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ghost
07-09-2010, 11:44 AM
Yeah, you read me.

I've never heard of such a thing happening. I've heard of advances being returned because the writer fails to produce the product but never because a writer didn't sell enough books.

Sadly, over at Authonomy there seems to be a whole bunch of people who really believe this.

Quote: Thanks for chiming in. Yes, especially during the economic downturn, the big publishing houses started asking for advances back and stopped handing out new advances. I mean, the CEO still expected their $360 million bonus and the money had to come from somewhere, right?

The bottom line is that today's publishing houses, without exception, expect an author to put 100% of their financial assets and time behind marketing the book the publisher just put out. "End Quote"

http://www.authonomy.com/Forum/posts_new.aspx?threadId=58294&pageNumber=9&forum=true#AnchorComment

No one seems to be listening to me so I could use a bit of help here. It kills me to see people being so misguided. Anyone have any experience they can share?

Ryan_Sullivan
07-09-2010, 01:12 PM
No experience with it here, but that's crazy. I just read an interview with Dan Lazar that made a lot of sense. He said that even if an author doesn't earn out the advance, they can still be successful, because the advance counts toward the expenses the book has. So, in the end of the day, if the book makes a profit, they can just count the unearned advance as an expense, and the author is still a success.

BrooklynLee
07-09-2010, 02:59 PM
The only time I've ever heard of an author having to return an advance to a major publishing house is when he or she has basically failed to provide the finished product.

Here is a story that discussed some of those cases, but keep in mind, this is all about authors who fail to produce what they promised in some way:

http://dearauthor.com/wordpress/2008/03/14/publisher-wins-arbitration-suit-against-author-for-a-return-of-an-advance/



I think *smaller* advances are more likely in an economic downturn, because it's an easy way to transfer more of the risk to the author -- and it's an easy expense line to trim, with many books. And I definitely think that books that don't earn out their advance can make it harder for the author to get a publishing deal on the next book.

But I'd ask this person to come up with a concrete example of someone who was asked to return an advance because of poor sales. Where is he or she getting the data?

spike
07-09-2010, 03:06 PM
Yeah, you read me.

I've never heard of such a thing happening. I've heard of advances being returned because the writer fails to produce the product but never because a writer didn't sell enough books.

Sadly, over at Authonomy there seems to be a whole bunch of people who really believe this.

Quote: Thanks for chiming in. Yes, especially during the economic downturn, the big publishing houses started asking for advances back and stopped handing out new advances. I mean, the CEO still expected their $360 million bonus and the money had to come from somewhere, right?

The bottom line is that today's publishing houses, without exception, expect an author to put 100% of their financial assets and time behind marketing the book the publisher just put out. "End Quote"

http://www.authonomy.com/Forum/posts_new.aspx?threadId=58294&pageNumber=9&forum=true#AnchorComment

No one seems to be listening to me so I could use a bit of help here. It kills me to see people being so misguided. Anyone have any experience they can share?

This rumor has been going around for a while. You hear it frequently from scam agents and vanity houses.

The only time I heard of a writer having to give back an advance was a case of plagiarism.

Bufty
07-09-2010, 03:10 PM
Ditto - be direct -say you believe they are talking rubbish and doing nobody any favours by simply passing on rumours about advances being recalled. Ask them from where they got that information or on what verifiable data is it based.

So far it's all heresay.

ghost
07-09-2010, 03:10 PM
This rumor has been going around for a while. You hear it frequently from scam agents and vanity houses.

The only time I heard of a writer having to give back an advance was a case of plagiarism.

I remember hearing about that one. It was a huge advance too.

It saddens me that there are so many naive people out there. I started this thread to try and clear up these rumors.

spike
07-09-2010, 03:23 PM
I remember hearing about that one. It was a huge advance too.

It saddens me that there are so many naive people out there. I started this thread to try and clear up these rumors.

I forget that one. That chicky-la-la (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5362379) from Harvard.

No I knew of a guy who tried to pass off a nonfiction book that was plagiarized. It was caught during the vetting.

shaldna
07-09-2010, 03:31 PM
advances are paid against predicted future sales.

You won't be asked for it back if the book flops.

shaldna
07-09-2010, 03:33 PM
I forget that one. That chicky-la-la (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5362379) from Harvard.

No I knew of a guy who tried to pass off a nonfiction book that was plagiarized. It was caught during the vetting.


That was different because she was found guilty of plagarising her novel, which is a criminal offence. Damn right she had to repay her advance, after all, keeping that money would have been theft.

Eddyz Aquila
07-09-2010, 05:14 PM
So, what's in it these days?

Smaller advances, obviously, but are there chances of six figures? (come on, everyone dreams of those :D)

BenPanced
07-09-2010, 05:19 PM
Oh, spiffy. Somebody else in that thread is spouting the "Stephen King self-pubbed his early stuff and sold it from the trunk of his car!" bullsh!t...

The six-figure advances are increasingly rare these days.

nitaworm
07-09-2010, 05:21 PM
No, you won't have to pay back advances. The worst that could happen is that the publisher decides not to publish your future works.

Sheryl Nantus
07-09-2010, 05:22 PM
People continue to push these rumors and gossip because they want to justify self-pubbing their works. It's easier to say "Oh, well, I don't want to have to pay back an advance!" or some such dribble than admit that their work isn't good enough for a publisher to accept.

Unfortunately this also leaves them open to scams like PublishAmerica, etc. who play on these rumors.

:(

Chris P
07-09-2010, 05:30 PM
Yeah, I thought this was a rumor started by vanity presses to rope in authors. It has too much of the "us versus them" that plays on the fears of new writers. I fell for it once too!

Call me a Chicken Little, but do you think this will eventually happen? "Advance as good-faith loan?" Hell, they could even charge interest on the balanced owed to the publisher. This isn't much different than what banks do on equity loans. Or will advances simply get smaller and smaller, eventually to nothing, and all payments will be entirely based on royalties?

Cranky
07-09-2010, 05:39 PM
Oh, spiffy. Somebody else in that thread is spouting the "Stephen King self-pubbed his early stuff and sold it from the trunk of his car!" bullsh!t...

The six-figure advances are increasingly rare these days.

I think they may be mixing up John Grisham and Stephen King. And Grisham wasn't self-pubbed anyway. :D

I agree wrt the advances. I think we still see some mind boggling advances, but mostly, I think they're on the downswing. That's definitely not the same as a publisher demanding the return of an advance, though. I think that would be a breach of contract, wouldn't it?

Where do people get this stuff? Well, teh internets, duh, I guess. Still. The real facts are out there if you care to look hard enough.

defyalllogic
07-09-2010, 05:45 PM
I actually didn't know you didn't have to pay it back... I was under the impression by the wording that it was like a payday loan or portion of future sales. therefor if the money was never earned you were in possession of cash you didn't, but promised to, earn.

I thought, I would be best to get a smaller advance so if you didn't do as well as expected you wouldn't be having so much to have and then not have...

good to know. thanks.

Libbie
07-09-2010, 05:50 PM
I actually didn't know you didn't have to pay it back... I was under the impression by the wording that it was like a payday loan or portion of future sales. therefor if the money was never earned you were in possession of cash you didn't, but promised to, earn.

I thought, I would be best to get a smaller advance so if you didn't do as well as expected you wouldn't be having so much to have and then not have...

good to know. thanks.

Well, it's sort of true that it's money you promise to earn, but it's not a loan. You don't have to pay it back.

Apparently that's NOT the way it works in the music industry with advances from record labels. Sucks for those guys, if that's true!

Becky Black
07-09-2010, 05:51 PM
Oh, spiffy. Somebody else in that thread is spouting the "Stephen King self-pubbed his early stuff and sold it from the trunk of his car!" bullsh!t...

The six-figure advances are increasingly rare these days.

That person needs to get "On Writing" and read the bit about when his agent calls Stephen King to tell him he's sold the paperback rights for Carrie for $200,000 dollars. I love that part! :D Definitely no self-publishing there. Anyway, self-publishing as we know it today wasn't around back then, just the old classic vanity publishing.

Jamesaritchie
07-09-2010, 06:14 PM
I suspect one reason these rumors exist is because a couple of published writers have had to pay back advances on books they never finished, or didn't finish to the standards the publishers found acceptable, which means the advance was paid, but the books were never published.

K1P1
07-09-2010, 06:20 PM
Even if a publisher did have the gall to expect repayment of the advance if the book didn't earn out (which is not the way it works), all an author needs to do is to read the contract. It will state when the advance must be repaid to the publisher. If these people are worried about it, they can just check the contract (which they should do anyway) before signing.

shaldna
07-09-2010, 06:22 PM
Oh, spiffy. Somebody else in that thread is spouting the "Stephen King self-pubbed his early stuff and sold it from the trunk of his car!" bullsh!t...


You mean Grisham. And it was a small press, not a self pub, But yes, he did sell alot of the them himself, and alot of them got dumped too.

Medievalist
07-09-2010, 07:12 PM
Many books do not earn out. That doesn't mean they lost money nor does it mean the author pays back the advance.

If the author completes the ms as specified in the contract the advance is the publisher's obligation in recompense for the author fulfilling their part of the contract.

BenPanced
07-09-2010, 07:20 PM
You mean Grisham. And it was a small press, not a self pub, But yes, he did sell alot of the them himself, and alot of them got dumped too.
Scroll down. The very last post says it was Stephen King. (And I'm sure she's gotten PMs correcting her that it was J. K. Rowling and not King.)

maestrowork
07-09-2010, 07:22 PM
I can see publishers stop doling out big advance checks. But as far as taking back the advance? Nope.

maestrowork
07-09-2010, 07:24 PM
Scroll down. The very last post says it was Stephen King. (And I'm sure she's gotten PMs correcting her that it was J. K. Rowling and not King.)

Rowling didn't self-pub either. She got a small advance from Bloomsbury. HP didn't get big until it was published in the US.

King published Carrie through Doubleday. Small advance ($2500) as well. Carrie only got big when the paperback version was published by Dell.

Grisham's first book was published by a small press, which doesn't exist anymore. He sold a lot of books out of the trunk of his car; that's true (according to him). I think A Time To Kill sold about 5000 copies.

The only people first-time novelists who got big advances, that I know of, are Stephanie Meyer ($750,000 for a three-book deal) and Amy Tan (she got $1.5 million for The Joy Luck Club, I think)... but don't quote me. I heard these from the grapevines... A local author here also got a big check for his first book, but I am not sure how well the book actually did or whether it earned out...

BenPanced
07-09-2010, 07:25 PM
Um, I know that. Humor?

defyalllogic
07-09-2010, 07:33 PM
if you don't have to pay it back they what does it mean if you don't "earn it out"?

Bubastes
07-09-2010, 07:40 PM
if you don't have to pay it back they what does it mean if you don't "earn it out"?

It means you didn't earn enough royalties to equal the advance. This does NOT mean that they lost money on your book, though. A book can fail to earn out its advance and still turn a profit for the publisher. They build that possibility into their calculations.

ETA: oops, cross-posted with Medievalist. What she said.

Medievalist
07-09-2010, 07:40 PM
if you don't have to pay it back they what does it mean if you don't "earn it out"?

No royalties. The advance is payment in advance against royalties.

