I’ll admit it upfront. No publisher has ever offered me a $100K advance, a $20K advance, or even much more than the time of day. So I can make no claim that I would stand by this blog entry should the occasion ever arise.
It was not long ago that the author’s worth was measured by the size of the advance that s/he received. Newspapers, with apparently little else to report, headlined the latest six-figure deal. I can’t help thinking that there are parallels to the housing and credit crises – money was offered/promised without any real foundation to back up whether such assumptions would play out.
The advance is essentially an advance on future sales. If a book sells for $4, the author receives a dollar on each book, and a $20K advance, s/he needs to sell 20,000 copies to be deemed successful (probably within 4-6 months). Failing this, s/he is deemed a failure in the eyes of the publishing world.
Had the same author not received an advance and sold 15,000 copies, the publisher would probably have been happy, seen potential in building this author’s platform or visibility, and gone with a second or third book. Chances are that this author would also have worked considerably harder to promote and market his/her book.
I also suspect, though I claim no inside knowledge, that the often suicidal bidding wars on the rights to an author have helped lead to the destabilization of the publishing market and the disappearance of so many publishing houses.
I have heard that a number of insiders from the publishing world are considering forming a new publishing house based upon the principle of not giving advances. Good luck to them, I say, and here’s my website (www.alonshalev.com) if you’re looking for more than just a fan.
Oh, and anyone out there who wants to test my resolve with an audacious offer – same website.
BTW – Oilspill dotcom is now officially in Acquisitions phase. I’m not sure what this means, but I understand that I am only a week or so away from holding a physical copy in my hands!