Monday, August 23, 2010

Show Me The Money


If you’re reading this because you think I’m going to tell you about the average payouts from each publisher, move on to another blog. That’s already been done…and very well, I might add. Check out Brenda Hiatt’s “Show Me The Money” list at
http://www.brendahiatt.com/id2.html

No, I’ve decided to talk about advances. How important are they really? In today’s economy, midlist authors are finding their advances shrinking and more and more authors are turning to epubs where they get no advance. Some are even going the self-publishing route, hoping to cash into that market in a JA Konrath sort of way. http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/

I signed a three-book deal with a major publisher and pretty much got the average advance. Like any d├ębut author, I probably would have signed on the dotted line for much less just to see the printed book in my hands.

But what exactly does the amount of the advance mean?

I decided to do a little research and here’s what I discovered.

The amount of an advance is an indicator of how many copies of the book the publisher thinks they can sell. Let’s face it. Unless you’re the next Janet Evanovich with a ten million plus advance for your next book, it’s unlikely your publisher will pay for the front-of-the-store stacks nor will they go all out for publicity of your book...two things necessary to sell a lot of books.

The truth is (from my research) you may earn out your advance for a first or second book, but additional royalties are probably not going to make you a millionaire. That’s just the nature of the writing beast. You have to go after book sales yourself. Add in your expenses getting that first book published…conferences to network, mailings, ads, promotions, etc… and it’s likely there will be no profit and maybe even a loss to claim on taxes.

One myth we authors have is that the bigger our advance, the more likely we are of getting an even bigger chunk of change the next time around. This is not always true and sometimes can even backfire and produce the opposite results. If sales on your book do not earn out that big advance, there’s a possibility no one will take a chance on your next one. Plenty of authors have been dumped because of low sales.

So, now that I’ve totally depressed you, let me offer a bit of advice. Despite the economy, publishers are still looking to discover the next JK Rowlings or Charlain Harris in the slush piles. What can we do to increase our chances of this happening and of getting bigger advances? Write the best damn book we can, turn it into our editor on time and go gung-ho with self marketing.

It’s all about the numbers, folks.

Oh, BTW, I’d love for you to buy my book when it comes out, and I promise to buy yours. That’s another way we can help each other.

So, let me hear what you think about this or any stories you may have about advances. And Happy Monday to you.

39 comments:

Amy Atwell said...

Liz, Thanks for this insightful discussion of an often misunderstood topic. For years, I avoided selling my digital rights because I wanted that elusive advance. But with print runs shrinking and digital sales soaring, I chose to sell my manuscript to Carina Press. Instead of an advance paid out over 2-3 installments, I'll begin earning royalties on actual copies sold by next March. And no withholding my royalties against possible returns. I have a new manuscript I hope to market for an advance, but I think it's smart to take a tiered approach and get multiple books out into the marketplace. And yes, I'll buy your book!

Cassy Pickard said...

Liz: You have a wonderful way of taking the complicated and turning into the simple- along with your great humor. I'm reading this jet-lagged and still got your points! Thanks for taking on the subject. So many in our world don't really talk about the meat and potatoes of the business.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Call me weird, but once I understood the way money works in this business, the amount of the advance no longer seemed like such a big deal. I'd rather get it at the bottom line, through royalties, than stress over not earning out.

Liz Lipperman said...

Amy, having read the story you sold to Carina, I can't wait to download it and see how it's changed. Your perspective is shared, I believe, by a lot of debut authors and even some seasoned ones (see JA Knorath's blog.) Digital is the future of publishing and the sooner we embrace it, the better off we are. There will always be a market for the printed book, but the days of inflated advances are over in my opinion.

Thanks for sharing your view and I absolutely will buy "Lying Eyes," too.

Liz Lipperman said...

Cassy, first off, welcome home. Hope you had a great writing experience in Italy.

And thanks for your kind words.

Donna Cummings said...

Great post, Liz. I think people can obsess about large advances because it's so newsworthy when somebody gets one -- as if they've won a lottery. :) But as you said, it also comes with certain expectations and responsibilities. Lots to think about!

Liz Lipperman said...