Publishers are pretty good at judging the costs and expected sales of books. The amount of an advance is in part determined by those calculated expectations.

You receive, after publication, royalty reports. These are all complicated and all publishers call the various sections different things but it tells you how many copies were bought and will have a number and or dollar amount that's a reserve against booksellers' returns.

Momento Mori
07-09-2010, 07:52 PM
Personally, I'm always wary of anyone who says "I know someone who was required to pay back a proportion of their advance" and then fails to provide names or publishers.

"seasoned_geek" is talking out of his jacksy and is clearly on a self-publishing rah rah rah mission. Never let the facts get in the way of some good old-fashioned scaremongering and propaganda.

Unless someone can name an author published with a commercial publisher where they were asked/contractually obligated to return an advance as a result of the economic down town, it's bollocks and the people spouting it either gently educated otherwise or (if they continue to stick to their guns without evidence) resoundly mocked for their shit-wittery.

MM

Medievalist
07-09-2010, 08:18 PM
Call me a Chicken Little, but do you think this will eventually happen? "Advance as good-faith loan?" Hell, they could even charge interest on the balanced owed to the publisher. This isn't much different than what banks do on equity loans. Or will advances simply get smaller and smaller, eventually to nothing, and all payments will be entirely based on royalties?

No, I don't think the advance will change much. There are advantages to publishers in terms of taxes to have an advance carry over against royalty distributions.

I do think we'll see more small publishers, especially in niches, and digital books, do a fifty-fifty split of profits/sales with authors. My very favorite nich technical ebook publisher, Take Control, does this with their ebooks now. After the processing fee for the shopping cart system is deducted from the book price, the monies are split between publisher and author.

Bubastes
07-09-2010, 08:19 PM
Good gawd, that Authonomy thread reminds me why AW is the only writing forum I read.

BenPanced
07-09-2010, 08:31 PM
I like how that one guy doesn't see the irony in his statements.

Bubastes
07-09-2010, 08:43 PM
"seasoned_geek" is talking out of his jacksy and is clearly on a self-publishing rah rah rah mission. Never let the facts get in the way of some good old-fashioned scaremongering and propaganda.


I call B.S. on his claim that he's selling to Target and Meijers.

ETA: Ah, I see, he's only getting his book "in the hands of buyers" for those stores. It sure makes him sound more successful than he actually he is if you're reading quickly.

Mr Flibble
07-09-2010, 09:14 PM
Unless someone can name an author published with a commercial publisher where they were asked/contractually obligated to return an advance as a result of the economic down town, it's bollocks and the people spouting it either gently educated otherwise or (if they continue to stick to their guns without evidence) resoundly mocked for their shit-wittery.

MM

I concur. And Shit-wittery is an awesome word :D

Momento Mori
07-09-2010, 09:27 PM
IdiotsRUs:
And Shit-wittery is an awesome word

Heh! I like to use it at least once every day.

MM

Jamesaritchie
07-09-2010, 11:41 PM
if you don't have to pay it back they what does it mean if you don't "earn it out"?

My first novel didn't earn out. It just means it didn't sell enough copies for the royalties to equal the advance. Most first novels do not earn out, but this doesn't necessarily mean the publisher doesn't make a profit. The publisher's share of sales is usually a little larger than the writer's share.

TrixieLox
07-10-2010, 12:42 AM
Man, I hate it when self-pubbed authors spread crazy rumours about 'traditional publishing'. Honestly, there's no arguing with them, they simply will not listen (by 'them', I don't mean all self-pubbed writers, just mean the crazy ones). They're fighting for their 'honour' so to speak. They need an argument to throw back in the face of people who say you can't call yourself a published author if you pay to get yourself published. It really winds me up as new writers, people who are a little less savvy about these things, might actually listen to their BS, bypass traditional publishers / trying to snag an agent and self-publish straight away. Grrrrr!

Medievalist
07-10-2010, 02:35 AM
Most first novels do not earn out, but this doesn't necessarily mean the publisher doesn't make a profit. The publisher's share of sales is usually a little larger than the writer's share.

Even way back when, in the 1970s, there were elaborate calculations regarding costs of production, and likely sales, and resultant profit.

Now there are lovely complex multicolored spread-sheets. They really do calculate things very very carefully.

Eddyz Aquila
07-10-2010, 02:40 AM
And yet, because of the economic downturn, advances should not be paid back at all. People are still spending on books because it's a cheap way of entertainment, and it stays with you longer than a movie.

Medievalist
07-10-2010, 02:40 AM
I did once return an advance for a book when an editor proved untenable.

The particular book had been shopped around to a bunch of writers--and a more experienced writer, upon my appeal for advice about dealing with the horrendous editor, gave me the entire sordid back story.

I returned my advance.

I noted that I had been in touch with the previous writers, whose work, even though they returned the advance, had been retained by the publisher, and that all three of us would be assiduous in assuring that work which we weren't paid for did not appear in the final book.

The book never did get published.

ghost
07-10-2010, 02:45 AM
Good gawd, that Authonomy thread reminds me why AW is the only writing forum I read.


I feel that way too. I don't have a book up on Authonomy. I don't even really like the concept of that site but I still read the forums. I can't help myself. There is so much misinformation. I just don't want to see other authors get suckered in.

For example: There's been a lady pushing her PA book and everyone keeps cheering her on....

Eddyz Aquila
07-10-2010, 04:53 AM
A bit of a thread derail, but here goes...

Do you get an advance for a second, third, fourth... book you make and the publisher accepts it?

thothguard51
07-10-2010, 05:10 AM
I left Authonomy fairly quickly when it became evident Authonomy was turning into a self publishers haven. Hell, even the newsletter that comes out sprouts all kinds of stuff about self publishing with Createaspace. I got into several arguements with writers over there who have no clue... They truly believe self publishing will help build an audience and Harper Collins will sit up and take notice.

Authonomy is nothing more than a slush pile for the self published. (Disclaimer, there are exceptions there as I read some good excerpts. Just unsure where those writers went as I lost track of them. Hopefully they came over here...)

Medievalist
07-10-2010, 05:12 AM
A bit of a thread derail, but here goes...

Do you get an advance for a second, third, fourth... book you make and the publisher accepts it?

Yes.

And that's where a sharp agent totally rocks. Because the agent can do things like specify slightly higher advances, or higher royalties after X copies sell, etc.

I often ask for a small bonus for hitting my deadlines. It's worth it to a publisher to pay a little more for a reliable author.

In computer consumer books, if you write a book about the QWERTY word processor version 2, and a year later, version 3 comes out and your book did well enough--you get asked to write a NEW book about the QWERTY word processor.

Now, likely, you won't be able to use most of what you wrote before, so it's a new book. You get a new advance, and a new contract.

If, on the other hand, you've written a kick ass book about Reading And Writing About Literature, that's meant for the undergraduate text book market, you almost certainly not only got an advance, you got royalties.

And now, four years later, it's time for a new edition. Because college textbooks have quick turnover (publishers, in other words, know poverty stricken undergrads will buy a used book, and the publisher doesn't get a dime for the second/third/fourth sale).

But you can use a lot of the old stuff. You'll revise of course, and make it better, and there's two whole chapters that are brand new.

But you get a new advance. Even if 80% of the book is re-used.

thothguard51
07-10-2010, 05:16 AM
A bit of a thread derail, but here goes...

Do you get an advance for a second, third, fourth... book you make and the publisher accepts it?

Yes, and no...

You should get an advance with each book. If your first book sells well and you earn royalties after the advance pays out, you might even get a bigger advance on the next book, or a multi-book deal. But if you did not earn enough for the publisher, they could also offer a lower advance.

After the first book, its all about what you did in sales that determines your future advances; unless you shop it around and get publishers into a bidding war. Which is why agents are worth their 15% and should get more, IMHO.

CheshireCat
07-10-2010, 05:47 AM
So, what's in it these days?

Smaller advances, obviously, but are there chances of six figures? (come on, everyone dreams of those :D)

I know lots of authors who're getting six-figures, though most are bestsellers or heading in that direction. I'd have to say a first sale that earns a six-figure advance is probably more rare now than it used to be.


Yeah, I thought this was a rumor started by vanity presses to rope in authors. It has too much of the "us versus them" that plays on the fears of new writers. I fell for it once too!

Call me a Chicken Little, but do you think this will eventually happen? "Advance as good-faith loan?" Hell, they could even charge interest on the balanced owed to the publisher. This isn't much different than what banks do on equity loans. Or will advances simply get smaller and smaller, eventually to nothing, and all payments will be entirely based on royalties?

The thing is, publishing is competitive. And though the many "big" publishers have shrunk to only a few "giant" publishers, they still don't play nice with each other. So one will outbid another for a proven author. Authors like advances. We like them very much. Advances are not going away anytime soon.

Lower advances, though -- yep, definitely happening. Even with proven authors. But in such cases the publisher usually tries to sweeten the deal by raising the royalty rate or offering bonuses for this or that.


I actually didn't know you didn't have to pay it back... I was under the impression by the wording that it was like a payday loan or portion of future sales. therefor if the money was never earned you were in possession of cash you didn't, but promised to, earn.

I thought, I would be best to get a smaller advance so if you didn't do as well as expected you wouldn't be having so much to have and then not have...

good to know. thanks.

A higher advance generally means the pub will be putting more bucks into promotion and marketing -- because they don't want to lose money.

If offered a larger-than-expected advance, take the money. Then work like hell to get a second book written and in before sales of the first one affect what you're offered for it.


Many books do not earn out. That doesn't mean they lost money nor does it mean the author pays back the advance.

If the author completes the ms as specified in the contract the advance is the publisher's obligation in recompense for the author fulfilling their part of the contract.

QFT.


A bit of a thread derail, but here goes...

Do you get an advance for a second, third, fourth... book you make and the publisher accepts it?

Somebody else already answered this, but, yes. As I said, authors like advances. In fact, if you sign a multi-book contract, your "signing payment" will be comprised of a percentage of each of the books on the contract. In other words, if you sign a contract for three books at a hundred grand each, and your signing payment is, say $75k, it would most likely be made up as $25k from the advance monies of each of the three books.

The pub would then owe you $75k in advance monies from all three books, usually broken up into a percentage on D&A (delivery and acceptance) and then -- these days, at least -- on publication.

I don't like on-pub payments because I feel I should be paid when my part of the agreement is complete and the book accepted. But they seem to have become an industry standard when nobody was watching (how these things happen), so I do the best I can to keep the on-pub payment low in comparison to other payments.

Eddyz Aquila
07-10-2010, 06:09 AM
Thanks everyone for your replies. Greatly appreciated, some new info for me on the publishing business. :)

CAWriter
07-10-2010, 10:45 AM
And then there's the small matter of cross-collateralization...

Margarita Skies
07-10-2010, 02:16 PM
King published Carrie through Doubleday. Small advance ($2500) as well. Carrie only got big when the paperback version was published by Dell.


I would be thrilled if I got a $2500 advance!! I am a starting writer. Why should I ask for more? If I get more, wonderful, but if I get $2500, I will be jumping up and down!

Jamesaritchie
07-10-2010, 05:45 PM
I would be thrilled if I got a $2500 advance!! I am a starting writer. Why should I ask for more? If I get more, wonderful, but if I get $2500, I will be jumping up and down!

