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Old 01-09-2013, 06:32 PM   #1
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Big book deals like Starcrossed

I remember that Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini was a 7 figure deal, but it doesn't seem to have the same popularity that Twilight or the Hunger Games garnered and its been almost two years since it's been out. Do situations like that make publishers think twice about offering such big book deals? Were Twilight and the Hunger Games successful right away?
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Old 01-09-2013, 07:04 PM   #2
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Well, for one thing, seven figure book deals are extremely rare. Over the past few years, advances have gone down in general, but that has less to do with big advance books not paying out and more to do with the economy in general. Advances are tricky things. They are nice, but you have to keep in mind that the higher the advance is, the more it's going to take to earn out, and that puts a lot of pressure on the author and publishing house. Many books never earn out. It doesn't mean that the author won't get another book deal, but it may affect the size of his or her subsequent advances. There are a lot of factors that go into the size of the advance--market saturation, marketability of the title, how deep the pub house's pockets are, agent's negotiating skills, etc.

TWILIGHT and THG both drew more fans with the second book in the series than the first. I think that was about the time both became a "thing." I can recall only hearing the occasional mention of THG, but it suddenly everywhere when CATCHING FIRE came out.
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Old 01-09-2013, 10:32 PM   #3
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Twi1ght nearly tanked when it first came out. The publisher repackaged it with the red and black covers and it took off. The Hunger Games benefited from an endorsement by Stephen King. It was on a third printing thanks to pre-orders by the time it hit shelves.

Major deals, especially debut deals, still happen, and many- if not most - are preempts where the publisher makes a huge offer upfront to head off an auction and the chance of losing the book.
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Old 01-09-2013, 10:39 PM   #4
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Twi1ght nearly tanked when it first came out. The publisher repackaged it with the red and black covers and it took off. The Hunger Games benefitted fromban endorsement by Stephen King. It was on a third printing thanks to preorders by the time it hit shelves.
Slightly off-topic, but what did the original cover look like? I'm very curious now.
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Old 01-09-2013, 10:46 PM   #5
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Slightly off-topic, but what did the original cover look like? I'm very curious now.
This is what the first ed UK cover looked like. I'm almost positive the US cover has always been the same, though.

And I'm not actually saying the word so this doesn't count as talking about it.
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Old 01-09-2013, 11:22 PM   #6
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IIRC, it was much more the "standard" YA cover. Greenish, and very similar to the "Biss" German version.

http://static.memrise.com/uploads/me...0413234905.jpg

(Could be my memory run amok, though.)
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Old 01-09-2013, 11:43 PM   #7
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This is what the first ed UK cover looked like. I'm almost positive the US cover has always been the same, though.

And I'm not actually saying the word so this doesn't count as talking about it.
Wow, that cover is... kind of awful.
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Old 01-09-2013, 11:57 PM   #8
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Well, for one thing, seven figure book deals are extremely rare. Over the past few years, advances have gone down in general, but that has less to do with big advance books not paying out and more to do with the economy in general. Advances are tricky things. They are nice, but you have to keep in mind that the higher the advance is, the more it's going to take to earn out, and that puts a lot of pressure on the author and publishing house. Many books never earn out.
Most books make a profit for their publishers way before they earn out their advances. The two financial points are separate.

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It's fascinating watching publishers trying to create hits. You really can't fabricate a phenomenon, but on the other hand nothing seems to arise out of a void. You never seem to have a book make it big that didn't have a big push behind it.
It's possible to make a good book do really well by publishing and marketing it really well. It's harder to do the same for a lacklustre book; and it's harder for a good book to sell well if the publisher doesn't push it.

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My guess is advances are more acquisition fees. If you want to acquire a book, you have to pay a certain advance to get it instead of other publishers. That's why they pay big money.
That's sometimes the case, yes. But sometimes an author and agent will decide to go with a publisher who is offering a smaller advance but a better marketing campaign, for example, because they can see they'll sell more that way.

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The real big money, though, comes from pushing a book and publicizing it. That is when the publisher needs to recoup costs. Publicity costs the most. Maybe that's what publishers rethink when a book bombs.
The real big money comes when the stars align and the publishing cats decide to smile. The problem comes in getting those cats to smile. Ha!
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Old 01-10-2013, 01:10 AM   #9
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It's possible to make a good book do really well by publishing and marketing it really well. It's harder to do the same for a lacklustre book; and it's harder for a good book to sell well if the publisher doesn't push it.
This.

It's a vicious ouroboros - big deals spur pub houses to spend more on marketing because they don't want to take a loss. Small deals? Not so much.

