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View Full Version : Bye Bye Mid-listers?



MissKris
01-09-2009, 10:36 AM
Nadia Cornier just updated her twitter with this little nugget:

Had rough convo with editor this AM. State of the union? 100k book will still get 100k, everything else will get closer to 10k. Bye Midlist.

I wonder which genres will be most affected by this or if it's an across the board kind of thing.

Don't they know that the loss of the middle-class is the worst thing that could happen to this country? :Shrug:

Thoughts?

ChaosTitan
01-09-2009, 08:44 PM
Well, mid-list and middle class aren't quite the same thing....

Anywho, I'm curious with which editor and which house she was talking to. Because one editor doesn't speak for the entire publishing industry, just their particular house/imprint.

I can see the reasoning behind a change like that, though. Dropping the mid-list advance to around 10k hurts the author up front, but it still gives them a chance to earn through and get more royalties later. It means the editors can't justify a larger advance that may not earn out in a tumultuous economy--if editors keep losing money on books by paying too much at the outset, it creates a worse situation later than by lowering advances now.

Not that I'm happy about any author getting less money. It's a hard enough business for all of us. :(

DeleyanLee
01-09-2009, 09:11 PM
Honestly, when other workers are facing lay-offs and pay freezes/reductions because of the economy, this doesn't strike me as that much of a surprise. Mid-listers are expensive employees from a publishing standpoint, and this just good business sense. And from this report, it is just one publisher not the entire industry. Doesn't surprise me or cause me a whit of concern.

Of course, on the BRIGHT side it does mean that mid-listers can earn out their advances faster and easier, which would be a positive for them on their next contract negotiations.

caromora
01-09-2009, 10:32 PM
On the negative side, a smaller advance usually (but not always, of course) equals less marketing and in-house support. My guess is that a lot of the money that would have gone toward a bigger advance for one author will go toward advertising and buying co-op space for the 100K book instead.

DeleyanLee
01-09-2009, 10:38 PM
Seriously, from what I can tell from friends' experience, if you're getting under a $50-60K advance in the fiction market, you're not getting much marketing and serious support to start with. From what my friends have said, even between $20-40K, they're getting less than what they've often done themselves. (Genres: SF/F, Romance--various publishing houses)

MissKris
01-09-2009, 11:26 PM
On the negative side, a smaller advance usually (but not always, of course) equals less marketing and in-house support. My guess is that a lot of the money that would have gone toward a bigger advance for one author will go toward advertising and buying co-op space for the 100K book instead.

This is the first thing that struck me about the loss of mid-list. And while those under 50k didn't get much support anyway, what about those in the 50-100k bracket? I would think that a publisher would see, say, 80k as a large enough of an investment to merit some promotional work.

I also wonder if there are writers out there who would simply balk at a 10k advance and decide to wait to be published rather than accept that amount.

Personally, I plan on being in that 100k+ category. ;)

It will be interesting to see if other pub houses follow these guidelines.

scarletpeaches
01-09-2009, 11:28 PM
Maybe I'm missing something but I don't see the problem. If you earn out the advance, you'll move on to royalties. If you don't earn out the advance and complain about it, then you're saying you want more money than you're worth.

caromora
01-10-2009, 12:26 AM
The problem is that if a publisher doesn't put as much money into the marketing of your book, there's less chance that it will earn out. Books with higher advances have a better chance to earn out because they get more money and in-house support behind them.

So much depends on how much a publisher gets behind a book financially. For books that get bigger advances, the publisher pays money for better placement on shelves, more advertising, and they sell it more aggressively to book buyers (as in the people who work for bookstores and decide what books to order). You're more likely to find a book that got a big advance on the shelf of your local bookstore than you are a smaller title. And books that are on the shelves sell more.

I know quite a few people who got smaller deals, and I can't find their books locally. I have to have the stores order them. And this is from people with big publishers.

ChaosTitan
01-10-2009, 12:54 AM
I also wonder if there are writers out there who would simply balk at a 10k advance and decide to wait to be published rather than accept that amount.



For a first time, unproven author in many genre markets (including SF/F), $10-15k is an average advance for a book.

Numbers are hard to find, because it's generally considered rude to talk about money in the first place, but small advances are not uncommon. And I really don't understand how Small Advance automatically equals No Support.

I have no expectations of TV commercials, one-page print ads, or giant spreads in the lit mags advertising my release. But no respectable house is going to invest in an author and then do nothing to get their name out there. Not all best-sellers are overnight sensations. Many of them started out as nobodies with small advances.

Scott Westerfield, who is a bestselling YA author, received $4000 for his first book. In advance. He obviously made a lot more in royalties after he earned out.

I don't know if being unable to find books locally says as much about the publisher as it does about the bookstore. All books are listed in the same publisher catalogues. Sure, maybe a book with a $100k price tag will get a little more verbal push from the marketing staff, but doesn't mean they simply won't pitch the $20k book at all.

But this is all really a bit of a sidetrack from the original post. Lowering midlist advances doesn't mean that the money they might have gotten will go toward marketing the more expensive books--those proven $100k authors already have a marketing budget. More likely, it means publishers aren't spending because they don't have it. They won't risk it not earning out.

I'll play with my contract for a second. My royalties are 8% cover price on mass market paperbacks. The average MMP is $7.99, so that means I earn $.64 for each book is sold at cover price.

A $10k advance means I only have to sell 15,625 copies to earn out. An advance of $100k means I have to sell 1.25 million copies (ETA: Miscalculation: 157k copies) to earn out my advance. Heck, even a $50k advance means selling 78,000 copies, which is still a huge number for mass market.

