Thursday, July 1, 2010

Advance Celebration

What fun to receive a nice juicy advance check this week for my book Too Stressed to Stay Stressed! It's like a big hug from Papa God - affirmation of my calling to write and acknowledgement of the hard work and supernatural grace to get to this point.

Ephesians 3:20 throbs in my brain: "To Him who is able to do EXCEEDING ABUNDANTLY BEYOND all athat we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to HIM be the glory... forever and ever. Amen."

I'll take this opportunity to clear up a few misconceptions I've heard from aspiring writers about advances and royalties.

First of all, there is no free money in the publishing biz. You're expected to earn every penny you make from book sales. Royalties are the percentage you're contracted to make when each book sells (e.g. 10% royalty on a $10 book nets you $1). The advance is simply the publisher issuing you the royalties they anticipate from your first few months of sales in advance (hence the name).

If by some chance you don't earn out your advance (for instance they pay you $5k and your sales only bring in $3k), some contracts require you to repay the remainder. Others don't. Be sure you read the fine print before signing.

Advances are a rather prestigious thing within the industry - 5 and 6-digit advances demonstrate that in the eyes of the biz, you've really made it. Of course agents like large advances because they make a tidy little bundle up front. If I had my druthers as an ignorant author, I'd prefer low or even no advance, so I don't have to worry about earning it out. But that's just me and I don't say it out loud to avoid being stoned.

Publishers aren't stupid, so they rarely offer new or not-thoroughly-proven authors more than 3-5k advance (although there are exceptions), which means the book needs to sell at least 10k copies to earn out the advance and start collecting royalties. Some books never quite get to this point, making it unlikely the author will be offered a contract from that particular publisher again any time soon.

Most authors who have been there & done that warn newbies NOT to go out spending the advance in rampant jubilant celebration. I found this to be good advice with my first few books - I socked the entire check away and then was able to splurge on book-related purchases that really count for my literary future: a new printer, decent office furniture so I don't fling out of my swivel chair any more and most importantly, book promotion.

Yep, dear friend, book promotion takes $$$: Travel to book and speaking events, TV interviews, motels at times (sometimes these are covered by the host and sometimes they're not), decent clothes to attempt to look succesful, giving out free copies to important sources after the promo copies have run out, and most importantly, hiring a publicist or PR team to create the biggest book splash possible.

So put that Mediterranean cruise on hold when you receive your first advance. There will always time to sail after your 5th (or 50th) successful book!