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quianaa2001
06-28-2018, 07:19 PM
It's kinda frustrating to look up agents or trying to research deals and can't find any deal amounts listed. When researching agents I like to look at how much their latest deals were worth. It goes into a small section that is out weighed by personality, interests and other things but to me it's still important.
It feels like in the writing and publishing world that money is a taboo topic where numbers are a hush-hush thing, which frustrates me. I KNOW I'm not the next JK or anything but I think the lack of transparency in how much most writers make adds to that whole "I just need to sell one book and I'll be set for life!"
I hope I'm making sense? lol.

Anyone else understand where I'm coming from?

Money isn't the be all end all of course. Someday I hope to just be able to make a living doing what I love (don't we all lol :D)

Any thoughts?

Earthling
06-28-2018, 07:52 PM
Yes, it's really frustrating as writers that we have to dig so deep to find financial information, but you must be able to see it from the other side, too? Where I'm from, at least, people don't talk about their salaries or how much they paid for something unless they're asked directly - and asking directly can easily be considered rude. Businesses tend to keep financial information confidential unless it's required by law to be released.

If people ask me about my job, for example, I wouldn't tell them my salary. Even if somebody was looking for advice to get into my area of work, I would give them a salary range they could expect rather than tell them what I earn. If somebody asked me directly, "What's your salary?" I would probably tell them, but I'd definitely hesitate. It's just not done​.

It's the same with agents. It's not just their information for give; there are publishers and authors involved who might not want the world knowing how much they earned from a deal.

Publishers Marketplace gives you some idea, though it would be nice if it differentiated between deals with no advance and deals with a small advance.

cornflake
06-28-2018, 07:57 PM
It's kinda frustrating to look up agents or trying to research deals and can't find any deal amounts listed. When researching agents I like to look at how much their latest deals were worth. It goes into a small section that is out weighed by personality, interests and other things but to me it's still important.
It feels like in the writing and publishing world that money is a taboo topic where numbers are a hush-hush thing, which frustrates me. I KNOW I'm not the next JK or anything but I think the lack of transparency in how much most writers make adds to that whole "I just need to sell one book and I'll be set for life!"
I hope I'm making sense? lol.

Anyone else understand where I'm coming from?

Money isn't the be all end all of course. Someday I hope to just be able to make a living doing what I love (don't we all lol :D)

Any thoughts?

Do you want your financial information posted on the Internet? Neither do most writers.

Also, amount of a deal isn't indicative of anything unless you know all the particulars -- structure of the deal, who the author is (debut, other books, other areas), what the book is and where it fits, why the house made the deal it did (maybe they have three other similar titles on their calendar and think the one you're looking at is the tail end of something but took a flier, maybe they think it's the next hot thing) including their marketing budgets, etc., related....

quianaa2001
06-28-2018, 08:09 PM
It's the same with agents. It's not just their information for give; there are publishers and authors involved who might not want the world knowing how much they earned from a deal.

Publishers Marketplace gives you some idea, though it would be nice if it differentiated between deals with no advance and deals with a small advance.

That would be really, really good. I guess I would want that info more than anything

ChibiUsagi
06-28-2018, 08:10 PM
This is by design. We have to ask author's permission before we go splashing all the details online.

Guess what most of them say?

No. Even the ones who make a lot, still no.

quianaa2001
06-28-2018, 08:10 PM
Do you want your financial information posted on the Internet? Neither do most writers.



You're totally right! I didn't think about it from that side.

I'm sorry if it came across short sighted and/or rude by wondering.

novicewriter
06-28-2018, 08:14 PM
I don't know if you've already read this, but it's an unofficial 2017 survey that asked some published YA authors the range of their advance, how much they earned the previous year, etc. There also were surveys for picture book and MG authors. Of course, it's not perfect because they weren't able to ask every single YA author, but some still found it useful for giving a realistic idea of what some authors are offered.
https://hannahholt.com/blog/2017/10/19/writing-for-young-adults-a-look-at-the-numbers

I'd guess that one of the reasons why agents might not reveal their clients' advances is because they want to prevent future publishers offering them a similar amount that was last given to them (e.g., if it was a low offer), rather than offering a larger advance.

I've read of a few authors who were given high advances, that were announced in newspapers, but of course, that isn't the norm for most writers in the industry.

quianaa2001
06-28-2018, 08:26 PM
Thank you for that link!

AW Admin
06-28-2018, 08:37 PM
Some contracts stipulate that you can't divulge privileged information, and neither can the publisher or agent.