Now, my own advance was neither 10k nor 100k, but it's a number I think (and apparently my publisher also thinks) has a decent chance of selling out. It's nice to dream about getting that $100k contract, but if you don't earn out (and I've seen some highly-advertised, huge-advance books that utterly fail in the marketplace), you'll be hard-pressed to get another contract.

Irysangel
01-10-2009, 01:06 AM
I'll play with my contract for a second. My royalties are 8% cover price on mass market paperbacks. The average MMP is $7.99, so that means I earn $.64 for each book is sold at cover price.

A $10k advance means I only have to sell 15,625 copies to earn out. An advance of $100k means I have to sell 1.25 million copies to earn out my advance. Heck, even a $50k advance means selling 78,000 copies, which is still a huge number for mass market.


Actually, with a 100k advance, you'd have to move 157k books or so? Unless my math is wrong. 1.25 million copies seems like a *really* high number.

1.25 million x 0.64 cents a book = 800k advance?

ChaosTitan
01-10-2009, 01:08 AM
Actually, with a 100k advance, you'd have to move 157k books or so? Unless my math is wrong. 1.25 million copies seems like a *really* high number.

1.25 million x 0.64 cents a book = 800k advance?

Crappy calculator. *blushes*

:poke:


You're right, Iris. Although 157k is still a friggin' lot of books. ;)

caromora
01-10-2009, 01:27 AM
And I really don't understand how Small Advance automatically equals No Support...

Which is why I said less support, not no support.


Scott Westerfield, who is a bestselling YA author, received $4000 for his first book. In advance. He obviously made a lot more in royalties after he earned out.

Rowling, as has been mentioned many times on AW, also got a low advance. Their books took off mostly by word-of-mouth, which is what everyone hopes for. But it doesn't happen for everyone.


I don't know if being unable to find books locally says as much about the publisher as it does about the bookstore. All books are listed in the same publisher catalogues. Sure, maybe a book with a $100k price tag will get a little more verbal push from the marketing staff, but doesn't mean they simply won't pitch the $20k book at all.

Well, I don't live in a small town. I live in a bigger city with many, many bookstores, both chain and independent. And again, I didn't say they wouldn't push the lower-advance book at all. But they will push the book they've invested more money in more aggressively. It's just business.

ETA: There's also only so much shelf space, which means book buyers are more likely to invest in books with a bigger marketing push behind them.

Cyia
01-10-2009, 01:38 AM
Just out of curiosity, which genres usually gave the larger advances? Was it even dependant on genre? Was it a matter of being released in hardback or paperback?

rugcat
01-10-2009, 01:49 AM
For a first time, unproven author in many genre markets (including SF/F), $10-15k is an average advance for a book.

Numbers are hard to find, because it's generally considered rude to talk about money in the first place, but small advances are not uncommon. And I really don't understand how Small Advance automatically equals No Support.In SF/F, it's even less than that. Tobias Buckell, a SF author, did a useful survey on advances.

http://www.tobiasbuckell.com/2005/10/05/author-advance-survey-version-20/

Authors in the SF/F have become a bit more forthright lately in sharing sales numbers and advance info, maybe not publicly, but with each other, which is a great thing. If your publisher calls your sales numbers disappointing, and you know for a fact that your numbers are higher than the average of similar books, and your advance was smaller, you have some leverage in negotiation.

And I think you'd be amazed at how small advances are among even well known names. Occasionally someone hits the jackpot, but that's like the lottery -- it's great, but don't expect it.

I don't see a big drop in advances coming in SF/F from what they've been -- there's not that much room to go down. And even a debut or mid list author can get good treatment from publishers -- it's not about the full page ads in the NYT as much as it is the desire and ability of the sales reps to get your books in as many stores as possible, including the major chains.

Whether it sells or not is up to the book more than the marketing.

Irysangel
01-10-2009, 02:24 AM
Crappy calculator. *blushes*

:poke:


You're right, Iris. Although 157k is still a friggin' lot of books. ;)

LOL - that's ok! But yes, I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw the 1.25 million books :)

160k is still a massive print run, yes. :)

And to be honest, I think the 10-15k for 'average' midlisters really depends on the genre. If you are in the 'genre ghetto' (romance/fantasy/sf), your average advance can skew much, much lower. Even if you look at the 'Show Me the Money!' website run by Brenda Hiatt that talks about romance advances, some NY publishers start at 1k. As in 1000.00 for your book. Yikes.

I'm guessing that the average for genre is more like 7k than 15k. For every person that scores a contract of 50k per book, there's another that's getting something ridiculously small.

ChaosTitan
01-10-2009, 02:45 AM
Just out of curiosity, which genres usually gave the larger advances? Was it even dependant on genre? Was it a matter of being released in hardback or paperback?

It seems like thrillers, mysteries, and literary novels skew toward the higher advances, because they have a broader market appeal than genre fiction (and when I say genre, I mean SF, F, UF, Romance, and Horror). They are more likely to land on the bestsellers lists, although there are exceptions (Stephen King and Laurel K. Hamilton, for example).

I keep circling back to a thriller called "The Emperor of Ocean Park." It had a huge advance ($4.2 million) for it and a second book, in 2002. It pretty well bombed, compared to what they were expecting, given the advance, the press, and the author's pedigree.

There was another very recent, high-advance thriller that tanked, because reviewers raked it across the coals (and based on the small sample of writing I saw in one review, for good reason).

I think I've digressed...


In SF/F, it's even less than that. Tobias Buckell, a SF author, did a useful survey on advances.

http://www.tobiasbuckell.com/2005/10/05/author-advance-survey-version-20/


Thanks, rugcat. I was trying to find this and couldn't. :)

illiterwrite
01-10-2009, 05:06 AM
But no respectable house is going to invest in an author and then do nothing to get their name out there.

Not nothing, maybe. But sometimes very little.