Starting writer or not, you should get as much as you can, and never less than the average rate for a novel of your type, from a publisher of a given size.

$2,500 was a decent advance thirty years ago. Today it doesn't go very far. On epurpose of an advance is to allow a writer to spend more time writing his next novel, and $2,500 doesn't buy very much time today. That's just ten weeks work at minimum wage.

scarletpeaches
07-10-2010, 05:48 PM
Ten weeks? Try half that. I'd be lucky to survive five, six weeks on that sort of money.

(Which is, of course, enough time to write another book anyway).

Kalyke
07-10-2010, 06:48 PM
I think that if a publishing company could take back advance money this way, they legally would need to put the money in a trust account for the author. It also would not be a "rumor" it would be a common fact, and a top news story. You just don't "give" a person a wad of cash and say "don't spend this until your book is sold out in X years" or whatever.
----
Oh, Magali, $2,500. in 1974 adjusted for 2010 inflation is approx. $11,500. (2,500X 4.67). It was about nearly 4 times the average monthly paycheck ($669 per month). In 2010 the "average" monthly paycheck is $3650 according to DollarTimes.com. So nearly 4 times that is $14,600. So, if you are getting 11,500 you would be getting approximately what King got. If you got 2,500 you would be getting maybe $100 bucks. I'd go with 2,500 in 1974 money as a decent advance, as King probably thought 2,500 was a decent advance back when he wrote Carrie. (All figures are based upon monthly average calculator at http://www.dollartimes.com/calculators/inflation.htm) I could see King and his family surviving for 10 weeks on 2,500.

Eddyz Aquila
07-10-2010, 08:44 PM
So a typical advance nowadays ranges from 10000 to 20000 US dollars? Obviously it depends what kind of work you are submitting, historicals I read earn more than fantasy for example because they tend to be longer.

Correct me if I'm wrong.

Jamesaritchie
07-10-2010, 09:08 PM
So a typical advance nowadays ranges from 10000 to 20000 US dollars? Obviously it depends what kind of work you are submitting, historicals I read earn more than fantasy for example because they tend to be longer.

Correct me if I'm wrong.

Longer doesn't have anything to do with it. Thin, short little novels like The Bridges of Madison County can earn millions, and historicals can fail to break even.

The size of the advance depends more on the publisher than on length. I see more advances of from $7,500-$15,000 from lareg publishers than any other size. But you never know. It's all about publisher expectations for a given novel.

Susan Littlefield
07-11-2010, 03:48 AM
I suspect one reason these rumors exist is because a couple of published writers have had to pay back advances on books they never finished, or didn't finish to the standards the publishers found acceptable, which means the advance was paid, but the books were never published.

My friend wrote a YA book, was published by a major publishing house, given a nice advance, and was working on a sequel. She did not market her book at all as she was supposed to do, sales were low, thus she did not earn back her advance. The publisher dropped her. Her agent told her she would be unable to publish further novels. My writer friend takes full responsibility for her lack of marketing.

However, shouldn't a writer be given a second chance?

scarletpeaches
07-11-2010, 04:11 AM
Why should they get a second chance if they wasted their first one?

Susan Littlefield
07-11-2010, 04:45 AM
Why should they get a second chance if they wasted their first one?

Don't get me wrong. I can see the particular publisher or agent not taking them on again, especially if the writer did not keep their end of the bargain.

However, by second chance, I mean should they be blacklisted from ever publishing a novel again? Her agent told her she would never be able to publish another novel. I think this is quite unfair, as she may have learned from that mistake.

scarletpeaches
07-11-2010, 04:57 AM
The publishing world is pretty incestuous, though. Chances are this agent knows that agent knows whatever publisher. It's not that someone gets blacklisted but between Petulant O'Difficult and Smiley McNiceperson, who would an editor choose to work with?

'May have' learned from that mistake isn't good enough, because it's not just her time wasted, it's other people's money, too.

And really, how many writers would kill to be in that position? And yet...she lets all that work (writing the book, finding an agent and publisher) go to waste by suddenly stalling when she's just about there?

artemis31386
07-11-2010, 05:35 AM
'May have' learned from that mistake isn't good enough, because it's not just her time wasted, it's other people's money, too.

And really, how many writers would kill to be in that position? And yet...she lets all that work (writing the book, finding an agent and publisher) go to waste by suddenly stalling when she's just about there?

I agree. May have isn't good enough, especially since she failed to hold up to her end of the bargain. Marketing is essential if you want to sell your book. If you want to publish more books, you have to sell your book.

Plenty of writers are willing to market. They're also willing to live with very little sleep while they do that and work on the next book.

On this forum alone, there are thousands that would kill to be in that position. Myself included.

Susan Littlefield
07-11-2010, 05:51 AM
Thank you Scarlet Peaches and Artemis,

I strive for professionalism in all my work endeavors, including my paid job and my creative writing. I feel that we must always guard our professional reputation(s) by doing everything we know we are supposed to do and by presenting the best product possible, as well doing exactly what we are asked to do by the one who pays us.

I think you are right, that it's all about how much agents/editors talk to each other. Advances are a big deal, I agree- if you are told you must earn your advance back in sales, that's fair enough. But, what if you market your butt off and don't make it all back? Does that constitute termination from publication again? Or,would that writer be given a second chance?

Medievalist
07-11-2010, 06:30 AM
However, by second chance, I mean should they be blacklisted from ever publishing a novel again? Her agent told her she would never be able to publish another novel. I think this is quite unfair, as she may have learned from that mistake.

It depends on the writer, and the next book.

And sometimes, a really good pseudonym.

Terie
07-11-2010, 10:52 AM
My friend wrote a YA book, was published by a major publishing house, given a nice advance, and was working on a sequel. She did not market her book at all as she was supposed to do, sales were low, thus she did not earn back her advance. The publisher dropped her. Her agent told her she would be unable to publish further novels. My writer friend takes full responsibility for her lack of marketing.

However, shouldn't a writer be given a second chance?

I don't know, but this sounds kinda fishy to me. There is very little promotion an author can do that will have a substantial effect on a novel's sales, and the major publishers know this. It's the publisher's job to do the marketing and promotion; it's the author's job to write more books. Many authors can't do any promotion at all for a variety of reasons, and that doesn't stop them getting deals. One example that leaps to mind is John Twelve Hawks. He was known to be a recluse before anyone contracted his books, and that didn't stop the books from A) getting published and B) becoming bestsellers.

No major publisher will refuse to contract a great book just because the author didn't set up a website or whatever. Sure, they might decide that the author needs a pseudonym, but, really, an author never being published again because they didn't do a few things that might've sold a couple hundred more books at most? (A couple hundred is small beans when a major publisher is looking to sell tens of thousands, and a couple hundred extra sales from an author's promotion efforts is probably the most that can be expected.) I can't help wondering if there's more to this story than meets the eye.

aruna
07-11-2010, 11:08 AM
A bit of a thread derail, but here goes...

Do you get an advance for a second, third, fourth... book you make and the publisher accepts it?

I got substantial advances for three books, and none of them earned out. So in principle I "owe" HarperCollins a five-figure amount.




However, shouldn't a writer be given a second chance?

They were willing to publish another book from me but it had to be a sure-fire bestseller. They had doubts about the one I produced, and the one after that, and the one after that, and so all of those got rejected.

If I can produce that sure-fire best-seller quality they will take me back. I am in constant email contact with my old editor, who is HC's Publishing Director. She even called me a few months back. I write synopses and first chapters of various ideas I've had, she gives feedback; if she stops giving feedback I take the hint and stop writing and start something else. I know she likes me and my writing and the "second chance" is entirely up to me. She wants something that affects her the way my very first book did. She still thinks about that book, she says.

But I got the rights back, haha.

Stacia Kane
07-11-2010, 12:02 PM
I don't know, but this sounds kinda fishy to me. There is very little promotion an author can do that will have a substantial effect on a novel's sales, and the major publishers know this. It's the publisher's job to do the marketing and promotion; it's the author's job to write more books. Many authors can't do any promotion at all for a variety of reasons, and that doesn't stop them getting deals. One example that leaps to mind is John Twelve Hawks. He was a known recluse before anyone contracted his books, and that didn't stop the books from A) getting published and B) becoming bestsellers.

No major publisher will refuse to contract a great book just because the author didn't set up a website or whatever. Sure, they might decide that the author needs a pseudonym, but, really, an author never being published again because they didn't do a few things that might've sold a couple hundred more books at most? (A couple hundred is small beans when a major publisher is looking to sell tens of thousands, and a couple hundred extra sales from an author's promotion efforts is probably the most that can be expected.) I can't help wondering if there's more to this story than meets the eye.


Ditto this. This story doesn't sound right to me.

Did your friend simply not promote, or did she refuse to participate in promotion the publisher set up for her? Was it that she didn't want to do guest blogs, or did she refuse to do ones the publisher had arranged for her, or go to events they'd arranged for her? Did she simply not go hang out on Twitter, or when the publisher asked her to set up a website did she say "Screw that, dickwads! That's your job!"? Did she not just promote herself, or did she belittle and complain about their promotional efforts?

Lots of writers have low sales, but end up switching pen names (sometimes not even that) and selling successfully elsewhere. I can see an agent saying "You're going to have a hard time selling under this name, especially in this genre," but for an agent to say "You're never going to be able to publish again" makes me think your friend didn't simply fail to promote; it sounds like your friend made herself very unpopular and difficult to work with. Those are two very different things. If you want to act like a prima donna* you better have the sales numbers to back it up, or you're going to find yourself out of work.

Not to mention that, again as Terrie said, if a book fails that badly it's generally the publisher's fault. I know of one book that got "skipped," meaning the publisher basically decided to write it off, not really promote it or make ay special effort to put it in stores. My personal belief is that it's because it was accepted because the house wanted to get a new imprint started quickly, but they realized after signing it that it was simply a terrible book. I was honestly shocked when I read it, given how every other book by that house was at least good, and they had an excellent reputation, so I couldn't really see any other reason why they might have bought it to begin with. I know the author's option book was turned down before the skipping; personality issues (which there might or might not have been, I don't know) may contribute to an option book's rejection, but to skip a book is really a strong sign that the publisher has pretty much no faith in the book's ability to sell, afaik. I know it was given quite a small advance as well, as was standard for that house, so by skipping it they weren't out a lot of money. But that was a very different, and very rare, situation.

(*Note: I'm not calling your friend a prima donna or saying that she must have behaved as I outlined above. I'm just making a general comment. I don't know who your friend is or what the exact situation was, of course.)


And those Authonomy people make my head hurt. I know this is awful of me but I honestly wonder sometimes if it's even worth it to try to help those people (meaning the ones spreading the lies and insisting they know best, not everyone on Authonomy in general); if they're that obtuse, and that determined not to listen, perhaps it's best for everyone if they just continue to stew in their little failure juices and let those of us who actually understand the business get on with it.

aruna
07-11-2010, 01:35 PM
Why should they get a second chance if they wasted their first one?

Because that same author might just produce something spectacular, a few years on. It should be in the publisher's interest not to burn all their bridges, just in case the author goes to the competition if such a book turns up. Some authors are like good wine: they improve with age!