Dennis E. Taylor
06-29-2018, 12:14 AM
Part of the problem, of course, is that remuneration in this industry ranges all the way from bupkis to millions. Scalzi, for instance, got a low-seven-figure deal for 13 books, IIRC. FWIW, Scalzi is one of a minority of authors who will talk publicly and unabashedly about his income.

Also, in addition to the natural reticence about discussing your income in public, there's the concern about looking like a braggart. (That may be more of a Canadian thing, though ;) ) Or the concern about envy. We had a recent thread on AW from someone who was getting a lot of negativity from 'friends' because he had an agent and they didn't. Or on kboards, where a well-known member hit the big time and ended up having to step away from the forum because of reactions to her success.

Dmbeucler
06-30-2018, 03:02 AM
Jim Hines and Kameron Hurley also post some of their author income info online if you want more data points.

Laurasaurus
06-30-2018, 02:48 PM
I don't know if you've already read this, but it's an unofficial 2017 survey that asked some published YA authors the range of their advance, how much they earned the previous year, etc. There also were surveys for picture book and MG authors. Of course, it's not perfect because they weren't able to ask every single YA author, but some still found it useful for giving a realistic idea of what some authors are offered.
https://hannahholt.com/blog/2017/10/19/writing-for-young-adults-a-look-at-the-numbers

Thanks for posting that! Such an interesting read.

Fuchsia Groan
06-30-2018, 04:42 PM
Yeah, blogs by writers who have chosen to be transparent about their income, like Hines and Hurley, can be illuminating. So can anonymous writer surveys, though small and self-selected samples are an issue there.

I understand very well why most of us choose not to reveal hard figures (advance or, later, sales). But I also worry there's a lot of misinformation floating around. OTOH, you have the huge deals that get reported in the media. On the other, there are other parties (often self-publishing evangelists) insisting that advances barely exist anymore for non-celebrity debuts in trade publishing. Someone who makes her living as a writing coach told me this. I had to tell her my bank account begged to differ, though I didn't say by how much.

Dennis E. Taylor
06-30-2018, 07:30 PM
Y'know, this is an interesting enough subject that I've emailed my agent to ask his opinion about the whole idea. I'll paraphrase his response when it comes in.

Dennis E. Taylor
07-04-2018, 02:55 AM
Ethan didn't really have a lot to add. It's mostly a personal preference thing, with the caveat that contracts with publishers may prohibit discussion of specific royalty percentages (although not the actual income you receive).

cool pop
07-05-2018, 02:07 AM
Why is the amount of money so important though? Just the fact that an agent made a decent deal with a publisher would be interesting to me if I was interested in subbing to the particular agent. I don't need to know the exact amount of money. I find that if it's a huge deal most times the numbers are reported. Like if the deal is in the millions but many times not.

I am an ex-trade author turned indie author and what I don't get the most about being indie is how so many indie authors flash their incomes around. It's fine if you want to do that but maybe I'm old school because I feel like an author's income or what they get from a deal is their business. Some authors claim they share figures as a way to inspire others what they can do. That's fine but I have also seen it where authors use it as way to look down on others like, "I make six figures so you gotta listen to me because I know everything." I don't agree with that attitude and I don't think just because someone makes a lot of money it means they are smarter than everyone else.

So while, it's cool to see all the indie authors or whoever who make good money, that's great. But I would never tell my income. It's no one's business and I don't see how what someone else makes from their books can help someone else. Why? Because there are tons of variables to selling books such as being lucky. Luck and hitting a market at the right time among other things folks can't control contribute to sales and income, etc.

I also don't believe many of the ones shouting how much they make all the time. How do we know it's true? I can say I make 10 million dollars a year sitting up here under an anonymous name with a catwoman avatar. Is someone gonna believe that? That's what I see a lot of, people popping up on forums and claiming they make a lot of money yet they are anonymous and won't name their books or pen name. Anyone can say anything. Some people do it just to appear a big shot. What's funny is how so many people on forums take the person's word for it.

I believe the authors who are on FB more because they aren't hiding. But anyone can post on a forum anonymously and pretend they are making lots of money. That can be dangerous when they start doling out advice that might be harmful to newbies who hope to follow in these people's footsteps.

cool pop
07-05-2018, 02:09 AM
Some contracts stipulate that you can't divulge privileged information, and neither can the publisher or agent.

So true! People who have never worked with publishers don't understand this. And, that's not a dig at anyone just pointing this out. I see a lot of self-published authors asking why trade authors are so mum with their earnings and they don't understand at some publishing companies, you aren't allowed to divulge this information.

lizmonster
07-05-2018, 02:19 AM
Why is the amount of money so important though? Just the fact that an agent made a decent deal with a publisher would be interesting to me if I was interested in subbing to the particular agent. I don't need to know the exact amount of money. I find that if it's a huge deal most times the numbers are reported. Like if the deal is in the millions but many times not.

