Saturday, December 5, 2015

#6: Book Advances: Don't Buy A Yacht Yet!

As my adventures in the indie world continue, I want to keep sharing everything I learned on my book deals. Because the traditional publishing world is probably not what you expect. At least it wasn't for me.

Next on the agenda: Book Advances

Besides the fame and the respect and the free champagne and the parties and the keys to your agent's house in the Hamptons, one of the really attractive things about being an author is getting a book advance. Preferably a juicy one.

If you're already famous, have  a famous parent, a really popular blog, or some other kind of impressive platform, the sky's the limit in terms of advances.

It also helps if you're a bestselling indie author already. Romance writer Jasinda Wilder recently inked a 7-figure book deal with Berkley/Penguin.

But she'd already proven herself by selling two million copies of her spicy indie e-books online. Penguin was pretty well guaranteed she'd sell a few more.

Unfortunately, most of us will have to settle for a more modest amount of money. In this economy, with a changing marketplace, the average advance for a first-time author at a major publishing house is between $1000-$10,000

And some authors at smaller houses receive no advance at all.

If your agent happens to snag you one of these lower advances, don't despair. There's actually a benefit to it. Because an advance is just that: an 'advance' against your royalties. You won't see any more money until the publisher recoups that initial investment in you.

A small advance means it's easier for your book to "earn out."

Image result for happy bossOr make the advance money back. Not only will you start seeing royalties sooner, but your publisher will be very happy with you.  So you'll be far more likely to get another book deal - and the second advance will probably be more generous.

Another great thing about a lower advance is that there will be less pressure on you to make your book a smash hit out of the gate. So don't worry if your advance isn't as huge as you expected. It can actually work in your favor.

Your advance is going to be given to you in three equal payments. 

Or roughly equal payments. The first third will be released when you sign the contract. The second when you deliver the approved manuscript. And the third when the book gets published. The whole cycle takes about 18 months.

Image result for vampireThe second installment can be a stickler though. To release that payment, not only do you have to meet the deadline, but the key words in your contract will be 'approved,' 'satisfactory' or 'acceptable' manuscript.

If you haven't made (at least most of) your editor's changes, or if for some other reason the book is not found acceptable - it's handwritten on cocktail napkins, bound with masking tape, or written entirely in Transylvanian because you were inspired to make your main character 'really authentic after the bite' - not only will your publisher withhold the rest of the money, but your book probably won't hit the shelves at all.

The publisher reserves that right in your contract. 

As for the third - and final - advance payment let's hope it's not the last money you'll see from your publisher and that you'll have reams of fat royalty checks following soon.

All payments will go to your agent first.

This was another little surprise to me. The publisher doesn't pay you directly. They will actually send all payments to your agent, then your agent will take his or her 15%, and cut you a check for the remaining amount.

I guess agents have figured out it's easier to do that than to scope every bar in the country trying to chase down clients for their share of the pie.

I'm just mentioning it because if you want to 'visualize your dream' - forget the fat checks from Big Time Publishing House. Think Big Deal Agent's letterhead instead.

Incidentally, I'm trying to go on a chronological basis here. You'd think 'advances'  would be Step #1, maybe 2 at the most. But it's all the way at six because you'll actually be editing before you see any money.

That's because the accounting departments at publishing houses must run on Old Thymie clocks or something. The cash doesn't exactly rush into your account. As a writer, you're probably pretty used to living on a budget, so that's not a big deal.

But if you have a loan shark after you and you're in danger of losing a digit or two, don't say: "Hey, I just got a book deal! You'll have your money next week!" Because you probably won't see a check for at least three months after you sign the contract. Ditto for the other payments.

btw, don't be too worried about having to pay your advance money back. Both of my book deals were in the mid-five-figure range - and neither of them sold like hotcakes (to put it mildly).

But I haven't had to return my advance money. At least not yet. ;) 

I'm convinced that if I'd been more prepared for the 'real world' of publishing, I would've had an easier, more successful time of it. Subscribe to the blog to know what to expect when you get a book deal. You'll have a better chance of hitting the bestseller lists and ...

Then maybe you can buy that yacht sooner than you think.
See you on Twitter too! :) @SLMcInnis


  1. Great blog, Sheri! It is wonderful of you to share this inside information & in such s delightful way!

  2. Thanks, Julia!! I really appreciate all your support!! You're amazing!! :) <3

  3. You're a badass writer and I love your style. M LeMont @mistersalesman