Momento Mori
07-11-2010, 04:53 PM
SusanL:
My friend wrote a YA book, was published by a major publishing house, given a nice advance, and was working on a sequel. She did not market her book at all as she was supposed to do, sales were low, thus she did not earn back her advance. The publisher dropped her. Her agent told her she would be unable to publish further novels. My writer friend takes full responsibility for her lack of marketing.

However, shouldn't a writer be given a second chance?

What do you mean by "She did not market her book at all as she was supposed to do"?

How low were the sales? How good was the advance?

Like Terie and Stacia have said, this doesn't sound right at all and it's most likely due to the lack of detail.

If you're publishing YA it's pretty a given that you should be doing some kind of promotion for it in conjunction with your publisher. Most YA authors I know do a mix of school visits and library visits, but some aren't comfortable doing that and instead do a mix of on-line promotion and conference attendance.

If a publisher has set up an event (and it's a big deal if they do because marketing budgets are so tight) and your friend didn't bother to show or help out, then no - I don't think that they do deserve a second chance.

Any agent worth their salt is going to have a discussion with their author about (1) the realities of publishing and the need for promotion and (2) the possible consequences of books not doing as well as they should do. I'm surprised if your friend's agent didn't do that.

Sometimes though, publishers drop an author because they paid far too much for a book that tanked - happened to a chick lit author acquaintance of mine who got a 250k advance on a 2 book detail only to see the first one crash and burn in the market. The publisher was so burned by it that they dropped the second book and no other publisher would touch it because of the poor sales of the first. Even in that situation though, the author got 175k out of it and they and their agent worked out a pseudonym for her and she went back into the chick lit market 2 years later - where she's now a solid mid lister.

MM

Terie
07-11-2010, 05:52 PM
One example that leaps to mind is John Twelve Hawks. He was known to be a recluse before anyone contracted his books, and that didn't stop the books from A) getting published and B) becoming bestsellers.

Oh, and one of the hottest authors right now is, yanno, dead. Stieg Larrson's books (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, et al) were published posthumously. No one ever expected him to do any promotion! :D

Susan Littlefield
07-12-2010, 12:28 AM
I

No major publisher will refuse to contract a great book just because the author didn't set up a website or whatever. Sure, they might decide that the author needs a pseudonym, but, really, an author never being published again because they didn't do a few things that might've sold a couple hundred more books at most? (A couple hundred is small beans when a major publisher is looking to sell tens of thousands, and a couple hundred extra sales from an author's promotion efforts is probably the most that can be expected.) I can't help wondering if there's more to this story than meets the eye.

I thought I'd been pretty clear in my explanation. :)

This was a major publisher. The author was told she had to do marketing for her book. She did none, zero. The author acknowledges this. Her sequel to the first book was dropped. Her agent told he she would never publish another novel again, because she did not do as instructed to earn her advance money back.

Susan Littlefield
07-12-2010, 12:35 AM
What do you mean by "She did not market her book at all as she was supposed to do"?

How low were the sales? How good was the advance?

Like Terie and Stacia have said, this doesn't sound right at all and it's most likely due to the lack of detail.

If you're publishing YA it's pretty a given that you should be doing some kind of promotion for it in conjunction with your publisher. Most YA authors I know do a mix of school visits and library visits, but some aren't comfortable doing that and instead do a mix of on-line promotion and conference attendance.

If a publisher has set up an event (and it's a big deal if they do because marketing budgets are so tight) and your friend didn't bother to show or help out, then no - I don't think that they do deserve a second chance.

Any agent worth their salt is going to have a discussion with their author about (1) the realities of publishing and the need for promotion and (2) the possible consequences of books not doing as well as they should do. I'm surprised if your friend's agent didn't do that.

Sometimes though, publishers drop an author because they paid far too much for a book that tanked - happened to a chick lit author acquaintance of mine who got a 250k advance on a 2 book detail only to see the first one crash and burn in the market. The publisher was so burned by it that they dropped the second book and no other publisher would touch it because of the poor sales of the first. Even in that situation though, the author got 175k out of it and they and their agent worked out a pseudonym for her and she went back into the chick lit market 2 years later - where she's now a solid mid lister.

MM

While I don't know all the details, I do know the advance was around $20,000. The sales of her book were poor. She did no marketing at all, as she was instructed to do- lack of time, etc. She was working on the sequel. Her Agent is the one who told her the publisher was dropping her, because she did not market and did not earn back her advance.

I've heard of publishers dropping a writer because they didn't earn back their advance. However, I tend to wonder if the missing part of this story is that my friend had a bad agent. I don't know.

Terie
07-12-2010, 12:38 AM
I thought I'd been pretty clear in my explanation. :)

This was a major publisher. The author was told she had to do marketing for her book. She did none, zero. The author acknowledges this. Her sequel to the first book was dropped. Her agent told he she would never publish another novel again, because she did not do as instructed to earn her advance money back.

The issue here is this: publishing doesn't work this way. The major publishers don't drop authors for something as insignificant as not doing any promotion. They just don't. And agents don't tell their clients that they'll never get another book published, either.

I'm sticking with the story being fishy. It might be what she told you, but I'd bet dollars to donuts that there's a hell of a lot more to it than that.

ETA: Since we cross-posted, I'll remark on your post above, too.

The point I tried to make earlier is that the hugest efforts an author can make in promotion pale to insignificance compared to what the publisher can do. Few writers have promotion skills. What writers have that makes publishers money is the ability to write books. So that's what publishers want their authors to do: write books. There are people in the marketing department who get paid to do marketing and promotion. Authors get paid to write books.

And yes, authors have been known to get dropped for not earning out their advances, but not at the $20K point. It would be the advances of substantially more than that with extremely low sales (like Momento Mori described). And it's not due to lack of promotion. Low sales figures are never ever due to an author's lack of promotion (not with the major publishers, anyway).

Finally, a bad agent might well be what's at issue here. Because a good agent who believed in their client's work would just switch to a pseudonym and carry on, not tell the client a bald-faced lie that they'd never be able to publish another book ever again. That last is just plain silly, not to mention patently untrue.

Marian Perera
07-12-2010, 12:40 AM
The author was told she had to do marketing? What kind of marketing did they expect her to do?

If a publisher sinks twenty thousand into an advance, I'd expect them to deal with the marketing while the author handled the promotional end of things.

Christine N.
07-12-2010, 01:26 AM
I can understand Susan's story. Things are NOT how they used to be. I listened to a story at a conference for children's writers lately, where a mid-lister got exactly ONE box of postcards from the publisher. That was her total extent of her publisher's marketing plan.

Authors are expected to promote the book, through use of websites, social media, contests, and putting themselves out there and talking about the book - doing interviews, going to events, tracking down places to review the book.

It is very true that the author has little control over books getting into the stores But the more noise that's being made about the book the more likely it IS to get into the stores. I have two friends with debut YA novels from major publishers just very recently released. Neither was in my local bookstore. But there was a whole shelf of dang Twilight books. I was disappointed, because now I have to order them online.

Every agent, editor, and author I've talked to recently says the author better be ready to work on promoting their book. They expect it, and most agents and authors are now telling newbies to set aside part of their advance for marketing incidentals.

Completely serious, gang.

Susan Littlefield
07-12-2010, 01:45 AM
The author was told she had to do marketing? What kind of marketing did they expect her to do?

If a publisher sinks twenty thousand into an advance, I'd expect them to deal with the marketing while the author handled the promotional end of things.

Isn't marketing how an author promotes the book? I have not reached the publication stage of my novel, so the lingo may be where I made an error.

Susan Littlefield
07-12-2010, 01:50 AM
I can understand Susan's story. Things are NOT how they used to be. I listened to a story at a conference for children's writers lately, where a mid-lister got exactly ONE box of postcards from the publisher. That was her total extent of her publisher's marketing plan.

Authors are expected to promote the book, through use of websites, social media, contests, and putting themselves out there and talking about the book - doing interviews, going to events, tracking down places to review the book.

It is very true that the author has little control over books getting into the stores But the more noise that's being made about the book the more likely it IS to get into the stores. I have two friends with debut YA novels from major publishers just very recently released. Neither was in my local bookstore. But there was a whole shelf of dang Twilight books. I was disappointed, because now I have to order them online.

Every agent, editor, and author I've talked to recently says the author better be ready to work on promoting their book. They expect it, and most agents and authors are now telling newbies to set aside part of their advance for marketing incidentals.

Completely serious, gang.

Christine, I believe you one hundred percent that there is something off about the whole thing. At first I thought I was clear, but then decided maybe not....:)

Which could be the case, because I just learned I may have used "marketing" incorrectly (see reply above).

In any event, that is basically what my friend's agent told her- she didn't do the work (market? promote?) to to earn back her advance, thus the publisher dropped her. The agent said she would not publish a novel again.

I take it marketing and promoting are not the same thing. :)

Marian Perera
07-12-2010, 01:51 AM
Marketing is what publishers do; promotion is what authors do. Unless we're dealing with vanity presses where authors end up doing everything.

Sheryl Nantus
07-12-2010, 01:52 AM
While I don't know all the details, I do know the advance was around $20,000. The sales of her book were poor. She did no marketing at all, as she was instructed to do- lack of time, etc. She was working on the sequel. Her Agent is the one who told her the publisher was dropping her, because she did not market and did not earn back her advance.

I've heard of publishers dropping a writer because they didn't earn back their advance. However, I tend to wonder if the missing part of this story is that my friend had a bad agent. I don't know.

Off the top of my head, and with the caveat that I have never had an agent, this sounds like a mishandling on all sides.

The agent - for not helping the author to market. Your friend may not have wanted to do promotion, but the agent should have been more proactive in helping/forcing her to get things done. After all, he/she makes money if the author continues to sell.

The publisher - for not detailing what they expected. At least they should have offered references to a publicist, etc. if they expected a major promotional push.

The author - for not doing anything. Twitter, FB, blogging doesn't take up all that much time if you do it right. And while working on a sequel is/was important, there's really no reason why an author shouldn't be active in some way. It's a balancing act, but I'd be silly to take a $20K advance and expect to sit back and do nothing. Hire a publicist with the money and follow their lead.

jmo, of course.

cwfgal
07-12-2010, 02:15 AM
I have to side with those who say there's more to this story. Dropping an author because they don't "market" is hardly SOP in the publishing industry. And an agent telling a writer they'll never publish anything again??? No agent worth their salt would do that. You restrategize. You change genres/publishers/pseudonyms. You brainstorm on the next step. The only way I can imagine a worthwhile agent saying something like that is in response to a writer who committed some hugely egregious behavior or action--and "not marketing" doesn't qualify.

Not earning out can get you dropped by a publisher, but even if you do earn out you may get dropped. All of my first three books earned me money way beyond the advances and I still got dropped because of the publisher's restructuring and resulting change in business plan and direction. Many other authors were dropped for the same reason and in addition to that, over one hundred other authors who were under contract had their books dropped and were asked for their advances back because they failed to meet their deadlines (most of these were way, WAY past their deadlines). But no one was dropped because they didn't market. And many of those authors who were dropped are still being published today with other publishers, some under their real names and some (like me)under pseudonyms.