I assume you're familiar with the "good/nice/significant etc. deal" (http://misssnark.blogspot.com/2006/10/very-nice-deal.html) terminology. (See the second comment at the link.) Plenty of not-in-the-millions deals get reported.

To get back to the original question: I think one reason writers may not talk about it is that the amount one is paid for a particular book isn't really an indicator of anything, including how much one might get paid for the next book. Writing is piecework, and for most writers the next gig isn't anything like guaranteed. A good deal for one book doesn't mean you'll even be able to sell the next one. I could average out my income over the last three years for you, but that number would be meaningless.

Girlsgottawrite
07-05-2018, 03:41 AM
I don't know if you've already read this, but it's an unofficial 2017 survey that asked some published YA authors the range of their advance, how much they earned the previous year, etc. There also were surveys for picture book and MG authors. Of course, it's not perfect because they weren't able to ask every single YA author, but some still found it useful for giving a realistic idea of what some authors are offered.
https://hannahholt.com/blog/2017/10/19/writing-for-young-adults-a-look-at-the-numbers



Thanks for the link! This is great info.


I assume you're familiar with the "good/nice/significant etc. deal" terminology.

Something else I didn't understand until now. Thanks!!

cool pop
07-05-2018, 08:35 PM
I assume you're familiar with the "good/nice/significant etc. deal" (http://misssnark.blogspot.com/2006/10/very-nice-deal.html) terminology. (See the second comment at the link.) Plenty of not-in-the-millions deals get reported.

To get back to the original question: I think one reason writers may not talk about it is that the amount one is paid for a particular book isn't really an indicator of anything, including how much one might get paid for the next book. Writing is piecework, and for most writers the next gig isn't anything like guaranteed. A good deal for one book doesn't mean you'll even be able to sell the next one. I could average out my income over the last three years for you, but that number would be meaningless.


Miss Snark, wow! :Wha: I haven't checked that blog in over 10 years. I saw the post is from 2006. Is she still doing her blog? Also, interesting to know about lower deals being reported. I admit, I don't read the industry reports, Publishers Weekly or anything reporting deals on the regular anymore. Haven't in years so the only deals I see are the huge mega deals when money is mentioned. But I also see a lot of "big" deals where money isn't mentioned either. I rarely see smaller deals where money is mentioned but as I said, I don't keep up with deals agents and trade pubs are making these days because being indie I am naturally in other circles now. Another thing is, it's easier to see the details of the huge deals because those are the ones everyone talks about so I hear about those from other authors and on forums, etc.

I would always rather my income or how much I get stay my business. I wouldn't mind if I'd gotten a major deal and they said, "She got a seven figure deal!" That's fine but personally, I don't feel like everyone needs to know the numbers. I mean, what difference does it make to know? Someone else's advance has nothing to do with another author. Just because Suzy G got an author a million dollar deal definitely doesn't mean she will or CAN for all her clients. So many things depend on why authors are offered what they are offered whether authors are with the same agent or not. It comes down to the publisher of course and an agent can't make a publisher give you a mega deal.

Suzy might not even be able to sell the next author's work! :tongue

lizmonster
07-05-2018, 08:57 PM
Also, interesting to know about lower deals being reported.

Publishers Marketplace reporting is voluntary, but out and about on social media I see a lot of them. And I don't think I've seen a single one that's 7 figures. (The only one I've heard of directly was John Scalzi's 10 year, 13 book deal from Tor, and that's not 7 figures per book. Not sure how SFF advances stack up against other genres, though.)


I would always rather my income or how much I get stay my business. I wouldn't mind if I'd gotten a major deal and they said, "She got a seven figure deal!"

Keep in mind, too, that 7 figures sounds great (and is!), but a) you don't get it all up front; and b) how good it is depends on how long you have to live on it.


So many things depend on why authors are offered what they are offered whether authors are with the same agent or not. It comes down to the publisher of course and an agent can't make a publisher give you a mega deal.

AFAIK a publisher isn't going to give a "rock star" agent a better offer than any other agent. They're looking for a book they can sell. A more experienced agent may have stronger relationships with editors, and may be able to get your book read (or read more quickly) where another agent may not, but the publisher isn't paying for the agent. They're paying for you.


