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View Full Version : How much is my story worth? Is there a standard?



DonnaReed
07-03-2005, 09:58 AM
Non-celebrity - not a famous singer, comedian, actress, politician, corporate head, athlete none of those

just a lil country unknown educator and first time writer

Anybody have an idea what first time unknowns are generally offered by publishers fo rmemoirs?

Is there a standard? Does it/can it vary greatly?

$25,000? $50,000? $75,000?

Can a first time writer get a $100,000 deal.

I mean a third goes to taxes, 15 - 20% to agent so that would only leave me with $50,000 or less anyway.

Shoot, I need more than $100,000. Is that ridiculous or unrealistic?

Cathy C
07-03-2005, 05:45 PM
I hate to burst your bubble, DonnaReed, but unless your story is so unique and amazing that virtually everybody in the world will want to read it (like if you found the remains of the Titanic, or performed your own masectomy at the South Pole,) you're unlikely to get a major publisher interested in it. See, advances are based on what the publisher expects the book to earn over the life of the title in the stores. They just happen to pay it up front (well, actually in several installments over the course of getting it published.)

If you had some unique things happen to you, but not unique enough to receive national attention on the nightly news, then selling it for a five or six figure advance will be very difficult. Only with that sort of media spotlight are you likely to get the attention that will equate to dollars out of the publisher's pocket.

But there's nothing wrong with trying. It might be that your story is amazing and the publishers will eat it up. The only guarantee that you WON'T succeed is not trying. Good luck!

Jamesaritchie
07-04-2005, 04:22 AM
Non-celebrity - not a famous singer, comedian, actress, politician, corporate head, athlete none of those

just a lil country unknown educator and first time writer

Anybody have an idea what first time unknowns are generally offered by publishers fo rmemoirs?

Is there a standard? Does it/can it vary greatly?

$25,000? $50,000? $75,000?

Can a first time writer get a $100,000 deal.

I mean a third goes to taxes, 15 - 20% to agent so that would only leave me with $50,000 or less anyway.

Shoot, I need more than $100,000. Is that ridiculous or unrealistic?

Your story, like all other stories, is worth whatever you can get for it. There is no standard. But for unknowns, selling a memoir at all is extremely difficult, and highly unlikely, to say the least.

If you can sell it, you shouldn't expect more than $5,000 from a mainstream publisher, or somewhere between $500--$2,500 from a small publisher.

They say we all have a story, and it's true, but not all of us have a story people will pay to read. If you have something special to say, and you can say it well enough, which means very, very well, there is a chance of a sale, but don't count on much money. The market for memoirs written by everyday people is pretty much nonexistent.

But give it a shot. You may well be the one in 100,000 who writes a memoir so well that it will catches on fire and sells a boatload of copies, even though you aren't a celebrity, a hero, or a Mother Teresa type.

DonnaReed
07-04-2005, 02:48 PM
Hey, I said I'm a lil country educator

I didn't say I'm not unique and amazing!

At any rate, I guess I gotta find a REALLY good agent because I'm going for waaaaay more than $5,000...*s*

but thanks for the everyday reality just the same

Jamesaritchie
07-05-2005, 12:21 AM
Hey, I said I'm a lil country educator

I didn't say I'm not unique and amazing!

At any rate, I guess I gotta find a REALLY good agent because I'm going for waaaaay more than $5,000...*s*

but thanks for the everyday reality just the same

We're all unique and amazing. But if you want to sell a memoir, you really need to be extra so in both categories. Even with the best agent, you won't get much more than five grand, and you'll be lucky to get that.

What you have to hope for with a book like this is that it sells well after it's published. If there is any big money, it will come from royalties, not from teh advance. But there's nothing wrong with this. Royalty money spends just as well as advance money.

The thing is, no matter who your agent is, no publisher will give you more money up front than books of this type usually earn, and memoirs from those who aren't celebrities or heroes usually earn very little money. Mos, in fact, lose money.

