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Fairies wear bOOts:)
09-18-2016, 02:48 AM
Hi. So I thought I would put this in the agents section because I thought most agents would possibly know this, if it was well known... So my question is, what is the biggest advance a book has ever gone for, and what was the book, as well as the agent, and in addition to that anything about the story of how it got published. From my understanding it does not usually pass seven figures (a million dollars), and I feel like if it did there would be some reason as to why the editors/publishers thought it was so marketable.

THE QUESTION: what is the biggest advance a book has ever gone for?

Cheers! (I did a basic search on this and could not find it anywhere so I'm guessing there might not be an concrete answer or it would be easier to find but I thought I would ask!)

ElaineA
09-18-2016, 03:19 AM
I can't answer the exact question (both because not an agent and because I only have public information) but I remembered Garth Risk Hallberg got a huge advance--$2 million for City on Fire. There's an article here in the Wall Street Journal (http://www.wsj.com/articles/betting-big-on-literary-newcomers-1447880214) about debut literary authors getting giant advances. Emma Cline got a $2 million advance for a 3-book deal beginning with The Girls, and several others have gone for $1 million.

Guerrien
09-18-2016, 03:20 AM
The biggest I can think of, off of the top of my head, is Twilight, which sold for $750,000, I'm pretty sure. Agent was Jodi Reamer of Writers House. That's for a debut author. Celebrity book deals will go for more, established authors with impressive track records--we're talking Stephen King, J. K. Rowling--will be able to negotiate higher advances. Most books sell for a lot less. Harry Potter only sold for ~3,000 if I remember right, and that's not a bad advance, that's pretty much average.

I've just remembered that The Passage by Justin Cronin had a lot of buzz around its release (that it had gone for a lot of money), and a quick Google has turned up an NYTimes article that suggests the publisher bought it (including its sequels) for $3.75 million. Don't know who his agent is, but Google probably will. I'm pretty sure The Passage wasn't his debut, though, I think he'd written some literary works previously.

I don't think there's necessarily any rhyme nor reason re: advances, to be honest. Sometimes the right book just comes along at the right time for editors and they're willing to spend more money on it.

(Also, yes, I'm not an agent either.)

Marlys
09-18-2016, 03:29 AM
Bill Clinton got $15 million for his memoirs, which may still be the record. In fiction, J.K. Rowling reportedly got $8 million for The Casual Vacancy. More big advances here (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/08/biggest-book-deals-lena-dunham_n_1948868.html?slideshow=true#gallery/255510/1).

Siri Kirpal
09-18-2016, 09:34 PM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

I believe that Sandra Day got a 10 figure advance, but that was for a series of some 10 or more romances. She was at a conference I attended and people were talking about it. I'm not sure of the exact amount.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Captcha
09-18-2016, 10:02 PM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

I believe that Sandra Day got a 10 figure advance, but that was for a series of some 10 or more romances. She was at a conference I attended and people were talking about it. I'm not sure of the exact amount.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Ten figures? Like...a billion dollars?!?

1 000 000 000

Old Hack
09-18-2016, 10:14 PM
Take most reports of huge advances with an equally huge pinch of salt.

The publisher isn't going to release that information; and a writer isn't likely to do so either unless they want to get something out of doing so, like publicity for their books. I've sometimes seen these articles for books I know about, and the advances have always been exaggerated.

Siri Kirpal
09-19-2016, 01:55 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Ten figures was what I remember hearing. But as Old Hack says, these numbers need to be taken with a grain of salt. And even if accurate, it wasn't for a single book, but a series. Not remembering how many books.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Matt T.
09-19-2016, 02:28 AM
Supposedly, Stephen King was bagging around $16 million per book during the '90s, as noted in this Wall Street Journal article (http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052970204644504576651540980143566). He apparently doesn't go for those kind of huge advances anymore though and now gets smaller advances and splits profits fairly evenly with the publisher.

Old Hack
09-19-2016, 09:50 AM
Different ways people inflate an advance for a news story:

* Forget to say it's for a series, not just one book
* Include potential foreign and subsidiary sales, which haven't been made yet
* Work out what the royalties will be if all the targets in the escalator clause are met, and add those to the advance
* Assume the same amount as the actual advance will be paid for each format of the book, in every territory, if and when those sales are made.
* Assume that as this author is even more famous than the advance paid to that other author, who you worked out must have been paid x, take x and double it. Or triple it if he's particularly good looking.
* Assume that as the film of the author's last book turned over several million, the author must earn most of that and therefore that's what this book is worth too
* Find out what profits the publishing group made last year, and assume they're going to pay all of that as an advance for this one book.
* Make everything up.

Stories about large advances are not reliable. And they're not really our business, either. It's unimportant. Don't worry about it.

chompers
09-19-2016, 05:47 PM
Ten figures? Like...a billion dollars?!?