Suzy might not even be able to sell the next author's work! :tongue

Or, in fact, the million-dollar author's next work.

cool pop
07-06-2018, 05:29 AM
Publishers Marketplace reporting is voluntary, but out and about on social media I see a lot of them. And I don't think I've seen a single one that's 7 figures. (The only one I've heard of directly was John Scalzi's 10 year, 13 book deal from Tor, and that's not 7 figures per book. Not sure how SFF advances stack up against other genres, though.)



Keep in mind, too, that 7 figures sounds great (and is!), but a) you don't get it all up front; and b) how good it is depends on how long you have to live on it.



AFAIK a publisher isn't going to give a "rock star" agent a better offer than any other agent. They're looking for a book they can sell. A more experienced agent may have stronger relationships with editors, and may be able to get your book read (or read more quickly) where another agent may not, but the publisher isn't paying for the agent. They're paying for you.



Or, in fact, the million-dollar author's next work.

Agreed on all accounts, Liz. :)

Fuchsia Groan
07-06-2018, 10:46 AM
For me the benefit of transparency is that it allows me to see the midrange. The PM deal terminology isn't very specific ($1 and $50,000 are both a "nice deal," IIRC, but for those of us who are smaller fish there's a pretty huge difference between those amounts). Huge deals get lots of publicity; so do scams and publishers that don't pay authors or go out of business. What we don't hear about as much are the medium deals and whether it's possible to live on that kind of income.

So when I seek out blog posts and surveys of writer income, I'm looking for a reality check and sometimes practical advice (usually, the take-away seems to be "Don't quit your day job unless you have steady foreign rights income coming in").

Vanity Fair ran a story about the $600k advance for The Art of Fielding. The article's author also included examples of advances he and his friends had received, which were in a much lower range (mostly under $10k, I think), serving as a reminder that yes, advances do still exist in trade publishing, but no, $600k is nowhere near typical. I found that useful.

In terms of agents, as others have noted, an agent's past deal figures won't tell you what your book might sell for with that agent, or whether your book will sell at all. Every book/author is an individual case. But I would want to know whether the agent has sold to publishers that generally offer decent advances (whatever "decent" means to me). So having a few figures to tie to publishers can be useful, though I'd be much more interested to know their lowest and median advances than their highest ones. Knowing typical advances for a category/genre, which I've seen agents blog about, can also be very helpful.

Why? Well, besides agent research, if you get an actual offer, or even competing offers, it's nice to know how they stack up in the industry. There was a time when my agent asked me what kind of figure I was hoping to see, and I realized I had no idea. All I'd ever heard about were these huge deals, and I wasn't expecting that, but I had no idea what a more realistic expectation for my kind of book would be. So I do think it's useful to gather this kind of knowledge, not about specific authors or agents, but about publishers and genres.

lizmonster
07-06-2018, 04:51 PM
Why? Well, besides agent research, if you get an actual offer, or even competing offers, it's nice to know how they stack up in the industry. There was a time when my agent asked me what kind of figure I was hoping to see, and I realized I had no idea. All I'd ever heard about were these huge deals, and I wasn't expecting that, but I had no idea what a more realistic expectation for my kind of book would be. So I do think it's useful to gather this kind of knowledge, not about specific authors or agents, but about publishers and genres.

This is a really good point. I suspect you'll always see publishers be cagey about it, though.

I have two data points for Harper Voyager: my own, and that of another author, although I only know the range of her offer (because it was in PM). But both of our books went to auction, and I suspect (but don't know) that skews things wildly. The offer I finally took was 2X the original preempt offer (from a different publisher) that set off the auction; the other author's range starts ~2X what I was paid. I've no idea how either data point fits in the imprint's average.

I had many conversations with my then-agent on the subject, but in retrospect my single point of experience suggests to me that the money offered is far less important than the publisher's presence in the genre and how they market. This is a harder thing to determine, I think, with smaller pubs who have fewer knobs to turn than larger ones. But the goal for an author isn't to get a whack of cash up front (although it's nice, and I do think says something about how much the imprint is going to put into marketing), it's to sell enough to sell the next book. A hefty advance doesn't contribute to that at all.

AFAIK, btw, foreign rights are not generally sold with English publication rights, so as an income stream those numbers wouldn't be tied to specific publishers. I do hear many authors on social media pleased to see how much these earn them (I've sold no translations myself), but I don't hear numbers attached, even percentages.

Toothpaste
07-06-2018, 06:12 PM
I'm a fan of discussing money pragmatically with other artists. I'll be honest though and say I only do so in person, one on one. I still have that discomfort of information online being accessible to everyone. Though I do complete anonymous surveys when they make the rounds.

