000 and $24,000 so they made more in one reporting period than an advance would have produced.
     
  10. Seth son of Tom

    Seth son of Tom Master

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    good to know, thanks
     
  11. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Scribal Lord

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    I'll offer a slightly different opinion. All LARGE traditional publishers offer ADVANCES. But there are many smaller pressess who offer no advance. A book is not sold....a right to distribute the book for some amount of time in some defined markets is transferred...yes a minor but important point. The book always "belongs" to the author - in other words never sell your copyright. The ADVANCE is just money up front. It is not a "ceratin lump sum" as if the book earns out (although many don't) then the author will continue to earn money on all copies sold.
     
  12. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Scribal Lord

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    The data is old but also reflects the current publishing environment. In fact other studies I've read and author's I've talked to have indicated that the advance for a debut author really hasn't changed over the years. A good rule of thumb is $5,000 - $10,000.
     
  13. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Scribal Lord

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    Well unless you consider Hachette, Random House, McMillian, Penquin, Simon and Schuester, Harper Collins not legitmate than I'll have to disagree. ALL big-six DO ask for length of copyright. Terms with three - five years is offered by some small presses but if you are with a major publisher they will have the term be that of the copyright. Now that being said...they usually don't last that long as there are provisions for reversion when books go out of print, but with the advent of ebooks books really don't go out of print so now more than ever these contract could mean "tied up forever". Because of this it is very important to examine and negotiate under what circumstances rights will revert.
     
  14. Telcontar

    Telcontar Staff Moderator

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    An excellent point about eBooks and rights reversion. Just goes to show how modern technology is throwing all of the old standards for a loop, and makes another reason to have a good contract negotiator on your side. It sure isn't anything I want to tackle by myself!
     
  15. Kelise

    Kelise Scribal Lord

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    My friend just got a two books deal in the UK through Jonathan Cape with a bid of £90,000. This is for the UK and Commonwealth, not including Canada. So she can still sell rights to the rest of the world.

    So that's pretty nifty. Her books aren't fantasy though, but I still thought I'd put the info out there :)
     
  16. Telcontar

    Telcontar Staff Moderator

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    Jealousy... congrats to your friend, though!

    Assuming she has an agent, I'd imagine the rights to the US and Canadian markets will follow eventually. They are very different markets, but I think most books that start in one of the big English-speaking markets eventually are sold in the others.
     
  17. Elder the Dwarf

    Elder the Dwarf Scribal Lord

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    Jealousy is an understatement, that's quite a bit of coin! She must be fired up. Is she already published or is this a first time? I would imagine in the latter case that the sum you mentioned would be rare indeed.
     
  18. Kelise

    Kelise Scribal Lord

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    She does have an agent, and this is the first time she's being published. Though she has also had plays she's written on BBC Radio and so on :)

    A few publishers were interested in having her, and they got into a bidding war. Three rounds later and her one book deal turned into two.
     
  19. writeshiek33

    writeshiek33 Mystagogue

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    the publishher i am dealing which is small and brand new doesn't offer any advances but will publish in ebook format too.
     
  20. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Scribal Lord

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    My advance was more than that...but there was no bidding war. My only previous publishing was self.
     
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