It's a numbers game. The publisher knows how much money such a book earns on average, and that's how large your advance will be, agent or no agent. So write the book as well as a book can be written, make it something anyone will want to read, and trust that once it sells, it takes off.

Not even Stephen King or J. K. Rowling received large advances on their first books. King received $2,500, and Rowling 2,500 pounds. You first have to prove the public wants to buy your books in large numbers. Then, and only then, do you receive large advances.

Agents can't bully publishers, and can't get one dollar more out of a publisher than the publisher believes the book will earn.

Write the book. Write it as well as possible. But the market for memopirs is prettty much nonexistent, and do not count on an agent getting you a large advance. This just isn't how it works.

ChessSafari
11-16-2008, 02:52 AM
If DonnaReed is still a memebr here, I'd be interested in hearing how she made out.

I have no problem with someone shooting high, but the advance still comes down to how many books a publisher thinks a person's story will sell.

So what happened with her story? Does anybody know?

SusanH
11-18-2008, 05:14 AM
I was just reading this thread too and I am intrested ......

smoothseas
11-18-2008, 05:23 AM
Someone dug really deep to resurrect this...

SusanH
11-18-2008, 06:38 AM
Yep, three years. She may have given up.

ChessSafari
11-18-2008, 08:19 AM
Someone dug really deep to resurrect this...

I'm trying to learn, so I'm reading every post back to day one. It'll take me a while, but I've got a lot of catching up to do.

Pardon my curiousity. I really wasn't trying to offend anyone.

P.S. I'm giving rep points along the way.

Ritergal
11-18-2008, 03:13 PM
Last weekend I attended a meeting of the Pittsburgh Writers' Project and heard two publishers quote figures that less than 2% of published books sell even 1000 copies. On Lulu.com, if you sell 100 copies, you are a best-seller!

There are tens of thousands of titles published each year, but the cash is tightly concentrated. If you want piles of cash, rather than counting on writing a hot seller, I'd suggest going to your local casino or buying lottery tickets where the odds may be a bit better.

Even if you manage to get your book published and promote the heck out of your baby, the cost of that promotion may meet or exceed the income. Say, you drive thirty miles round trip to a book signing and that results in the sale of eighteen copies (an optimistic number for an unknown author). Given that your royalties are likely to be ~$1 per copy, deduct the rounded off IRS allowable mileage deduction of $.50 per mile from your $18 royalty income, and you are getting about $1 per hour for your efforts. If you buy some Starbucks or Seattle's Best while you are signing, and maybe pick up a few titles since authors have a hard time walking out of a book store empty handed, the balance sheet goes seriously red!

That isn't a recommendation to give up writing (though if everyone else quits, mine may sell better <G>). The most powerful reason to write that I know of is personal satisfaction. I write because I'm a writer and that's what writers do. Sharing my work is enormously gratifying. And, I've discovered that as long as you have a "real" publisher (even if it's a tiny independent), people you know are blown away to see your name on the cover of a "real" book! That's priceless.

SusanH
11-18-2008, 09:01 PM
Oh, no, you haven't offended anyone. Smoothseas was probably just making an observation..... I too, would like to know. You can bump any thread you like if you need an answer. I know I have resurrected a few since I have been here...

KTC
11-18-2008, 09:05 PM
Unique and amazing is only a start. We all have that going for us. Great writing and craft with story...if you have that you might have a chance. The greatest story worth telling could be crap in the wrong hands. You tell your story to the best of your ability and then try to market it to agents, publishers. You have to think about telling the story...not about cashing the paycheque.


ETA: Sorry...I didn't realize this was an old thread. I didn't read every post. Bad me.

ChessSafari
11-18-2008, 11:46 PM
ETA: Sorry...I didn't realize this was an old thread. I didn't read every post. Bad me.