1 000 000 000
Yeah, that doesn't sound right. I might believe 100 million, but billion with a B? Doubtful. That's $100 million for each book.

LJD
09-19-2016, 06:35 PM
I believe that Sandra Day got a 10 figure advance, but that was for a series of some 10 or more romances. She was at a conference I attended and people were talking about it. I'm not sure of the exact amount.


I heard eight figures, and a little searching turned up this (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/16/business/media/crossfire-author-gets-eight-figures-for-a-new-series.html?_r=0) article.

Richard White
09-19-2016, 06:41 PM
I received a six-figure advance a couple of times. Of course, two of those figures were to the right of the decimal sign. *sigh*

Siri Kirpal
09-19-2016, 09:44 PM
I heard eight figures, and a little searching turned up this (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/16/business/media/crossfire-author-gets-eight-figures-for-a-new-series.html?_r=0) article.

Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Ah! That does sound more reasonable.

And my apologies for misremembering the first name of the author. (I'm not the world's biggest reader of series romances.)

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

whiporee
09-20-2016, 12:48 AM
The Art of Fielding (not a great book, BTW) went for $800,000 a few years ago as a stand alone. Got in a bidding war. That's the biggest debut I've heard of for a single-book deal.

I don't think it earned out -- it was an odd read. Story was okay, but an odd read.

chompers
09-20-2016, 01:07 AM
The Art of Fielding (not a great book, BTW) went for $800,000 a few years ago as a stand alone. Got in a bidding war. That's the biggest debut I've heard of for a single-book deal.

I don't think it earned out -- it was an odd read. Story was okay, but an odd read. I think The Time Traveler's Wife was a debut that sold for over $1 mil, and the most for the company.

The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks also sold for $1 mil as a debut, to Time Warner. He was VERY lucky. He didn't know what he was doing and was querying random agents, and had gone down to the last person on his list. She was a newbie agent.

StuToYou
09-20-2016, 01:32 AM
Taking the salt well pinched as suggested by old hack, I think the Irish author of Skullduggery Pleasant got 1.8 million Sterling. Must have been for 3 books.

Ah, the good old pre 2008 days.

Old Hack
09-20-2016, 09:57 AM
Taking the salt well pinched as suggested by old hack, I think the Irish author of Skullduggery Pleasant got 1.8 million Sterling. Must have been for 3 books.

Ah, the good old pre 2008 days.

Here's a report of an advance of 600,000 for a debut author in 2011 (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/apr/20/publisher-debut-novel-600000). Note that it says this is one of the biggest advances of the year so far--ONE OF the biggest. There were quite a few more around that size in that year, in the UK alone.

While I don't think we can rely on the media to give us accurate figures, large advances are still happening.

CEtchison
09-20-2016, 04:53 PM
I think The Time Traveler's Wife was a debut that sold for over $1 mil, and the most for the company.

The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks also sold for $1 mil as a debut, to Time Warner. He was VERY lucky. He didn't know what he was doing and was querying random agents, and had gone down to the last person on his list. She was a newbie agent.

Audrey Niffenegger only received $100K for Time Traveler's Wife, but she received $5 million for her second book, Her Fearful Symmetry which BOMBED. It was then I realized I'd rather earn my money a buck at a time, rather than feel the pressure of a huge advance and never be able to sell much less write another book.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/11/books/11niff.html?_r=0

lizmonster
09-20-2016, 05:06 PM
Audrey Niffenegger only received $100K for Time Traveler's Wife, but she received $5 million for her second book, Her Fearful Symmetry which BOMBED. It was then I realized I'd rather earn my money a buck at a time, rather than feel the pressure of a huge advance and never be able to sell much less write another book.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/11/books/11niff.html?_r=0

With $5M, you wouldn't have to write another book. :)

It's a crap shoot, sure. And I do think if you have the choice between a larger advance and getting royalty payments sooner, that's an individual choice. But given that most books (IIRC) don't earn out, there's something to be said for getting the cash up front.

Also, it's worth noting that Niffenegger wrote more than just the two books. She's apparently also written a third novel, a trio of graphic novels, and some shorts. So it seems the failure of Book 2 was not a nail in her career coffin. :)

chompers
09-20-2016, 05:09 PM
Audrey Niffenegger only received $100K for Time Traveler's Wife, but she received $5 million for her second book, Her Fearful Symmetry which BOMBED. It was then I realized I'd rather earn my money a buck at a time, rather than feel the pressure of a huge advance and never be able to sell much less write another book.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/11/books/11niff.html?_r=0 Weird. Because I got that information direct from the company's own website (then Jonathan Cape). Although they've since merged with Penguin (I think?), so it's not there anymore.

DongerNeedFood
09-21-2016, 08:38 AM
Ernest Cline got about 500k for his first book Ready Player One.