Thursday, September 27, 2012

Why Author Advances Scare Me

In my writing world, where most of my books are published in Southern Africa, I mostly do not get advances. Instead, I write a book, submit it to a publisher (without an agent), the publisher likes it, publishes it and I wait for the book to sell so that I can earn royalties. I'm happy with this set up, I'm doing okay. The pressure of an advance for writing a book not yet on the page might very well ensure that the words just never come. But that may be just me.

Now I see how advances could ruin you, both your finances and your reputation. According to this article at Smoking Gun some big name authors are being sued for their advances by their publisher (now it is revealed the publisher is Penguin) for not producing the books they were contractually hired to produce. And not only do they want the advance, Penguin want interest. (kind of shocking since publishers keep royalties accrued throughout the year, sometimes paid annually, sometimes twice a year and never pay interest to writers)

Literary agent Robert Gottlieb has reacted to Penguin's lawsuit. He explains that books are rejected by publishers for many reasons. It may not be that these authors shrugged their responsibilities. It could be the other reasons beyond the author's control. He appears to think this does not bode well for authors without very strong representation.

What do you think? 

3 comments:

Elle Carter Neal said...

Yes, I read about this. Scary stuff, and another reason I think my recent decision to give DIY a go is a good idea.

KT Moreis said...

I took a class many years ago, and the editor leading it talked about how an author can be considered a "failure" if they don't earn back their advance, even if they only miss the amount by a dollar.

That was right about the time I decided that if I was ever offered an advance, I would refuse it.

Sue Guiney said...

Yes, I agree. Advances have always scared me and I have never wanted to go that way. My publisher now, like most indies, only pays royalties and not advances, and I think that works better anyway.