I think it's important to discuss money with other artists because as Fuchsia Groan said above, without knowledge we are vulnerable. I also feel like not talking about money puts artists at a disadvantage especially when it comes to negotiating. And further, when it comes to gender and race issues, puts those who are being marginalized without their knowledge at a further disadvantage (witness all those A-list actresses just learning how much their male co-stars have been getting paid all this time). Women are known to ask for fewer raises than men for a variety of complicated reasons, but often without knowing what one's male colleagues are making one doesn't actually know that one SHOULD be getting more.

In the world of publishing it can help avoid scams and rumours. If authors understand that maybe they won't get six figures but they can still earn a nice advance they won't be as willing to go with the first offer.

I will say, Fushcia, the one thing I disagree with you on is gauging agent efficacy. Only in that if an agent is selling works to the Big 5 then you know that their authors are getting advances. And that they generally will be good if not six figures. Selling to the Big 5 is really the only info you need to know. Then again, if there are agents that seem to only sell to smaller presses and that interests an author, I could see then wanting the actual numbers.

At any rate, details are important. Knowledge is power. And wanting to talk money isn't being nosy, it's self preservation.

lizmonster
07-06-2018, 07:07 PM
I'll preface my reply by saying 1) the only concrete data point I have is my own, although I've had semi-detailed conversations with others who've published around the same as I did; 2) I didn't receive much guidance, even when I asked questions, so a lot of my conclusions are based on hindsight and my own experience; and 3) I did go out with a Big 5, and I suspect (but don't know) that all of these issues are wildly variable within the industry (among other things, Big 5s have a lot more money to throw around at all levels).


I think it's important to discuss money with other artists because as Fuchsia Groan said above, without knowledge we are vulnerable. I also feel like not talking about money puts artists at a disadvantage especially when it comes to negotiating.

Agreed. That said, I think the comparison to make is with other authors with that publisher, not other authors in the genre. I got a killer advance as a SF debut author. Compared to the other author I know of at the imprint? Not so much. Having said that...there were a number of things about her deal that didn't apply to mine, so it doesn't make a bit of sense to compare the two deals. And authors who went out with smaller presses (and presumably got smaller advances) have done far better than I have.


And further, when it comes to gender and race issues, puts those who are being marginalized without their knowledge at a further disadvantage (witness all those A-list actresses just learning how much their male co-stars have been getting paid all this time). Women are known to ask for fewer raises than men for a variety of complicated reasons, but often without knowing what one's male colleagues are making one doesn't actually know that one SHOULD be getting more.

You're right about this, but at the same time, actors being paid the same for the same film isn't the same thing as authors being paid for different books.

Which is of course the argument a publisher would make for a lower offer: "Well, we think Book X will sell better than yours, so of course we're giving them a higher advance."

On the other hand...an advance is an advance against royalties. Two books that sell equally well should eventually earn their authors the same money (assuming they both earn out, which is not always a thing, and in that case a higher advance isn't necessarily a better deal).


In the world of publishing it can help avoid scams and rumours. If authors understand that maybe they won't get six figures but they can still earn a nice advance they won't be as willing to go with the first offer.

Also true. But like I said above, what we'd need to make this useful information is data by publisher. And we'd maybe want to filter out some of the highly-hyped debuts.

Now I want a scatter plot of all this stuff. :)


I will say, Fushcia, the one thing I disagree with you on is gauging agent efficacy. Only in that if an agent is selling works to the Big 5 then you know that their authors are getting advances. And that they generally will be good if not six figures. Selling to the Big 5 is really the only info you need to know. Then again, if there are agents that seem to only sell to smaller presses and that interests an author, I could see then wanting the actual numbers.

I've posted my advice about agents elsewhere, but I'll say this: yes, it's good if they've sold to the Big 5, because it shows they have the contacts. But it's what happens after the sale that's far more important. Not coincidentally, that's also harder information to find out.

cool pop
07-06-2018, 08:21 PM
I guess for me I am thinking about how much individuals should share compared to people throwing out average figures for educational purposes. I just don't feel authors need to share how much they make with the whole world. I'm a very private person so maybe that's it. To me, unless they want you to know, an author's income is not your business. These days nothing is sacred in the age of social media. I realize more and more authors are comfortable discussing their deals in public. You should see the indie forums and private FB groups if you aren't in them. My goodness, it's shocking how much they share about their finances. I mean putting up screenshots of royalties and their sales reports. One dude even put up a screenshot of the amount he paid for taxes. I'M NOT LYING. Also, it's not like they are all sharing to educate others but to brag about how much they are making. You can tell boasting from sharing to help someone. I love my indie peers but am turned off at how much some share their finances because I came from the trade world and we never spoke about our earnings at least not to others in public for everyone to see. I would never blast in public how much I make. I don't even tell folks in private!

