Tuesday, August 30, 2011

FAQ - What's the Big Deal?


After writing yesterday about Amanda’s Major Deal, I thought I’d revisit some of the realities of publishing and remind you that  Major Deals and seven figure advances are NOT the norm. If only.


(To review – advances are what the publisher offers before publication – an advance on royalties. The author doesn’t get any royalties until the book has ‘earned out’ – sold enough copies so that the royalties cover the amount of the advance. That can take a while, depending on the size of the advance. On the other hand, even if the book doesn’t sell well enough to earn out, the author still gets to keep the advance.)



The size of the advance  signals the publisher's expectations for the book (s) and how much 'push' the publisher is likely to put behind the book(s).  The size of the advance is of interest to booksellers deciding whether to order the book and in what quantity and t0 reviewers and others in the industry.

But people don't like to talk about money  -- at least, not in precise terms.  So they say things like seven figures (or five or six -- I don't think anyone crows about a  two or three figure advance.)

Publishers Marketplace has a handy series of code terms that are widely understood in the industry and leave a pleasant uncertainty as to whether that 'nice' deal is at the high or low end.

"nice deal" $1 - $49,000
"very nice deal" $50,000 - $99,000
"good deal" $100,000 - $ 250,000
"significant deal" $251,000 - $499,000
"major deal" $500,000 and up
 

When I told a friend that I had a contract with Bantam Dell for two books, the first thing he said was “Are you going to be rich?” 

The short answer is no. My advances have been right in the middle of 'nice.'  Pleasant but probably not even minimum wages.

Very few authors are well paid.  The average advance from major publishers is $5,000 (less 15% for agent.)



A quote from an unknown source: “As far as making money at this business, I agree with those who say the few who do are in the minority. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics puts out an annual list of income by occupation. I remember one year seeing "writer" listed directly above the lowest paid occupation on the list--migrant farm worker."

Of course, most writers dream of becoming one of the few -- like Amanda.  Her story will fuel the dreams of many a struggling novelist.

As well as leaving a few of us just a bit green with envy.

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14 comments:

Ms. A said...

So, basically what you're saying is, don't quite your day job?

Ms. A said...

AND... don't misspell "quit" when posting a simple comment! Sure wish I would catch those before I post them! GAH!

Reader Wil said...

I don't think that the main goal of a writer is to become rich. It must be wonderful to create a book, which makes readers happy.

Martin said...

Excellent explanation, Vicki. I like the way you've broken down the 'deals'. Surely though, if a writer's main aim is to become rich through their efforts, haven't they missed the point somewhat?

GrandmaK said...

Just getting anyone to read what I'd write would be a major deal for me...I learned somethings I didn't know! Thank you!! Cathy

Wayfarin' Stranger said...

It seems most creative endeavors are get-poor-quick schemes; artists, writers, musicians,whatever. Yet, all have the few who become wealthy, while equal or greater talents struggle to pay the light bills.

Thérèse said...

Well described.

JJ Roa Rodriguez said...

dreams of who you wants to be in the future depends on what kind of work you wanna do and how much you want to get paid for that job. I kept mine simple.

As for me, I always do think that having a regular job that I am happy to do that pays for all my bills/needs and some for savings is the best and doing things I love to do either for additional income or that would give me fun & happiness on the side is just a bonus.

JJRod'z

Btw, doingnthis blog is my only writing experience. And just merely having the few people following, visiting and commenting is the best reward I can ever get. Love it!

Vicki Lane said...

Don't quit your day job is exactly what I'm saying, Mrs. A. I have actually heard one starry-eyed novice writer tell me that her husband had said he would take a second job so she could quit hers and write. They both were confident that in a year or two she'd be published and the money would be rolling in.

It's great to have a supportive spouse -- I believe Charles Fraser's wife supported him while he wrote COLD MOUNTAIN and that turned out well. But you shouldn't count on it.

Reader Wil, Martin and others -- I think I'll address the question of writing for money in a later post. . . . or perhaps I already have. Hmmm. . .

Blogging is a wonderful example of writing for the fun of it.

Deanna said...

I am looking forward to reading Amanda's book. The deal rating is interesting. A nice deal would be nice just for the satisfaction of being in print... at least first time around!

Elora said...

But then there's photography...? With a leaf-shot like yours, perhaps....great photo(s)!! You have a solid fan-base who love you! That's got to be worth something!!

Elora

Barbara Rogers said...

Hi Vicki...thanks for breaking down the "ratings" of writer's advances. I think us potters probably have a much lower average income than writers...another group of artists who do it for love of something besides money!

Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

Very well said Vicki. I agree with Reader Wil's statement about how wonderful it must be to be able to create a book which will make the reader happy. Perhaps I'm a dreamer...
Sam

Janet, said...

At the moment I think it would be nice to get any kind of deal. I don't have a day job to quit, so I guess I will just keep writing and hope that some day a publisher will like my stories. Until then I will just keep submitting.