Debbie, as I mentioned, your view is being shared more and more by authors no matter what stage of their career they may be in. We have no control over print runs, publisher's marketing of our stories, etc. Knowing that, what we can do is to dive headfirst into self promotion and shed the introverted skin and embellish the "Buy my book because it's damn good" one.

Thanks for commenting.

Liz Lipperman said...

Donna, thanks for commenting. Yes, the responsibilities and stress of earning out a huge advance must be hard. I think even JE has to worry about stuff like that.

None of us will be able to quit our day jobs with a first or even second book. That's a fact and we have to learn to live with it.

Cassy Pickard said...

Liz: Thanks for the welcome home. I'm afraid it's short-lived, but still feels good. The words on the screen didn't happen very much while I was gone, but I did have lots of complicated dreams that easily will turn into plots! Maybe that's still writing?

jill salzman said...

As a newbie here, I really appreciate the time you took to point out what may be very obvious to experienced writers. Thank you for the warning and the heads up!

Lindsay said...

Good post Liz even if it required me to think on a Monday, a darn near impossible task. My first book is with an epub and the second with a small press. In both cases I had to do all the promo work myself. Yes it was tiring and frustrating at times. But the up side is the royalty checks. No having to earn through before they came in. Granted the checks won't put me in a higher tax bracket but it's still worth the self promo effort. I guess I'm like Debbie, I'd rather have the royalties then an advance.
And I'll buy your books when they come out.

Angi Morgan said...

Great post, Liz !

And on another note...don't buy the book until the first two weeks...just so the sales get counted for all the "lists". And just in case you didn't know, Walmarts don't report their sales to any list. So if you're trying to help a friend, buy from a real bookstore.

~~Angi

Liz Lipperman said...

Cassy, look at it as recharging. It's hard writing while traveling. I just spent seven days with my sisters and unfortunately, did no writing, although I did read quite a bit. I've decided that's writing, too because it's true - the best way to hone your craft is to read and see how others are doing it.

Oh, and the good news about my vacation with my sisters is that they are all still breathing!!

Liz Lipperman said...

Jill, welcome to the blog and thanks for commenting.

Writing is a lonely business. We have to stick together!!

Liz Lipperman said...

Lindsay, congrats on the two books. Yes, in the end, royalties do cancel out the lack of an advance. The only advantage to an advance is that it is guaranteed money, sort of like bonus clauses for NFL players. Once given, it can't be taken away. But writer beware, if you don't earn out, you'd better be looking for a new team.

Thanks for commenting.

Mary Martinez said...

Great post. But it was a bit depressing since I'm sure I'm going to get a 6 figure advance for my first book. LOL. Hey a girl can dream.

Thanks for doing the research for us lazy folk though because it was very insightful.

Liz Lipperman said...

Angi, thanks for stopping by. I knew the numbers for the "lists" only counted for the first week or so, but I didn't know about buying from a "real" store. I always thought pre-ordering from Amazon was a big plus for the author.

And FYI, everyone, Angie's debut novel, Hill County Hold Up, a romantic suspense from Harlequin Intrigue comes out in September. Woo hoo.

I'll definitely buy the book...but I won't preorder!!

Liz Lipperman said...

Mary, I'll keep my fingers crossed for that six figure advance for you. I actually have a friend who got a half million for a two book deal. As I mentioned that comes with a lot of responsibility and nail biting.

Anyone who wants to try to handle that raise their hand.......

Lindsay said...

I'd pass on the six figure advance except I might need the money to buy the books you, my friends, are selling. Of course I do have one stipulation-you have to sign the book.

Anita Clenney said...

Thanks for this post, Liz. It's depressing, but important. And there's always a chance that we'll make it big!

Kari Lee Townsend said...

As always, another great post, Liz! You always make me think and laugh my butt off :-)

I am glad to have an advance of any kind, but really wouldn't want a huge advance. Too much pressure!

Then again if I don't finish this damn book, they might take my advance back...eekkk!

PS welcome home Cas! we missed you.

Liz Lipperman said...

Seriously. Lindsay? You'd really pass up a six figure advance check???

Your nose is growing. LOL

And I love that our books will make a poor man out of you. Where can I get yours?

Liz Lipperman said...

Anita, cheer up. You have a great book and we'll all line up to buy a copy!!

Who needs to make it big with friends like all of you?