Beth

Stacia Kane
07-12-2010, 02:58 AM
I thought I'd been pretty clear in my explanation. :)

This was a major publisher. The author was told she had to do marketing for her book. She did none, zero. The author acknowledges this. Her sequel to the first book was dropped. Her agent told he she would never publish another novel again, because she did not do as instructed to earn her advance money back.


You were quite clear. Our point was that we believe your friend did not tell the whole story, because in our combined experience this is not standard in publishing. There's also a few of us who believe that your friend's agent was not doing everything he or she could have done.

There's no need to get snippy with us or imply that we aren't clever enough to understand what you're saying. You asked for our opinions, and we gave them. It's not our responsibility to make sure those opinions please you.

Christine N.
07-12-2010, 04:02 AM
Yeah, I don't buy the 'you'll never publish anything every again' line either. The rest I can see. If you do nothing, and I mean nothing, your agent and publisher WILL call you on it, at least in my experience in the YA world. But that includes Facebook, Website, Promotional contests, etc...


Like I said before, the current advice being given is set aside some of your advance to use for promotion. You will need it.

CheshireCat
07-12-2010, 05:23 AM
My friend wrote a YA book, was published by a major publishing house, given a nice advance, and was working on a sequel. She did not market her book at all as she was supposed to do, sales were low, thus she did not earn back her advance. The publisher dropped her. Her agent told her she would be unable to publish further novels. My writer friend takes full responsibility for her lack of marketing.

However, shouldn't a writer be given a second chance?

If this is exactly what happened, your friend needs a new agent. That's the first point. The second point is that publishers don't drop authors for not earning-out. What they MAY have done is drop her because the sales for the first book were so far off expectations that they didn't see a future for this author with their company.

But even if an editor told the agent that, she NEVER should have told the author she'd never publish anything again -- apparently based on this publisher's reaction. That's just stupid.


Thank you Scarlet Peaches and Artemis,

I strive for professionalism in all my work endeavors, including my paid job and my creative writing. I feel that we must always guard our professional reputation(s) by doing everything we know we are supposed to do and by presenting the best product possible, as well doing exactly what we are asked to do by the one who pays us.

I think you are right, that it's all about how much agents/editors talk to each other. Advances are a big deal, I agree- if you are told you must earn your advance back in sales, that's fair enough. But, what if you market your butt off and don't make it all back? Does that constitute termination from publication again? Or,would that writer be given a second chance?

What others have said. No amount of promotion by an author -- unless that author is a celebrity or a marketing genius -- is going to affect the sales of a book except on a very low level. An individual author just doesn't have the national contacts of a publisher, let alone the marketing budget.

Authors are dropped for lots of reasons, and those do include poor sales -- but no rational publisher expects author promotion to have much of an effect on sales. Even now, even with the Internet, it's a rare, rare, rare author who can promote their work to the point of actually impacting sales nationally. Rare.

Did I say rare?

Publishers are asking authors to self-promote now because they know most authors have access to the Internet and can do some basic promotion, not because they believe that promotion will seriously affect sales. They are also asking authors to self-promote because it saves them the effort.

Which pisses me off no end -- and I've been in this business more than twenty-five years.

An author's job is to write the frickin' book -- the product the publisher wants to sell. It's the publisher's job to sell the product. And every time an author agrees to take on some of that burden, he or she makes it harder for the rest of us to call bullshit.

I'm not a marketing genius. I'm not a promotion genius. I write books. That's my talent, what I'm being paid to do.

As for the rest, I have a website, I have a Facebook page, and I send out a newsletter whenever I get around to writing one. Someone else maintains the Facebook page for me, and I have a webperson who updates the site regularly.

I answer my own reader email.

And if my publisher sets up something, I'll generally go along -- though I have said no to a few "promotional opportunities" because I knew damned well my effort would help out another party more than myself. So, no thank you.

My publisher didn't cut me loose. And my books are selling nicely with little or no help from me. Always have.


I don't know, but this sounds kinda fishy to me. There is very little promotion an author can do that will have a substantial effect on a novel's sales, and the major publishers know this. It's the publisher's job to do the marketing and promotion; it's the author's job to write more books. Many authors can't do any promotion at all for a variety of reasons, and that doesn't stop them getting deals. One example that leaps to mind is John Twelve Hawks. He was known to be a recluse before anyone contracted his books, and that didn't stop the books from A) getting published and B) becoming bestsellers.

No major publisher will refuse to contract a great book just because the author didn't set up a website or whatever. Sure, they might decide that the author needs a pseudonym, but, really, an author never being published again because they didn't do a few things that might've sold a couple hundred more books at most? (A couple hundred is small beans when a major publisher is looking to sell tens of thousands, and a couple hundred extra sales from an author's promotion efforts is probably the most that can be expected.) I can't help wondering if there's more to this story than meets the eye.

QFT.

Susan Littlefield
07-12-2010, 05:58 AM
There's no need to get snippy with us or imply that we aren't clever enough to understand what you're saying. You asked for our opinions, and we gave them. It's not our responsibility to make sure those opinions please you.

Stacia, I am sorry you chose to perceive the above.:) I am not looking for certain answers, nor being snippy or implying one is not clever enough to understand what I'm saying. I am just trying to understand advances, promotion, marketing, etc.

If you will read my latter replies, I did say that there is possibly more to the story, i.e. possibly an agent who was not up front with my friend.

Susan Littlefield
07-12-2010, 06:04 AM
If this is exactly what happened, your friend needs a new agent. That's the first point. The second point is that publishers don't drop authors for not earning-out. What they MAY have done is drop her because the sales for the first book were so far off expectations that they didn't see a future for this author with their company.

But even if an editor told the agent that, she NEVER should have told the author she'd never publish anything again -- apparently based on this publisher's reaction. That's just stupid.



What others have said. No amount of promotion by an author -- unless that author is a celebrity or a marketing genius -- is going to affect the sales of a book except on a very low level. An individual author just doesn't have the national contacts of a publisher, let alone the marketing budget.

Authors are dropped for lots of reasons, and those do include poor sales -- but no rational publisher expects author promotion to have much of an effect on sales. Even now, even with the Internet, it's a rare, rare, rare author who can promote their work to the point of actually impacting sales nationally. Rare.

Did I say rare?

Publishers are asking authors to self-promote now because they know most authors have access to the Internet and can do some basic promotion, not because they believe that promotion will seriously affect sales. They are also asking authors to self-promote because it saves them the effort.

Which pisses me off no end -- and I've been in this business more than twenty-five years.

An author's job is to write the frickin' book -- the product the publisher wants to sell. It's the publisher's job to sell the product. And every time an author agrees to take on some of that burden, he or she makes it harder for the rest of us to call bullshit.

I'm not a marketing genius. I'm not a promotion genius. I write books. That's my talent, what I'm being paid to do.

As for the rest, I have a website, I have a Facebook page, and I send out a newsletter whenever I get around to writing one. Someone else maintains the Facebook page for me, and I have a webperson who updates the site regularly.

I answer my own reader email.

And if my publisher sets up something, I'll generally go along -- though I have said no to a few "promotional opportunities" because I knew damned well my effort would help out another party more than myself. So, no thank you.

My publisher didn't cut me loose. And my books are selling nicely with little or no help from me. Always have.



QFT.

Thank you for your lengthy explanation, it's very helpful. I would like to have my novel ready to go out to agents by the fall, but I also want to make sure I learn all I can about my part (other than writing) in promotion, etc. first.

I think my friend gave up way too easily. I think she had a bad agent. She is a good writer. However, after this incident, she didn't write for well over a year. She is just starting to get back into writing, but is writing nonfiction.

djf881
07-12-2010, 06:49 AM
Christine, I believe you one hundred percent that there is something off about the whole thing. At first I thought I was clear, but then decided maybe not....:)

Which could be the case, because I just learned I may have used "marketing" incorrectly (see reply above).

In any event, that is basically what my friend's agent told her- she didn't do the work (market? promote?) to to earn back her advance, thus the publisher dropped her. The agent said she would not publish a novel again.

I take it marketing and promoting are not the same thing. :)

I don't think there's generally a lot an author can do to earn back an advance. The publisher should provide a publicist and get review copies out to the people who need to get review copies. In general, providing review copies to certain publications and websites gets a little bit of buzz going, and given the reasonable steps the publisher will take to generate some awareness, the publisher's pre-release P&L prediction should roughly anticipate the sales.

It's nice for the author to have a blog and a facebook page, but these resources probably don't move a huge number of books. It's nice for an author to go to local bookstores and shake hands with the managers and sign the stock. But that probably won't goose sales much. The bottom line is, the book is going into bookstores nationwide if it's published by a major house, and the author's individual promotional reach is limited.

It is the job of a publisher's sales staff to sell books to booksellers, and it is the job of booksellers to sell books to readers. An author's job is to write the books.

It's great to be a team player, and it's great to try to generate attention. But fiction doesn't succeed or fail based on the author's promotion effort; if it did, publishers would be less willing to publish new authors with no platforms. I think a lot of misinformation is spread by vanity presses who try to convince authors that getting published by a real publisher is a bad thing, and that selling books out of the trunk of your car is what being an author is about.

PEBKAC
07-12-2010, 07:20 AM
George Bernau, the author of Promises to Keep, got a 750K advance for his first novel. There was a bidding war that just kept driving it up. I remember it because I had just graduated from highschool and was set on fiction writing as a career.

Susan Littlefield
07-12-2010, 07:21 AM
I don't think there's generally a lot an author can do to earn back an advance. The publisher should provide a publicist and get review copies out to the people who need to get review copies. In general, providing review copies to certain publications and websites gets a little bit of buzz going, and given the reasonable steps the publisher will take to generate some awareness, the publisher's pre-release P&L prediction should roughly anticipate the sales.

It's nice for the author to have a blog and a facebook page, but these resources probably don't move a huge number of books. It's nice for an author to go to local bookstores and shake hands with the managers and sign the stock. But that probably won't goose sales much. The bottom line is, the book is going into bookstores nationwide if it's published by a major house, and the author's individual promotional reach is limited.

It is the job of a publisher's sales staff to sell books to booksellers, and it is the job of booksellers to sell books to readers. An author's job is to write the books.

It's great to be a team player, and it's great to try to generate attention. But fiction doesn't succeed or fail based on the author's promotion effort; if it did, publishers would be less willing to publish new authors with no platforms. I think a lot of misinformation is spread by vanity presses who try to convince authors that getting published by a real publisher is a bad thing, and that selling books out of the trunk of your car is what being an author is about.

DJ, thank you. That makes a lot of sense.

Libbie
07-12-2010, 07:31 AM
I would be thrilled if I got a $2500 advance!! I am a starting writer. Why should I ask for more? If I get more, wonderful, but if I get $2500, I will be jumping up and down!

Is your time and creative energy worth more than that to you?

Mine is to me. $2500 doesn't go far in Seattle.

Terie
07-12-2010, 09:36 AM
To clarify one of SusanL's questions:

Marketing is getting the book into shops. Promotion is gettting attention for the book.

An author might be able to get their book stocked in a couple of local shops, but authors don't have the means to get books on shelves nationwide. Marketing (publishing the catalog, getting the sales force out there, and so on) is the publisher's job.

