Oct 11, 2012

Advance Australian authors Fair: why writing a book might not pay

A debut novelist in Australia could earn less than $5000 from their publisher as an advance for their book. Crikey speaks to publishers, authors and agents about the delicate topic of advances.

Amber Jamieson ā€” Freelance journalist in New York

Amber Jamieson

Freelance journalist in New York

There’s two big stories written about the publishing industry: it’s screwed and no one is buying books; so-and-so author just signed a massive deal worth squillions.

The latter appeared this week in the form of New York wunderkind Lena Dunham of Girls fame, whose debut collection of essays was bought by Random House for over US$3.5 million. The former story directly affects why most authors currently don’t earn anywhere near that.

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2 thoughts on “Advance Australian authors Fair: why writing a book might not pay

  1. Clytie

    If you’re a current or future author, self-publish your book through Amazon and/or Smashwords. You get 75% of the selling price, you get to set your own title and cover, and you have complete control over the content and the marketing (something publishers aren’t doing much, anyway). You could hire your own editor, cover artist and marketing company and _still_ come out way, way ahead.

    See this blog, written by long-time professional author J. A. Konrath:

    and Writer Beware, written by long-time professional SFF authors:

  2. Mel Campbell

    The exact figure of the advance doesn’t say anything about “the quality of the book”, because the writing is only one of the factors that make a book seem like a good bet. It’s based on the number of copies the publisher thinks it can sell ā€“ that’s why the Big Dubs books get higher advances.

    It’s a bit like gambling, innit? Much like cinema, there will always be expensive flops and low-budget surprise hits. (Clearly I am hoping my book will be one of the latter.)

    Like I told AmJam when she interviewed me, someone like Lena Dunham comes with ‘good odds’ ā€“ she majored in creative writing at uni; she has a large, devoted hipster following; she made a successful TV show with the imprimatur of Judd Apatow and HBO; and her book fits into an already popular genre.

    And, much as you see Hollywood studios churning out formulaic fare because they know it will work, you can see “six figure deals” being signed with teenage authors writing crappy vampire novels that were zeitgeisty five or more years ago.

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