Your advice is still valid.

brutus
11-20-2008, 04:30 AM
m

SusanH
11-20-2008, 05:50 AM
ok, I'm prepared. I have been writing my memoir for 8 years and I have 22 drafts and I'll have another one in about a week. What you just wrote has helped me more than anything. I have a chance, but even if I don't, I can say I tried and I'll keep at it until I find someone to pick it up. I am going to check out all the people you mentioned. You don't know how much you have helped me...thanks brutus......

brutus
11-20-2008, 06:08 AM
m

SusanH
11-20-2008, 06:23 AM
Well, hey there homey...... how come you left our wonderful town....lol... I live by the airport off of Langley by the YMCA.... Are you in the Navy??

ChessSafari
11-20-2008, 07:32 AM
...Also, plan on spending years writing your memoir. It may take twenty or thirty drafts to get it to the point where a publisher or agent can rip it apart and have you do a major re-write!


LOL. I've got that part right; I started mine in December 2003. Five years, next month.

(At least the outline is done.)

brutus
11-20-2008, 07:10 PM
m

SusanH
11-21-2008, 03:39 AM
wow, I bet you have some stories to tell.....

Prevostprincess
11-22-2008, 03:36 AM
The only thing I'd disagree with is that a top agent is not likely to take on an author if the agent thinks the memoir will only get a 5K advance. And yes, the royalties might increase the agent's take, but the vast majority of books don't earn out.

I wasn't famous, but landed a great agent (Mollie Glick) and got a 75K advance for my memoir which was published over the summer. (I'm happy to tell you this since it's public record anyway and I've gotten enormous help from AW over the years, so when I can give back -with info, people, not bucks! - I will.) Remember, your agent can also sell foreign, film and audio rights.

HOWEVER, you should NOT view your advance as your money. It belongs to your book. Look at the advance as an investment in your writing career. I have spent a considerable portion of my advance on publicity (including an outside publicist and a killer website). Authors simply have to do so, these days. Don't write the book for the advance. Write it because you have to tell the story.

Ritergal
11-22-2008, 02:14 PM
HOWEVER, you should NOT view your advance as your money. It belongs to your book. Look at the advance as an investment in your writing career. I have spent a considerable portion of my advance on publicity (including an outside publicist and a killer website). Authors simply have to do so, these days. Don't write the book for the advance. Write it because you have to tell the story.

Hey Princess, that is indeed a killer website. Over the top! Love the advice too.

Wayne K
12-04-2008, 06:35 PM
From what I'm reading here, I pulled off a miracle. I found an agent and I'm waiting for ECW press to make an offer for my life story. I'm not famous, but I've had a very strange and interesting life. I didn't realize how big a miracle it was though.

Susan B
12-05-2008, 07:24 PM
My memoir, Accordion Dreams, is coming out in January. I'm not famous, had never written anything before, got a a reputable NY agent.

I've ended up at a university press with the usual very modest advance. But I couldn't be happier! First, it's a thrill to have a first book coming out at my--ah, mature age! (A few more years, and I would have been in Frank McCourt territory :-) The press, Mississippi, is probably the most well known publisher of books relating to the style of music (Cajun-Creole) that's the focus of my memoir. I've had a great experience with them. And I've already received some nice pre-publication attention from the the local (SF Bay Area) independent bookseller community.

I'm not planning to quit my day job (I'm a psychologist) any time soon. But it's been a wonderful and unexpected midlife adventure--first discovering this music, then re-discovering writing.

I agree, you have to embrace writing (or any other passion) first because you love it. Be realistic--but optimistic!--in your expections. And enjoy the ride!

Blair

Prevostprincess
12-05-2008, 09:24 PM
Geeeeeez, Blair! It's almost January! Best wishes for the launch. Gets lots of sleep while you can.

SusanH
12-06-2008, 01:58 AM
I can't wait to be Sleepless In Pensacola......http://i8.photobucket.com/albums/a10/Emerita/Smilies/oregonian_teehee.gif

platinumscript
02-18-2009, 09:47 AM
Susan B..... you go girl!