An author can set up a website, Facebook page, newsletter, and so on, but those don't sell very many books, and mostly to people (family, friends, and acquaintances) who would probably have bought the book anyway. This is why the major publishers don't expect author promotion to sell many copies. This is also why the average number of self-pubbed books (where the author is 100% responsible for both marketing and promotion) sell on average 75 books. I'd imagine that that number (75) is probably also the average number of commercially published books sold solely from a first-time author's promotional efforts. Which is precisely why we're saying that a major publisher wouldn't drop an author just because they didn't promote -- an author's efforts can't be the primary cause of low sales at the national level; it's just not possible.

And let's be clear: I'm talking about the major publishers here. Even the majors expect authors to take on some of the promotion these days, but they categorically DO NOT expect them to take it all on WITH the threat of dropping the author if they don't do it.

As I and others have said: few authors have expertise in promotion, and many don't have the ability. I've given the examples of being extremely reclusive and dead, and to that I'll add another, which happens to be my own: I live abroad from the country in which my books were published. I have a website, I have a MySpace and a Facebook page, I do a newsletter when there's news. I can't do school visits; I can't do book signings or stock signings; I can't do anything that requires a physical presence. There are writers who are physically disabled or ill, have any number of mental issues that prevent them from being able to do things like signings, live in other countries, are dead. None of these things (except the last!) stop them from writing great books that publishers want to publish, and none of them (including the last!) will stop a publisher from publishing a book they think is terrific.

Finally, publishers know that most authors don't have the promotion skills, expertise, and access that the publishers themselves have, so why on the goddess's green earth would they risk their investment of tens of thousands of dollars on the efforts of a single individual whose expertise is writing books, not doing promotion? That would be pretty much insane.

Susan Littlefield
07-12-2010, 09:50 AM
To clarify one of SusanL's questions:

Marketing is getting the book into shops. Promotion is gettting attention for the book.

An author might be able to get their book stocked in a couple of local shops, but authors don't have the means to get books on shelves nationwide. Marketing (publishing the catalog, getting the sales force out there, and so on) is the publisher's job.

An author can set up a website, Facebook page, newsletter, and so on, but those don't sell very many books, and mostly to people (family, friends, and acquaintances) who would probably have bought the book anyway. This is why the major publishers don't expect author promotion to sell many copies. This is also why the average number of self-pubbed books (where the author is 100% responsible for both marketing and promotion) sell on average 75 books. I'd imagine that that number (75) is probably also the average number of commercially published books sold solely from a first-time author's promotional efforts. Which is precisely why we're saying that a major publisher wouldn't drop an author just because they didn't promote -- an author's efforts can't be the primary cause of low sales at the national level; it's just not possible.

And let's be clear: I'm talking about the major publishers here. Even the majors expect authors to take on some of the promotion these days, but they categorically DO NOT expect them to take it all on WITH the threat of dropping the author if they don't do it.

As I and others have said: few authors have expertise in promotion, and many don't have the ability. I've given the examples of being extremely reclusive and dead, and to that I'll add another, which happens to be my own: I live abroad from the country in which my books were published. I have a website, I have a MySpace and a Facebook page, I do a newsletter when there's news. I can't do school visits; I can't do book signings or stock signings; I can't do anything that requires a physical presence. There are writers who are physically disabled or ill, have any number of mental issues that prevent them from being able to do things like signings, live in other countries, are dead. None of these things (except the last!) stop them from writing great books that publishers want to publish, and none of them (including the last!) will stop a publisher from publishing a book they think is terrific.

Finally, publishers know that most authors don't have the promotion skills, expertise, and access that the publishers themselves have, so why on the goddess's green earth would they risk their investment of tens of thousands of dollars on the efforts of a single individual who's expertise is writing books, not doing promotion? That would be pretty much insane.

Terie, thank you so much!

aruna
07-12-2010, 10:27 AM
An author's job is to write the frickin' book -- the product the publisher wants to sell. It's the publisher's job to sell the product. And every time an author agrees to take on some of that burden, he or she makes it harder for the rest of us to call bullshit.

I'm not a marketing genius. I'm not a promotion genius. I write books. That's my talent, what I'm being paid to do.

.

I'm in the same position. I'm not a public kind of person. I don't enjoy the limelight; I don't enjoy speaking at all. I'm a writer. I find it so sad that more and more authors are expected to be entertainers; that their TV presence and even their looks, age etc seems to be taken into account.





As I and others have said: few authors have expertise in promotion, and many don't have the ability. I've given the examples of being extremely reclusive and dead, and to that I'll add another, which happens to be my own: I live abroad from the country in which my books were published. I have a website, I have a MySpace and a Facebook page, I do a newsletter when there's news. I can't do school visits; I can't do book signings or stock signings; I can't do anything that requires a physical presence.

Exactly my position. When my first book was published in Britain I lived in Germany. The publisher brought me over to London for a week of promotion. They set up radio, print and TV interviews and a couple of readings and book signings; I went along with everything they set up but I was never ever asked to be proactive on my own.

My agent told me what books I needed to write in order to be succesful. She told me what was saleable in the market at the time. She would never have said "you'll never get published again." That is just ridiculous; no agent worht his or her salt would make such an idiotic prognosis.

Christine N.
07-12-2010, 04:02 PM
A YA agent's recent take on the whole thing: http://literaticat.blogspot.com/2010/07/great-big-all-you-can-stand-super-self.html

Yes, the #1 thing is write the next book.

I agree with Stacia that no publisher will drop you for not earning out. BUT they might if you have poor sales, exactly. I can't see them dropping you for no promotion, but, as they say, it's the era of proactive authors. They want you out there, having a presence and being accessible to readers. That WILL sell books.

Terie
07-12-2010, 04:25 PM
Oh! I just thought of something. We haven't really listed out promotion tasks, which make it clear just how much an author can do as compared to the publisher. Here are the ones I can think of. I'm sure other folks will chime in with things I've missed.


Send out ARCs to the major and minor reviewers (publisher)
Send out press releases (publisher)
Produce promo materials for the publisher's representatives to give out at the fairs such as Book Expo and so on (publisher)
Create a website (author and occasionally publisher)
Create social networking pages (author and occasionally publisher)
Create giveaways such as bookmarks and postcards (publisher and author)
Send spam (authors--and very much NOT a recommended tactic!)


As you can see, the things that are most effective at creating a 'buzz' about your book are things the author mostly can't do. If your publisher doesn't send ARCs to the major reviewers, you can't do that (most of the majors don't review books that weren't sent by the publisher). If your publisher doesn't include posters of your book at their Book Expo booth, you can't do that. You can send out press releases, but since most newspapers get zillions of these from self-pubbed authors every year, they bin most author-generated PRs unread.

What else?

aruna
07-12-2010, 04:29 PM
Organise readings and bookshop appearances, signings etc

defyalllogic
07-12-2010, 05:41 PM
Question:
Are E-publishers, agented sales, and print publishers all generally the same in terms of advances (how much and what's expected to happen once you get it (promotion, not pay it back if you don't earn out, etc,))?

Christine N.
07-12-2010, 05:57 PM
I would add:

Contact groups that might be interested in your book. This is probably more of a YA thing, because there are TONS of YA centric book websites, like ReaderGirls and YA Books Central. But publishers aren't going to contact every little site out there. If you know about them, you should contact them and tell them about you and your book. Offer to do interviews or a guest blog.

Stuff like that really does work. So does Social Networking, but I'd say Facebook and Twitter way more than Myspace. I saw a great upswing in website traffic and a drop in my Amazon numbers (the good way) when I first got onto Facebook and Twitter. Of course, once all those people have bought your book, you need to have more books coming to keep them interested :)

Irysangel
07-12-2010, 06:34 PM
I do wonder if it was one of those things where Susan's friend's book sold, 20k advance. Publisher is excited! The book is shopped to sales and no retailers buy in. The editor says "Uh oh, you need to market this title HARD or we're in trouble."

Author hears: "You need to market this book hard or else!"

Author doesn't market. There's no orders for the book. Sell through is horrendous.

Editor says: We can't publish any more of her books. The last one didn't earn out in the slightest and no one would carry it.

Agent says: Your sales record is tanked. You're never going to work under this name again because no one will take you on.

Author hears: You'll never work in this town again!

I could totally see THAT scenario happening, but it requires a lot of interpretation. Any other way? My skeptical eyebrow goes up. ;)

eqb
07-12-2010, 07:26 PM
Oh! I just thought of something. We haven't really listed out promotion tasks, which make it clear just how much an author can do as compared to the publisher. Here are the ones I can think of. I'm sure other folks will chime in with things I've missed.


If the publisher really wants to push your book, they offer discounts to book chains in return for good placement of the book in the store--on the tables at the front of the store, in end caps, in the window, etc. The book chain often has to buy X copies per location as well.

shaldna
07-12-2010, 07:48 PM
I thought I'd been pretty clear in my explanation. :)

This was a major publisher. The author was told she had to do marketing for her book. She did none, zero. The author acknowledges this. Her sequel to the first book was dropped. Her agent told he she would never publish another novel again, because she did not do as instructed to earn her advance money back.


and if she agreed to that when she made the deal with the publisher and then failed to follow through, she is guilty of not fulfilling the terms of her contract and the publisher was well within their rights to drop her.

The issue here is that none of us have all the details, and we don't know what was said or done behind closed doors, but personally, based on what you say, your friend didn't fulfill their contract, the book lost a lot of money and either her writing or her lack of professionalism, commitment or basic interest in her own work and career from the offset then there's no reason to believe she'll improve in the next instance.

Jamesaritchie
07-12-2010, 08:15 PM
My friend wrote a YA book, was published by a major publishing house, given a nice advance, and was working on a sequel. She did not market her book at all as she was supposed to do, sales were low, thus she did not earn back her advance. The publisher dropped her. Her agent told her she would be unable to publish further novels. My writer friend takes full responsibility for her lack of marketing.

However, shouldn't a writer be given a second chance?

I've seen only two reasons why a publisher won't give a writer a second chance. 1. The writer's second proposal/query/submission is just not very good, and tehpublisher knows it won't sell. 2. The writer is a real prima donna the publisher just doesn't want to work with.

I'm not sayoing a writer shouldn't markety his book, but I'ce seen no evidence that maketing by the wirter makes makes much of a difference. I know too many writers who sell very, very well with no marketing of their own, and far, far too many writers who spend 98% of their time and thousands of dollars marketing, but who still can't earn out even modest advances.

Publishers do a lot of marketing, and this, plus good reviews, gets any book out there. If it fails to sell, it's because readers simply didn't like it enough to recommend it to friends. Word of mouth sells novels, not marketing by the writer.

But an agent who tells a writer she won't be able to sell any more novels is not a good agent, and certyainly not very knowledgeable. If this were true, an awful lot of today's bestselling writers would have been forced to stop writing years ago.

If your friend keeps writing novels, this publisher or another, absolutely will give her a second chance, if she writes a novel the publisher believes is good enough to sell.

Stacia Kane
07-12-2010, 10:02 PM
Oh! I just thought of something. We haven't really listed out promotion tasks, which make it clear just how much an author can do as compared to the publisher. Here are the ones I can think of. I'm sure other folks will chime in with things I've missed.