You're very lucky if you get great marketing with a smaller deal.
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Old 01-10-2013, 01:47 AM   #10
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You're very lucky if you get great marketing with a smaller deal.
It's perfectly possible to get a smaller deal with a better marketing plan, and for the book concerned to go on to great things. Agents will often advise their author-clients to go for the smaller advance because the publishing package is better, overall.

It's not even that rare.

The trick is to have a really good agent, who knows her stuff, and to trust her enough to know when to take her advice.
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Old 01-10-2013, 02:05 AM   #11
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Wow, that cover is... kind of awful.
You can say that again! Who ever thought that would be a good idea?! I mean, her head is about three times too large for her dislocated shoulder.
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Old 01-10-2013, 02:47 AM   #12
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I always find it interesting reading about those deals. On one hand, you have something like Legend. That was a huge book deal that had a Divergent-level of hype/push that bombed in sales

Why are you calling LEGEND a bomb? It hit the New York times last week.
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Old 01-10-2013, 04:30 AM   #13
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Why are you calling LEGEND a bomb? It hit the New York times last week.
Annnd it appears it does pay off
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Old 01-10-2013, 05:10 AM   #14
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Why are you calling LEGEND a bomb? It hit the New York times last week.
Exactly what I was going to say. LEGEND was great. With the sequel coming out this month, it's just going to keep growing in readership.
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Old 01-10-2013, 05:15 AM   #15
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It's perfectly possible to get a smaller deal with a better marketing plan, and for the book concerned to go on to great things. Agents will often advise their author-clients to go for the smaller advance because the publishing package is better, overall.

It's not even that rare.

The trick is to have a really good agent, who knows her stuff, and to trust her enough to know when to take her advice.
Totally agree it's possible. It's just not been the first-hand experience of a lot of writing friends of mine.


I haven't delved too much into my own marketing plan since the book is so far off, but I'm hopeful and excited.

ETA: Oh, and totally realized my first post could come off as ungrateful/douchey. It's not that at all. To me, the big deals/big marketing strategy makes perfect sense.
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Old 01-10-2013, 05:24 AM   #16
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Totally agree it's possible. It's just not been the first-hand experience of a lot of writing friends of mine.

I haven't delved too much into my own marketing plan since the book is so far off, but I'm hopeful and excited.
I don't know...my pub house is small and the advance is really good for a small house. But I was more impressed with their marketing plan. I have a number of friends who've been pubbed and said I have a better marketing plan that they did. We're talking Random House, Penguin, St. Martin's, etc.

It's complicated, and I could go into any number of horror stories from friends of mine who sold to major houses. Suffice to say, a lot of it these days is really riding on the author's back.
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Old 01-10-2013, 05:30 AM   #17
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Suffice to say, a lot of it these days is really riding on the author's back.
Absolutely agree. Which is why internet stuff (twitter, tumblr, goodreads) should be made fun and engaging on the author's part. And awesome for your ace marketing plan!
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Old 01-10-2013, 10:41 AM   #18
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When you sign with a publisher, their proposed marketing plan should be part of your contract negotiations; and after you're published your agent should make sure they stick to that plan.

You should know as much about that plan as you know about your advance. It's significant, because you might well have to contribute written copy at certain times, and undertakd other specified activities.
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Old 01-18-2013, 07:31 PM   #19
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I wonder if anyone ever worked out an analysis on what makes some big-advance books sink while others fly. Obviously, the people who worked the deals have both knowledge and experience, and none of them feel like setting themselves up for failure. So why does book A go on to become a worldwide bestseller while book B (which got equal promotion and an equally huge advance) is as good as dead and buried and the author will be lucky to get a new deal after that.

I actually knew an author like that, her first advance was like half a million (okay, maybe not precisely, but a really large one), lots of buzz, tons of hype, but the book's sales turned out to be pretty mediocre--like she said, "as if it were a midlist title without much promo"--and she's had a few books published since then, all selling modestly, but she's glad the publishers are still willing to pick them up. We weren't close friends, so I couldn't ask her to spill more insider info.
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Old 01-18-2013, 07:44 PM   #20
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It's usually a bandwagon scenario, paired with an auction (or the threat of one). One dystopian becomes a mega-hit, so all of the publishers want the chance at a piece of that market. Get a new title out quickly enough, and you can crest the wave for long enough to turn a profit, even if the book doesn't earn out. That's one factor in the Matched trilogy's (also 7-figure, IIRC) advance.

With Dreamless, it was a combination of being "like Twi1ight" and "Percy Jackson ... for girls," that made it a risk worth taking for the publisher.