The agent blogs are perfect for knowing numbers. Agents will give you a scale (like the one from Miss Snark), that is absolutely fine with me and necessary. I'm not saying newbies shouldn't have an idea of what they can make in their genre, or with their type of book if they secure and agent or publisher. Don't get me wrong. I am not saying to not discuss figures at all. I am just saying when it comes to individual authors, I find it intrusive when people expect every author to be forthcoming. Some will and some won't. If an author wants to blast her finances around in public she needs to be aware of the repercussions she might face with everyone knowing what she makes. It might seem harmless to share this stuff but you're opening your private financial business to the world and you don't know who is watching you. It's different when an agent gives figures about what a newbie can expect from a certain type of deal compared to Diana sitting on FB disclosing how much she made in income last year, flashing screenshots of her Amazon sales reports graph, and mapping out how much she paid in taxes.

That's the issue for me. It's not the sharing of the info it's when individual authors are expected to open their pocketbooks to the world, no. Will never be me. LOL! If newbies want to know about figures they need to stalk agents and read blogs of agents and publishing professionals, including authors who share base figures. Agents talk about this constantly and will go into details about what to expect from a deal based on advance, author status, genre, etc. But expecting all authors to share their earnings is too much.

If I was unpublished and saw an announcement saying, "Suzy G. got Diana a six figure deal for her debut three-book horror series with Big Five Publisher!" Isn't that enough? What more do I need to know about this specific deal? This announcement gives writers enough info right there to see if subbing to Suzy might be worth their time. They don't need to know the exact details of Diana's deal unless she or the pub wants to disclose it.

But, as many point out, it doesn't matter in the end what Diana got because that has no bearing on another author at all. Suzy might not be able to sign another one of her authors to that type of deal ever again so would knowing details really make a difference?

Just my two cents on the subject. :)

lizmonster
07-06-2018, 08:59 PM
You should see the indie forums and private FB groups if you aren't in them. My goodness, it's shocking how much they share about their finances.

Do you mean indie, or self-pub?

I think the money conversation has a different role in self-publishing than it does in trade. I don't think it's bad for people to see that it's possible to make real money self-publishing (even if some people are just bragging about it). On the other hand, it's also important to have realistic expectations: maybe Bob made tons of $$$, but look at his marketing plan, how much he spent on book covers/editors/etc., how much time he puts into it every day. It's possible, but it's hard work - and yes, a ton of luck. So maybe recognizing that most people aren't Bob, at least not at the beginning, can also be helpful: you're building a platform, and your ramp-up may take longer than someone else's.

Trade...I dunno. Toothpaste and Fuchsia both make excellent points about expectations, but IME the up-front money really isn't the most important thing there. My impression is that it's a bit Wild West advance-wise, and hard to normalize the numbers - but the truth is I don't know. And in my specific situation, negotiation didn't come around the money (I understood based on my agent's response to the offer that the money was good, and I still have no reason to question that), but around other contractual issues. And even then I didn't see what was offered, just the final copy of what had been negotiated by my agent. (To be clear, I've been perfectly happy with the contract I signed.)


I'm not saying newbies shouldn't have an idea of what they can make in their genre, or with their type of book if they secure and agent or publisher.

This is the thing, though: I don't think an industry-wide range is necessarily a useful piece of information. Like I said, I expect the data exists within each publisher (I have to believe an acquiring editor knows the imprint's budget, at least roughly), but given the varying sizes of publishers, even within the Big 5, I don't know that aggregate numbers would give you anything to negotiate with.

I've seen the surveys of how much authors earn, and frankly even there the numbers would be more useful if they polled authors who've been publishing for at least 10 years. Even so, all I take away from those is that storytelling pays more than zero, but (for the vast majority) less than a living wage.

Fuchsia Groan
07-06-2018, 11:25 PM
I will say, Fushcia, the one thing I disagree with you on is gauging agent efficacy. Only in that if an agent is selling works to the Big 5 then you know that their authors are getting advances. And that they generally will be good if not six figures. Selling to the Big 5 is really the only info you need to know. Then again, if there are agents that seem to only sell to smaller presses and that interests an author, I could see then wanting the actual numbers.
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Oh, I agree. I was trying to put myself in the shoes of the OP and think about why you’d want to know this while querying, but when I was doing it, I just looked for agents with sales to the Big Five or good midsize publishers. If an agent had all small-press sales, I would be a lot more curious about numbers.

It’s so true what Liz says about the advance not being the whole story, and it’s something writers may learn too late. If only marketing budgets weren’t even more shrouded in secrecy. But there is some useful info out there on blogs and such.

