A Little Bit About Author Advances…

I might be a little happy.

I’m getting published! In a three book deal! By St. Martins Press! SQEEEEEEE! My first book is due out sometime in the Fall of 2013. If anybody is still on the fence about what a good agent can do for you talk to me. Authors alone, especially new ones, cannot make deals like this by themselves. And even though this all happened relatively quickly I learned a lot. A LOT about everything. But the thing I zoned in on the most was how publishers pay authors. Here’s a couple of things I learned these past couple of weeks.

Most big six publishers will not look at your work unless it is submitted by an agent. UNLESS they request a manuscript from a contest or a live pitch.

Okay, so you probably knew that. But here are a few things to consider.

  1. If you do get a request from a contest or a pitch be prepared to wait. Editors feel obligated to respond to submissions made by agents first. They work with them on a daily basis and rely on them to find talent. Plus they see them at all those cool industry events like BEA (Book Expo of America) and at conferences. And a good agent will hound an editor to make sure that they are reading and responding to your book. Six months on a full request is average. Some editors might take up to a year.
  2. I’m sorry all you contest junkies (and I was surprised to hear this one) but many editors and agents just aren’t impressed by contest wins. Unless they are big ones like the Golden Heart. The reason being is that there are so many contests out there. The scoring is subjective and often done by untrained judges. They all say it’s a great way to get feedback but not to put all your hopes and dreams on them.
  3. If you somehow can stand the wait and do get an offer, be prepared for a lower advance if you don’t have an agent. Publishers tend to pay between $1,500- $6,000. And you may not get things like world rights and other stuff that as a new author you just don’t understand.
  4. The other thing about not going the agent route is less of a chance for multiple submissions. An agent can have six editors reading your book at the same time. Which means there is more likely a chance that more than one of them will like it and then fight over it and that means you get more money!
  5. But also be aware that just because you have an agent doesn’t mean your book is going to get sold.  I’m not embarrassed to tell you that I was rejected by Harlequin, Bantam, Hachette, and Pocket before my offers came in. Not everybody is going to like your book and the sooner you learn that the better.
Don’t plan on quitting your day job.
I think we all dream of making a living by our writing alone but that doesn’t happen quickly.
  1. The average advance for a newbie author from a big six publisher( and lets throw Harlequin in there, but not their category lines) is $10,000.
  2. The average royalty rate for a new author is 8%. Which means that the publisher gets to keep 92% of the profits from your book. (Now you see why some people self publish. 70% compared to 8% plus absolute editorial control.)
  3. You won’t get paid for a very long time. Apparently it may take a few months for a publisher to generate a contract. Granted there are dozens of little things in it that need to be hammered out but still, the process is glacial compared to publishing yourself.
  4. Also consider that you will not see all that money at once. You will get some on signing. Some on acceptance of your manuscript by the publisher and some on publication.
  5. It takes about a year for a debut author’s book to come out and after that you have to earn back your advance.So if you don’t sell many books don’t count on seeing any more money. And even if you do sell a lot of books you’ll have to wait until the publisher is ready to pay you. Some pay quarterly. Some pay twice a year. Either way you are in for a wait.

Smaller publishers will work for you too!

  1. Kensington and Sourcebooks are not huge publishers but just because they don’t have millions to throw at you doesn’t mean they can’t do big things for your career. Fern Micheals is currently with Kensington.Even Jill Shalvis has books coming out with them this fall. Those ladies are big New York Times selling authors. And sometimes going smaller means getting more attention. It may mean the people there will spend more time with you helping you build your brand as an author.
  2. But don’t expect big money from them. They offer brand new authors an average advance of $2,500. But they can get your book into Walmart! And isn’t that everybody’s dream.
  3. You also don’t need an agent, a pitch or a contest win to submit to them. Check out the guidelines on their websites and submit away!

Most E pubs don’t offer advances.

  1. But Entangled is doing big things for their authors. One of them got a royalty check for over three hundred thousand dollars and her book is racing up the bestseller charts.
  2. Samhain and Ellora’s Cave also boast happy authors. The point is that there isn’t just one way. Just find the way that is right for you.

I know for most of us it’s not about the money. It’s about getting our work out there, connecting with readers and doing what we all love to do which is write.

 I hope I didn’t ramble. Anybody have any questions? Comments? Suggestions? Were things different in your experience? Have something to share with the group?


21 thoughts on “A Little Bit About Author Advances…”

  1. What a wonderfully honest, non-judgemental and positive appraisal of the varying options available to all of us ‘authors-in-the-making’.

    Thank you so very much for this information. Very early days for me, but certainly lots of future routes to consider.

    Fabulous news for you!! Very very well done. Wishing you every possible success!

  2. Fantastic news, Jamie. I’m so excited for you. I appreciate your honesty and love that you point out the pitfalls and plusses of each publishing route. That’s the great thing about being a writer these days…there are so many ways to go. And as much as I do love writing, I AM in it for the money, and I would like it NOW, LOL. Probably on my top three reasons for indie-publishing was the 70% royalties and the monthly paychecks.

    Thanks for sharing such great information with us! I’d love to hear about the process as it unfolds.

    1. Okay, so I might be in it for the money just a tad bit. I was praying for a way to pay off my student loans and this might be it.

  3. All great info, Jamie, and congratulations again! Another life lesson…unless your last name is Mitchell, Bronte or Lee, it’s not about one book…it’s about a long and wonderful career, which is why the right agent is so critical, and the wrong agent can be so damaging.

    1. Hey, my last name is Lee! Does that include me? 🙂 Although I am hoping for more than one book.

      Harper Lee said she stopped at one because she had said everything that she wanted to say. I still have some stuff to get off my chest. 😉

  4. Thanks, Jamie! This information is SO helpful for those of us trying to figure out what to do with our work. For me, I think (hope!) it’s going to be a combination of venues, but I wouldn’t rule out anything that’s working. Congratulations on your sale — you are going to be hugely popular!

  5. What an awesome post, Jamie! Thank you for your honesty and willingness to share. Someday you should do a workshop at a writers’ conference. So many newbie writers don’t know what to expect or what their options are. Your notes could do wonders.

  6. Thanks for the great info, Jaime. I hadn’t realized how much push an agent had until you laid it out in black and white. A three-book deal-wow. Do you feel pressured or have you already planned out your trilogy?

    1. Thankfully I write fairly quickly and while I was quering the first book I had written the second and started a third that was not in this series. But the final book is due in March. I’ll start working on that later this summer.

  7. Thanks Jamie for the extremely helpful info.. I too am new at this confusing world of being published. My Historical Romance Only When the Loon Sings (ebook and POD) released in Jan. through TWRP. I recently joined CTRWA and attended the May CT Fiction Fest. Had a wonderful learning experience as well as meeting CT mermbers and making new friends. You all are all awesome. And I’m so happy to have joined you, though I’m hundreds of miles away. But all your posts and info I’m finding tremendously rewarding–so keep it coming. Presently I’m waiting to hear back from 2 agents and an editor who I pitched to at the Fest. Congrats. and wishing you much success.

  8. Jamie, thank you for all the valuable information. Thank you for taking the time to spell it out. Like Jen says, “I am putting it in my back pocket.” I am so happy for you. I can’t wait to read your writing.

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