Thursday, February 24, 2011

Show Me The Money

First a quick announcement. Mary Martinez will no longer be blogging with us. You can read Mary's blog here. We wish her the best.

This is an encore post from last year, but in light of the way the market is now, I thought it would be appropriate to repost it.

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.

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.

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.

And I just heard that one major NY publisher is paying out advances in quarters. That's 1/4 when you sign, 1/4 when you turn in the final edited manuscript, 1/4 when it's published, and 1/4 a year later. Huh? What part of advance do they not get?

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. It just so happens it came out on Amazon yesterday and is available for preorder. OMG! That's a shameless plug!

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


Cassy Pickard said...

Liz: This is very helpful. Thanks for putting it all out there. AND, I pre-ordered your book yesterday!! And Kari's too!

The business is difficult to understand when so many people keep the cards close to their chest. Thanks for adding a little more light on the topic.

And, thank you for noting that Mary has a different forum now. I wish her the very best.

Lindsay said...

Add another to the presale list.
And good luck to Mary.

Lindsay said...

One thing I forgot to ask. Since the book is coming out in Oct and Crime Bake is in Nov, you will be signing my copy for me. Right.

Liz Lipperman said...

Cassy, a lot of people believe they can quit their day job as soon as they sell. I read somewhere that only about 200 writers actually make enough money to do that.

It's a good thing we writers love what we do or it really wouldn't be worth it nowadays.

Liz Lipperman said...

Lindsay, you have always been a good supporter of all of us and the blog. Of course, I will sign it at Crime Bake.

In about a month I will have another novel up on Amazon. I am currently working on the cover art and love it. It's more of a RS/straight suspense than a mystery or cozy, although it is a whodunnit.

Lindsay said...

You're an angel but we already know that.
Let me guess Liz-the butler did it. Of course you'll let us know the title and will the book be in Kindle and/or print format

Liz Lipperman said...

Yes, it will be in both kindle and download formats, but not in print. The title is Mortal Deception and it's the one I sometimes call my sperm stealing story.
I'll definitely provide a link when it;s available. The cover is awesome.

Lindsay said...

As much as I'd love to comment on how you think of the book I'm not touching that line

Anita Clenney said...

Great post. The money side of this business is confusing. Before I had a contract, I didn't really care about the money. I just wanted to be published. During contract negotiations, I realized how important that side is. But you can't let a lack of advance stop you. We write because we have to get these stories to the world. WHo knows, one of us might be the next big thing!

I'm so excited for your book, Liz. I can't wait to get it.