I don’t think anyone should feel required to disclose their numbers (income or sales)! Like Toothpaste, I prefer to keep that one-on-one. But I do appreciate those who’ve been open with me. In my experience, in trade publishing, transparency often leads to a lowering of expectations, because even the authors with big advances haven’t always had smooth sailing. (It’s not hard to find “I had a big advance and hype and my novel went splat” stories online, often with sales figures attached.) But, in both trade and self-pub, you’ve got to consider that you’re dealing with a self-selected group of people who choose to disclose for some reason, whether they’re bragging about high sales or bemoaning the industry or just trying to spread knowledge.

Old Hack
07-10-2018, 11:17 AM
I had many conversations with my then-agent on the subject, but in retrospect my single point of experience suggests to me that the money offered is far less important than the publisher's presence in the genre and how they market. This is a harder thing to determine, I think, with smaller pubs who have fewer knobs to turn than larger ones. But the goal for an author isn't to get a whack of cash up front (although it's nice, and I do think says something about how much the imprint is going to put into marketing), it's to sell enough to sell the next book. A hefty advance doesn't contribute to that at all.

I'd agree that a strong marketing plan is easily as important as the advance an author is paid. But that marketing plan doesn't mean a thing if it's not included in your contract, and your agent pushes the publisher to perform as your book is published.

I've seen authors sign for lower advances and better marketing plans, based on a meeting with the marketing department before signing; but the plan wasn't in the contract. When the book was published nothing happened, and because it wasn't part of the contract, the agent had no grounds to push the publisher. Similarly, I've seen authors sign huge deals, and then the publisher being made to honour the marketing plan that was put into the contract, and the book doing incredibly well--but it wouldn't have got where it did without a very astute agent including the publisher's promises in that contract, and then making sure the contract was honoured.


AFAIK, btw, foreign rights are not generally sold with English publication rights, so as an income stream those numbers wouldn't be tied to specific publishers. I do hear many authors on social media pleased to see how much these earn them (I've sold no translations myself), but I don't hear numbers attached, even percentages.

On big deals it's common for publishers to buy all rights. But most of the good agents I know prefer to sell only those rights that a publisher can do well with, and then sell all other rights separately.

I know a few agents who aim to get their clients at least two cheques each month, throughout the year, based on the sales of foreign and subsidiary rights. Some might only be small but over the course of a career, with half a dozen books or more published, it does add up.

PeteMC
07-10-2018, 11:32 AM
On big deals it's common for publishers to buy all rights. But most of the good agents I know prefer to sell only those rights that a publisher can do well with, and then sell all other rights separately.


Yeah, my deal with Ace was world print / ebook / audio rights, and they're in charge of selling the foreign rights (and doing well with it so far). We kept dramatization / movie / TV / merchandising etc, obviously.

Ravioli
07-10-2018, 01:08 PM
But this raises the question why it's awkward/intimate to talk about income. Beyond the fear of being robbed or burgled, what's the worst that could realistically happen if people know what an agent or author makes? I list the prices of any of my services publicly, because I don't feel like having discussions and haggling when I tell people the price in private. I want them to know that the price I name, is the official price and not something I made up for their request. I slap the prices on the website as per "Take it or leave it, don't ask any questions my page has answered".

Helix
07-10-2018, 01:23 PM
But this raises the question why it's awkward/intimate to talk about income. Beyond the fear of being robbed or burgled, what's the worst that could realistically happen if people know what an agent or author makes?

It opens you up to other people skiting endlessly about how much more they make in real estate because, of course, writing is not real work, or whinging constantly that you don't deserve that money because, well, yes, writing is not real work. Also talking about money is pretty tedious.

Ravioli
07-10-2018, 03:32 PM
Honestly, when it comes to people begrudging you a good thing, I stopped caring.

I made $5,95 off Concrete Monsters. There.

D.L. Shepherd
07-10-2018, 03:58 PM
It opens you up to other people skiting endlessly about how much more they make in real estate because, of course, writing is not real work, or whinging constantly that you don't deserve that money because, well, yes, writing is not real work. Also talking about money is pretty tedious.

And, if you *are* doing quite well, I imagine it opens you up to people from your past crawling out of the woodwork and asking for money. Same reason that some lotto winners try to hide their identities.

paddismac
07-10-2018, 06:17 PM
And, if you *are* doing quite well, I imagine it opens you up to people from your past crawling out of the woodwork and asking for money. Same reason that some lotto winners try to hide their identities.