Liz Lipperman said...

Kari, I refer you to my earlier blog "The Ten Reasons Why I Need To Return My Advance."

You can do it. I am amazed at what you've already accomplished. And don't you have a book coming out? Now's the time for a free plug. Tell us about The Samantha Granger Experiment: FUSED.

Lindsay said...

I'm to much of a gentleman to comment on parts of my anatomy growing.
You can get my books through my website

Mary Martinez said...

Hey Liz,
I'm raising my hand to the responsibility! I'm sure someone out there is yelling, be careful what you wish for.

We'll see. Liz I wish you the same a 6 figure advance!

Sandy said...

Liz,

I've been in the business a long time, and I know how difficult it is. My first career was with the airlines (36 years), and I can say this industry isn't any better.

That said, my third book is being released in digital format soon. It will take many more books to make a name for myself.

Thanks for this post.

Liz Lipperman said...

Lindsay, you are so naughty!! I'll check out those books.

Liz Lipperman said...

Mary, from your lips to God's ear. Maybe someday we will both be able to give up the day jobs.

Liz Lipperman said...

Sandy, thanks for commenting. I hear yu about the airline industry. I weas in the medical field.

And girl, this is an opportunity to self promote. Tell us about your books and how to get them. Authors need to stick together.

Lindsay said...

If I wasn't so naughty you wouldn't love me. And yes, us authors have to stick together.

Taryn Kincaid said...

Wow. So many posts, so little time!

Just wanted to wave at Amy Atwell, whose name I recognize from the Carina Press author loop!

Like Amy, I'll be happy to be getting the royalties and not worrying whether or not I'm earning out the advance! I'm sure there'll be enough other worries to take the place of that!

Melanie said...

I'm definitely going to buy your book, Liz! Can't wait. Great post.

Lindsay said...

Here's a question for anyone-When you get a contract from a publisher and they give you an advace, can you say no or are you required to accept the money?
I've also been thinking, I know that's a dangerous thing for me to do, about name recognition. Publishers are always taking a chance with a new author, especially with so many out there, so might it be advantagous to, for some, like me maybe, to go ebook either through a dedicated epublisher or to epublish the book yourself. This way you can start to get name recognition. Being currently with an epub and a small press I have to do all the promo work myself so it's something I'm use to. With self epublishing the out of pocket expenses would be, I'm guessing, much less than with self print publishing so the profit would be greater with less initial outlay.
Then once you develope name recognition, even on a small local scale, then approach a large publisher. Since you own the rights you can then easily sell the book(s).
It's actually a direction I might consider-either epub by a dedicated publisher such as Carina, Wild Rose Press, Bookstrand or any of the other dedicated epubs or self publish.

Liz Lipperman said...

Terri, congrats on your sale to Carina Press, first off. Is this the book you that finaled in the HL and S contest here at the blog?

I've heard nothing but great things about Carina and with Angela James at the helm, how could it not be great. And yes, Amy sold her romantic suspense there.

This is a new era for writers and we have to decide whether we will sink or swim with the changes.

Thanks for commenting.

Liz Lipperman said...

Lindsay, I can only answer your question from the standpoint of selling with an agent. In my case, Berkley made the initial offer and Christine called to tell me. Since it was a decent offer, she only had to work out other details in the contract. I could have said no but what would have been the advantage? As I mentioned, an advance is guaranteed money. You'd be a fool to turn that down.

As far as the epubs and self pubs go, more and more authors are turning to that route since the big girls in NY are unwilling to take a chance on the newbies like they used to.

But keep in mind...a good book will always find it's way to a publisher in any venue. So keep writing that good stuff.

I have a friend whose book is coming out today in Kindle format. She self pubbed and I know her story would be interesting. I'll see if I can get her to guest blog here for next Monday, so stay tuned.

Edie Ramer said...

Liz, what a great blog! You know this subject has been on my mind a lot. With the shrinking advances, it's hard for many of my writer friends to earn a living.

Liz Lipperman said...

Edie, thanks for commenting. And for those out there still following this thread, join me next Monday when Edie will guest blog and tell us all about her journey in self publishing. You won't want to miss that.

Lindsay said...

My day isn't complete until reading the posts here. No wonder weekends are so miserable. No posts