But ultimately, it's the audience that decides if something's a "hit" or not. They either like it, or they don't. They either get bored, or they don't.
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Old 01-18-2013, 08:24 PM   #21
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It's usually a bandwagon scenario, paired with an auction (or the threat of one). One dystopian becomes a mega-hit, so all of the publishers want the chance at a piece of that market. Get a new title out quickly enough, and you can crest the wave for long enough to turn a profit, even if the book doesn't earn out. That's one factor in the Matched trilogy's (also 7-figure, IIRC) advance.

With Dreamless, it was a combination of being "like Twi1ight" and "Percy Jackson ... for girls," that made it a risk worth taking for the publisher.

But ultimately, it's the audience that decides if something's a "hit" or not. They either like it, or they don't. They either get bored, or they don't.
But why such big advances for "follow-ups"? Aren't there a lot of publishable YA (in our case) novels of any needed subgenre being offered to agents and editors at any moment of time? I mean, if tomorrow an epic YA fantasy suddenly becomes a new mega-hit, won't every popular agent be able to offer the editors half a dozen good, publishable, completed epic YA fantasy mss?
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Old 01-18-2013, 09:08 PM   #22
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But why such big advances for "follow-ups"? Aren't there a lot of publishable YA (in our case) novels of any needed subgenre being offered to agents and editors at any moment of time? I mean, if tomorrow an epic YA fantasy suddenly becomes a new mega-hit, won't every popular agent be able to offer the editors half a dozen good, publishable, completed epic YA fantasy mss?
I think one of the issues here is how people judge a book being successful. We tend to see the "mega-hits" as the successful books, when only a handful of titles in all of children's lit reached that status. There's been a bunch of dystopian follow-ups to Hunger Games, and none are as big, but it doesn't mean they're not successful. It doesn't mean their publisher isn't happy.

So publishers are giving big advances for follow-ups because they're hoping the can "crest the wave" like Cyia said. They don't have expectations that it's going to become the next HG (sure, they would like that, but they're realistic), but they're still hoping it will make a nice profit. And books aren't like movies. You don't open big or go home. So it's hard to say how a book is doing. We may think it's a failure because it wasn't on the NYT list for 37 weeks, but maybe it's been selling steadily for a year. I think that scenario would make the publisher pretty happy too.
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Old 01-19-2013, 12:07 AM   #23
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I wonder if anyone ever worked out an analysis on what makes some big-advance books sink while others fly.
Hmm, I don't know about the other books you might be thinking of but I can give you an answer as to why Starcrossed sunk.

It was bad. It wasn't even bad in a trainwreck/I-can't-believe-what-I'm-reading bad. More of a so-boring-it's-unreadable bad. Which is badder than just bad, imo. Did I say 'bad' enough yet?

I'm convinced they gave Angelini that mega advance for the concept alone (which is a fantastic one), and then crossed their fingers that nobody would actually read the thing. Then again, the reviews for it don't seem to be as negative as I've just been, so it could be just me. (But most likely not. )
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Old 01-19-2013, 01:46 AM   #24
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I find the concept of 'cresting the wave' very interesting. What happens when there's no wave to crest? I mean I can understand the concept when there's a formidable, tangible trend started by a big verifiable hit like THG. But what happens when there hasn't been a hit like that in a while? A lot of what's considered 'trends' right now are just the result of a lot of one type of book being bought and dumped out at the same time...but that's more because perhaps publishers thought it was going to be big and acquired books like it.
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Old 01-19-2013, 02:54 AM   #25
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It was bad. It wasn't even bad in a trainwreck/I-can't-believe-what-I'm-reading bad. More of a so-boring-it's-unreadable bad. Which is badder than just bad, imo. Did I say 'bad' enough yet?
I haven't read it, though I've sure read my share of books which were less than shiny, but the acquiring editors--they read it, too, right? They thought it was good enough. I wonder how it would have sold if it were offered now when paranormal/myth YA stuff is on the downswing.
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Originally Posted by Roly View Post
I find the concept of 'cresting the wave' very interesting. What happens when there's no wave to crest? I mean I can understand the concept when there's a formidable, tangible trend started by a big verifiable hit like THG. But what happens when there hasn't been a hit like that in a while? A lot of what's considered 'trends' right now are just the result of a lot of one type of book being bought and dumped out at the same time...but that's more because perhaps publishers thought it was going to be big and acquired books like it.
I know just the way to counteract it: have a book written in every genre. xD Then no matter which one hits the gold pot, you'll have something to offer.
I kinda think I'll end up with this myself, because I have an amazing talent for writing a book in genre X right when everyone is fed up to the gills with genre X. I might be an anti-barometer or something.
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