Send out ARCs to the major and minor reviewers (publisher)
Send out press releases (publisher)
Produce promo materials for the publisher's representatives to give out at the fairs such as Book Expo and so on (publisher)
Create a website (author and occasionally publisher)
Create social networking pages (author and occasionally publisher)
Create giveaways such as bookmarks and postcards (publisher and author)
Send spam (authors--and very much NOT a recommended tactic!)


As you can see, the things that are most effective at creating a 'buzz' about your book are things the author mostly can't do. If your publisher doesn't send ARCs to the major reviewers, you can't do that (most of the majors don't review books that weren't sent by the publisher). If your publisher doesn't include posters of your book at their Book Expo booth, you can't do that. You can send out press releases, but since most newspapers get zillions of these from self-pubbed authors every year, they bin most author-generated PRs unread.

What else?


Don't forget, as eqb said, bookstore placement and discounts. And signings like Aruna said, and everyone else's suggestions.

In addition, though book ads don't generally make a lot of difference, that's something else publishers can do that is incredibly difficult for authors.

My Downside books are advertised in SFX magazine in the UK. When Personal Demons was first published, Juno placed an ad for it in the Romantic Times magazine.

My Downside books have tower placement in many bookstores; that's all publisher, not something authors can do at all. They're part of Waterstones' 3-for-2 offer in the UK as well; authors can't set that up.

All of the bookstore placement and co-op is down to publishers, and all of it makes a bigger difference--simply by putting the books right in front of bookstore buyers--than anything an author can do. Heck, I used to buy those 3-for-2 books all the time at Waterstones; if I saw one I wanted, I'd take a chance on two others just because one of them was free. (I also made a point of scouring the shelves for new authors, because it's something important to me, but if I was buying books that day the odds were I'd leave the store with at least four of them, and one of them would have been free.)

If I see a book online that looks interesting (by which I mean great reviews or recommendations from others) I always check it out, and of course buy books by people I know, but IMO bookstore placement makes a much, much bigger difference to the average book/average bookstore buyer, and that kind of co-op is Publisher Only.

aruna
07-12-2010, 10:34 PM
When my first book came out my publisher placed a few ads in the London Underground, and also London UNderground tickets had the ad on the back of them. That was nice, while it lasted!

defyalllogic
07-12-2010, 11:19 PM
Question:
Are E-publishers, agented sales, and print publishers all generally the same in terms of advances (how much and what's expected to happen once you get it (promotion, not pay it back if you don't earn out, etc,))?

to answer (part of) my own question (in case anyone was wondering as well)

According to the SFWA (http://www.sfwa.org/for-authors/writer-beware/electronic/):

Less marketing and promotion. Professional epublishers do market and promote their titles–advertising, issuing press releases, sending out review copies, attending conventions and book fairs, purchasing ads in genre magazines. But like all independent publishers, they have limited budgets for publicity. An epublished author must bear much of the responsibility for marketing and promotion.

No advances. Like small print presses, the majority of epublishers don’t pay author advances. Many writers and writers’ groups feel that payment of an advance is a minimum professional standard, since it gives the publisher a financial stake in the success of the book, and therefore a greater incentive to move it into the hands of readers. Higher royalties, which are often presented as a way of making up for the lack of advances, don’t mean much if there are few sales.

Stacia Kane
07-13-2010, 01:13 AM
Tobias Buckell's survey shows that agented advances are generally almost double unagented ones.

CheshireCat
07-13-2010, 03:40 AM
Question:
Are E-publishers, agented sales, and print publishers all generally the same in terms of advances (how much and what's expected to happen once you get it (promotion, not pay it back if you don't earn out, etc,))?


No.

Every deal, no matter who it's with, is an individual one. E-publishers often pay little or only a nominal advance, but perhaps a higher royalty; the differences between small presses and the Big Guys in NY can be tens of thousands in terms of advances; most publishers these days are asking authors to do some self-promotion, but for many that simply involves having a professionally-designed website and getting out there as much as possible on the social network sites.

And if anybody sees a clause in a contract about repaying any part of advance monies if the book or books don't earn-out, strike it from the damned contract.

The author does not repay an advance because it fails to earn-out.

Eddyz Aquila
07-13-2010, 04:08 AM
And if anybody sees a clause in a contract about repaying any part of advance monies if the book or books don't earn-out, strike it from the damned contract.


What if the publisher refuses to strike it out? Just drop the deal?

Kensington
07-13-2010, 05:28 AM
I didn't read the whole thread so this may have already been addressed. But it seems to me that this couldn't be legal or even workable. What if the author had already spent the advance? And isn't that all you'd have to say, anyway? Sorry, it's gone.

I also wonder, and this is off topic, if anyone knows what happened to Writers Net? I haven't been able to get on the site for ages due to a malware warning.

ChaosTitan
07-13-2010, 05:36 AM
What if the publisher refuses to strike it out? Just drop the deal?

Unless you want to be stuck in a bad contract that requires you to pay back the advance because of poor sales, then yes. Don't sign the contract. Drop the deal.


I didn't read the whole thread so this may have already been addressed. But it seems to me that this couldn't be legal or even workable. What if the author had already spent the advance? And isn't that all you'd have to say, anyway? Sorry, it's gone.

If the clause is in an executed contract, signed by both parties, certainly it's legal. I entered into an agreement in which I promised X. If I can't deliver on X, then I am in breach of contract. It doesn't matter if I spent the advance money or not. If I'm legally obligated to return the money, I have to find a way to return it to the publisher, who would be well within their rights to sue me for it. It doesn't matter if X is not selling enough copies, or if X is not writing and turning in a suitable second contracted book. It's a legal contract.

Best way to avoid the problem altogether? Don't sign a contract that requires a repayment of advance because of poor sales. Turning in a book that fulfills my obligations is something I can control; poor sales figures is not.

Medievalist
07-13-2010, 05:50 AM
I didn't read the whole thread so this may have already been addressed. But it seems to me that this couldn't be legal or even workable. What if the author had already spent the advance? And isn't that all you'd have to say, anyway? Sorry, it's gone.

The nature of contracts is this:

I promise to do this in exchange for that.

If I fail to do this, then I am not entitled to that.

Bubastes
07-13-2010, 05:53 AM
I didn't read the whole thread so this may have already been addressed. But it seems to me that this couldn't be legal or even workable. What if the author had already spent the advance? And isn't that all you'd have to say, anyway? Sorry, it's gone.


Nope. As ChaosTitan noted, you'd be in breach of contract and the publisher is entitled to sue you. The law will not rescue you simply because you got yourself into a bad deal.

ETA: There are plenty of legal ways for someone to get money owed him/her/it. They may not be pretty, but they're perfectly legal.

Kensington
07-13-2010, 06:12 AM
It's not much of a deal is it? They give the author the advance and he can't spend it until he's sure his book sells. They might as well not bother. Lyrics of "You Indian giver," keep coming to mind. :-)

ChaosTitan
07-13-2010, 06:15 AM
It's not much of a deal is it? They give the author the advance and he can't spend it until he's sure his book sells. They might as well not bother. Lyrics of "You Indian giver," keep coming to mind. :-)

Hence the advice: don't sign it if you're required to return money based on bad sales. ;)

Medievalist
07-13-2010, 06:16 AM
It's not much of a deal is it? They give the author the advance and he can't spend it until he's sure his book sells.

Yes, you can spend it, but you have to finish the book on time per the contract, as described in the contract.

Has nothing to do with "sells."

And honestly, signing a contract that makes the writer responsible for sales . . . . who would DO that?

Christine N.
07-13-2010, 06:21 AM
Many advances aren't even paid all at once anymore, in order to avoid things like not turning in the manuscript on time. I've heard from several authors they got 1/3 on signing, 1/3 when manuscript was turned in, and 1/3 when final proofs were done, or something similar. I've also seen them go out in 1/2's.

Kensington
07-13-2010, 07:48 AM
And honestly, signing a contract that makes the writer responsible for sales . . . . who would DO that?

A writer who is desperate to get published, I imagine.

Medievalist
07-13-2010, 08:20 AM
A writer who is desperate to get published, I imagine.

Here's the thing though--vanity etc. publishers don't pay advances.

A legitimate publisher is well aware that it's THEIR job to sell the book.

I've never seen or heard of anyone being asked to sign a contract like that--I certainly hope it hasn't happened to you.

Kensington
07-13-2010, 08:44 AM
I've never seen or heard of anyone being asked to sign a contract like that--I certainly hope it hasn't happened to you.


No, it hasn't. This is the first I've heard of such a thing.

Terie
07-13-2010, 08:45 AM
I didn't read the whole thread so this may have already been addressed. But it seems to me that this couldn't be legal or even workable. What if the author had already spent the advance? And isn't that all you'd have to say, anyway? Sorry, it's gone.

Here's my first piece of advice: go back and read the whole thread.

Here's my second piece of advice: go get a clue about contract law. You've previously demonstrated (repeatedly) that your understanding of contract law is substantially less than tenuous.

aruna
07-13-2010, 10:10 AM
Many advances aren't even paid all at once anymore, in order to avoid things like not turning in the manuscript on time. I've heard from several authors they got 1/3 on signing, 1/3 when manuscript was turned in, and 1/3 when final proofs were done, or something similar. I've also seen them go out in 1/2's.

My final third was "on Publication".

Terie
07-13-2010, 12:07 PM
No, it hasn't. This is the first I've heard of such a thing.

And if you'd taken the time to actually read the thread, you'd have seen that it's not actually done. Seriously, it helps to read a thread instead of jumping in at the end and asking the questions that people have already taken the time and effort to answer.

Christine N.
07-13-2010, 03:18 PM
Yes, thank you Aruna. I wanted to say 'on the book's release', but I wasn't sure if that was right.

It spreads that advance over a year or more, no matter how you cut it up. Which may benefit the author and agent, tax-wise, but makes the author that much more aware that they don't get their money until the work is done :)

defyalllogic
07-13-2010, 03:34 PM
I might be misunderstanding, so, for clarification: Is the advance paying the author for the current book or paying them to write a subsequent book?

aruna
07-13-2010, 03:40 PM
It's for the current book.

Terie
07-13-2010, 04:06 PM
I might be misunderstanding, so, for clarification: Is the advance paying the author for the current book or paying them to write a subsequent book?

Yes. :D

An advance is an amount of money paid against expected royalties. At its most basic level, it's for the current book. The publisher estimates how many copies of the book they expect to sell, determines how much money you'd earn in royalties on that number of books, and (sort of, kind of) pays you that much money in advance. If you book does better than expected, once you've 'earned out' -- that is, the number of copies sold for which you were paid in advance have now sold -- you'll start earning royalty checks. It's best to plan on never seeing any money beyond the advance. If you earn out and start getting royalties, that's icing on the cake, bay-bee.

For example, let's say (using simple rather than realistic numbers), your publisher estimates that they'll sell 10,000 copies of your books. Let's also say that you're getting 10% royalties on a cover price of $10; that means you get $1 per book. So they give you an advance (let's say) of $10,000.

If your book only sells 5,000 copies, that sux in all kinds of way, but on the issue of advances, you don't have to pay it back. (Well, not unless that was in your contract, and real publishers don't do that.)