I'm thinking very few of us need to worry about financial gain on quite that level. :tongue

Old Hack
07-10-2018, 07:25 PM
But this raises the question why it's awkward/intimate to talk about income. Beyond the fear of being robbed or burgled, what's the worst that could realistically happen if people know what an agent or author makes? I list the prices of any of my services publicly, because I don't feel like having discussions and haggling when I tell people the price in private. I want them to know that the price I name, is the official price and not something I made up for their request. I slap the prices on the website as per "Take it or leave it, don't ask any questions my page has answered".

Your logic is flawed. Agents also list their prices. 15% on home sales, 20-25% foreign and subsidiary rights. This is standard across the business. What agents don't do is list their total income, because that would be breaking confidential agreements they have with their author-clients and publishers. This is no different to you listing your prices on your website, but not advertising how much you've earned from selling things at those prices.

Authors tend not to make public what they earn because sometimes their contracts forbid them to; but also because most people don't talk about their income. I don't know how much my next door neighbour earns: she's a consultant surgeon and it's not something we'd ever discuss. Why should I therefore tell her how much I earn from the books I write?

D.L. Shepherd
07-11-2018, 04:31 PM
I'm thinking very few of us need to worry about financial gain on quite that level. :tongue

Ha ha. Very true!

lizmonster
07-11-2018, 06:04 PM
Authors tend not to make public what they earn because sometimes their contracts forbid them to; but also because most people don't talk about their income. I don't know how much my next door neighbour earns: she's a consultant surgeon and it's not something we'd ever discuss. Why should I therefore tell her how much I earn from the books I write?

I do understand the desire for numbers, though. You don't know how much your neighbor makes, but you can probably pretty easily find out the average income for a consultant surgeon in a particular geographic area. If you think you may want to become a consultant surgeon, that's a data point that can help you make a cost-benefit analysis before you invest time and resources.

But I don't think that works with writing. There are plenty of surveys out there showing what writers make, and the range is so large those numbers are close to worthless. (The only thing they're good for, IMHO, is showing people that in aggregate most steadily selling authors need another source of income, so whether or not you can ditch your day job isn't necessarily a measure of how well you're doing.)

Saying "what do writers make?" is pretty much the same as saying "what do sculptors make?" Because ultimately you're selling creativity to the public. There are things a publisher or a publicist can do to draw the attention of potential readers, but in the long run, you're selling a piece of art to a subjective audience, and your next piece of art is only worth what your last one says it is.

My original AW profile listed my "ultimate writing dream" as being able to make a living at it. I had no idea, at the time, how uncommon that was for the type of writing I do. That's a useful data point for me, because it helps me recalibrate my definition of success.

WeaselFire
07-12-2018, 04:45 AM
So, what's a better deal - A $50,000 advance or a 15% royalty paid on sales?

Yep, a deal isn't easily calculated. That $50,000 advance is really good. If you never earn it out, you won't sell the next book. But a $5,000 advance at 15% royalty where you sell 3 million copies both gets you more money in your deal and some really good advances for future books.

Jeff

Toothpaste
07-12-2018, 07:33 AM
If you never earn it out, you won't sell the next book.

Not quite. Many authors don't earn out and go on to publish again. Sure maybe not with the same publisher, but it's not the end of the road at all. And quite frankly, you could also get a 5K advance and ALSO not earn out that one. Let's not scare people by saying their writing career is over if they don't earn out. That's not how it works.

Old Hack
07-12-2018, 11:04 AM
I do understand the desire for numbers, though. You don't know how much your neighbor makes, but you can probably pretty easily find out the average income for a consultant surgeon in a particular geographic area. If you think you may want to become a consultant surgeon, that's a data point that can help you make a cost-benefit analysis before you invest time and resources.

But I don't think that works with writing.

The problem with looking at writers' average earnings is that every book is different. Some books have no chance of getting a trade deal; others have very good chances. A good advance for one book would be a dreadful advance for another, and on it goes.



So, what's a better deal - A $50,000 advance or a 15% royalty paid on sales?

Most trade deals specify royalties and an advance, so this question is a bit misleading.


Yep, a deal isn't easily calculated. That $50,000 advance is really good. If you never earn it out, you won't sell the next book.

Not true.

Most books fail to earn out. But most books make a profit for their publisher.

lizmonster
07-12-2018, 04:33 PM
The problem with looking at writers' average earnings is that every book is different. Some books have no chance of getting a trade deal; others have very good chances. A good advance for one book would be a dreadful advance for another, and on it goes.

Exactly. We're all selling something unique, and its market worth is going to vary widely.

It's certainly an issue that a debut author, at least, will not necessarily have a good sense of what a "good" advance is for their work, but one hopes a competent agent will be able to talk them through some of that.