If your book sells more than 10,000, once sales go over 10,000, you start earning royalties...that is $1 per book. Let's say that over time, you sell 15,000 copies. You'd have the initial advance of $10,000, then you'd earn another $5,000 over the years the book is in print.

This is an excessively simple example, but it gives you the general idea.

BUT....

Multi-book deals add a wrinkle.

Let's say you sell a trilogy, for which you've only written the first book. (And again, I'm going to use simple numbers here, not necessarily realistic ones; I'm not good at maths.) The publisher offers, say, a $90,000 advance on the trilogy, $30,000 each, broken into three segments: one segment on signing, one segment on delivery of the manuscript, and one segment on publication.

You get $30,000 on signing: $10,000 for each of the three books. To keep it simple, let's say they accept your first book's manuscript right away. That's another $10,000 you get. You've now received $40,000: 2/3 of book one's advance and 1/3 of book two's and book three's advance.

You turn in book two, you get another $10,000. Book one comes out, you get another $10,000. You've now been paid the full advance for book one. You turn in book three and book two comes out: $20,000. Finally book three comes out, and you get that last $10,000.

In this scenario, you got paid right at the beginning for future books as well as the current book.

There are other wrinkles as well, but this should give you a good general idea of how it works.

Eddyz Aquila
07-13-2010, 05:43 PM
Great post Terie. :)

So, bottom line - stop lurking on AW and get back to work if you want your fat advance! ;)

cwfgal
07-13-2010, 08:14 PM
As Terie said, it can vary depending on whether your contract is for one book or multiples. I've had two multiple book contracts and both paid some part of the advance for each book up front and in both cases I got the entire advance for the first book upon signing. Subsequent payments for books that followed were paid on completion and acceptance. I know there are plenty of contracts that split the advance payment into thirds with a third up front, a third on acceptance, and a third on publication but mine have both been split into two only.

Beth

shaldna
07-13-2010, 11:42 PM
I would be thrilled if I got a $2500 advance!! I am a starting writer. Why should I ask for more? If I get more, wonderful, but if I get $2500, I will be jumping up and down!


I guess it depends what your time is worth.

Lets say I write 500 words and hour, so that's 160 hours to write a novel, lets add another 40 for edits and rewrite - that's 200 hours - or five weeks of my time to just produce the novel. That's not inlcuding time spent staring at the screen or crying under my desk. It's also not including the time it takes to p[roduce queries and actually sell the novel. So lets add another 100 hours onto that (and that's optimisitc) plus say another 20 doing promo etc. Maybe another 10 in talks with solicitors, agents, publishers etc.

That's 330 hours of my time - minimum.

$2,500 is about £1800sterling, or 2000euro. so that's around £5 an hour for my time.

I couldn't live off that.

Not to mention that out of that money I would ahve to pay NI contributions, pensions, repay student loans, tax, agents fees.

So, out of that £1800 I would have gotten, it works out at around £1000 in actual money, which really equates to about £3 an hour. That's half of minimum wage.

CheshireCat
07-14-2010, 03:12 AM
What if the publisher refuses to strike it out? Just drop the deal?

Already answered, but yes. A good agent should be able to get a clause like that out of a contract, because it is NOT standard industry practice. If the publisher won't bend, you're better off taking your toys and going elsewhere.


I didn't read the whole thread so this may have already been addressed. But it seems to me that this couldn't be legal or even workable. What if the author had already spent the advance? And isn't that all you'd have to say, anyway? Sorry, it's gone.

I also wonder, and this is off topic, if anyone knows what happened to Writers Net? I haven't been able to get on the site for ages due to a malware warning.

First bit already answered by others.

As to Writers Net, I have no idea. Haven't been able to call up that site in ages.


It's not much of a deal is it? They give the author the advance and he can't spend it until he's sure his book sells. They might as well not bother. Lyrics of "You Indian giver," keep coming to mind. :-)

Again, this is not standard industry practice. An advance is an advance against royalties; the publisher has calculated how much they expect to earn when they publish the book, and if their calculations are off, they take the loss (though I say it's arguable just where a "loss" for a publisher kicks in).


Many advances aren't even paid all at once anymore, in order to avoid things like not turning in the manuscript on time. I've heard from several authors they got 1/3 on signing, 1/3 when manuscript was turned in, and 1/3 when final proofs were done, or something similar. I've also seen them go out in 1/2's.

This actually has been industry practice for quite a long time. Publisher do their best to break up "advance" payments, naturally, because the longer they can hold on to the money the better for them.

Typically, in my experience, for a HC/MM deal, the author would get 1/4 on signing the contract, 1/4 on delivery and acceptance of the manuscript, 1/4 on hardcover publication, and 1/4 on mass market publication.

Bear in mind, a good agent will be sure to get it in the contract that if the pub changes its mind and decides not to publish in hardcover or mass market, the author still gets that money. And a good agent will also do his/her best to get the author the bulk of the money in advance of publication, so the on-pub payments could be a smaller percentage.

In other words, a good agent can make all the difference in when and how you're paid as well as how much.

eqb
07-14-2010, 08:13 PM
In other words, a good agent can make all the difference in when and how you're paid as well as how much.

QFT.

For one publisher, I have a HC/MMP deal, but the payout is by thirds, with the last third paid on publication of the HC. For the second one, also HC/MMP, the payment is half on signing and half on D&A.

Jamesaritchie
07-14-2010, 08:35 PM
Many advances aren't even paid all at once anymore, in order to avoid things like not turning in the manuscript on time. I've heard from several authors they got 1/3 on signing, 1/3 when manuscript was turned in, and 1/3 when final proofs were done, or something similar. I've also seen them go out in 1/2's.

This has been the case for as long as I've been a writer, which is a long, long time. It's usually one third on signing, one third on delivery of an acceptable manuscript, and one third on publication, but it can vary.

I've been paid two thirds on delivery, and one third on publication, simply because I wrote the book faster than the contract could be ready and in hand, so signing and delivery took place at the same time.

Really huge advances may be broken into a dozen or more parts. The longest stretch I've seen was eighteen parts, paid monthly, for a multi-million dollars advance.

Shady Lane
07-15-2010, 12:05 AM
My advances have always been half on signing, half on delivery.

defyalllogic
07-15-2010, 12:48 AM
My advances have always been half on signing, half on delivery.

that's your delivery or theirs? (of what, to whom)

eqb
07-15-2010, 01:09 AM
that's your delivery or theirs? (of what, to whom)

Delivery means the author delivers the revised manuscript to the publisher. It's often called delivery & acceptance (or d&a) because the check isn't cut until the publisher reads and accepts the new version.

Shady: I wonder if the half/half is more customary with YA publishers. Do you know?

James D. Macdonald
07-15-2010, 02:12 AM
However, shouldn't a writer be given a second chance?

That's why they invented pseudonyms.

ChaosTitan
07-15-2010, 02:34 AM
Shady: I wonder if the half/half is more customary with YA publishers. Do you know?

I know I'm not Shady, but..... ;)

My first contract with Bantam was 1/2 on signing and half on D&A. Random House has since changed their contracts to a 4-part payment schedule, but my agent negotiated for it to be paid in the more traditional thirds.

My contract with Simon & Schuster also pays in thirds.

eqb
07-15-2010, 02:51 AM
I know I'm not Shady, but..... ;)

My first contract with Bantam was 1/2 on signing and half on D&A. Random House has since changed their contracts to a 4-part payment schedule, but my agent negotiated for it to be paid in the more traditional thirds.

My contract with Simon & Schuster also pays in thirds.

I was wondering because my YA from Viking pays in halves, but both Tor contracts (for adult fantasy) are in thirds. Idle curiosity, nothing more. :)

Susan Littlefield
07-15-2010, 06:49 AM
That's why they invented pseudonyms.

Good point, James. I think I will tell my friend that.

Shady Lane
07-15-2010, 08:47 AM
I know I'm not Shady, but..... ;)

My first contract with Bantam was 1/2 on signing and half on D&A. Random House has since changed their contracts to a 4-part payment schedule, but my agent negotiated for it to be paid in the more traditional thirds.

My contract with Simon & Schuster also pays in thirds.

I'm S&S and mine come in halves. It probably depends on the imprint and the size of the advance. Bigger ones are typically paid in more segments.

cwfgal
07-15-2010, 08:21 PM
My experience with two different publishers (HarperCollins and Kensington) covering a span of 15 years is payment in halves. None of my books are YA. Three are thrillers, three are a mystery series.

Beth

willietheshakes
07-15-2010, 08:46 PM
With Random House Canada, it was a two-book deal for me, and IIRC the advance was split into six: signing, d&a (book 1), outline (book 2), publication (book 1), d&a (book 2) and publication (book 2).

Lora_Beck
07-15-2010, 08:59 PM
Oh, spiffy. Somebody else in that thread is spouting the "Stephen King self-pubbed his early stuff and sold it from the trunk of his car!" bullsh!t...

The six-figure advances are increasingly rare these days.
Especially for fiction writers.

Jamesaritchie
07-15-2010, 09:01 PM
Good point, James. I think I will tell my friend that.

The sequel, too, may have been part of your friend's problem. When a first book tanks, the last thing on earth a publisher wants to look at is a sequel. The next book needs to be something new, something different, something the publisher can get behind without even thinking about the book that tanked.

Susan Littlefield
07-16-2010, 06:51 AM
The sequel, too, may have been part of your friend's problem. When a first book tanks, the last thing on earth a publisher wants to look at is a sequel. The next book needs to be something new, something different, something the publisher can get behind without even thinking about the book that tanked.

That's a difference perspective than what I've been getting. That makes a lot of sense.

victoriastrauss
07-21-2010, 07:58 PM
That's why they invented pseudonyms.

A pseudonym can fool readers and booksellers, but publishers always know that you are you, and can always check your Neilson numbers...so escaping a poor sales record is not as easy as just changing your name.

Even so, I think the agent was overstating things in saying she could NEVER publish another book. She could try switching to a new market or a new genre. If she could come up with a breakout manuscript, and let publishers know she'd be willing to write under a different name, they might be willing to consider re-launching her. Even just letting some time pass--a year or two--might change the picture.

These strategies depend, however, on having an agent who's willing to go to bat for you. Doesn't sound like her agent is--so maybe she should consider looking for a new agent. It'd be a good idea to have a finished book in hand before doing that, though.

- Victoria

CheshireCat
07-25-2010, 03:36 AM
It's also worth noting that for most publishers, it's the most recent sales figures they look at. So if you have a book that tanked two years ago, it isn't as damaging right now as a book that tanked in April.

The average sales "history" the pubs I've worked with looked at was about 18 months. So, figuring that if they buy something from you now it won't be published for another year, that's two-and-a-half years since the book that tanked.

Unless the book was a real stinker, readers aren't as likely to remember, and most accounts take their cue from the publisher; if there's support for the book and author, underwhelming previous sales figures don't matter as much.

Of course, it's the publisher support that matters most. A complete repackage of the author, new look, great title, great cover -- those can offset previous low numbers as effectively as a new pen name, if not more so.

Medievalist
04-04-2014, 05:37 AM
[Publishing Myth] Returning an Advance if Book Doesn't Sell (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=248866)