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Old 11-26-2014, 12:18 PM   #1
fjtorres
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PW: Rise of the 7-figure advance

From Publishers Weekly:
http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/b...e-advance.html

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Seven-figure book deals are nothing new in corporate publishing. But lately, these deals seem to be happening more frequently. During the run-up to this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair in early October, three seven-figure deals for debut works were closed by Big Five houses. Shortly after the fair, the New York Times ran an article about a waitress who landed a high six-figure advance. The streak continued with news that St. Martin’s Press had paid seven figures for a debut novel by New York Times reporter Stephanie Clifford. And, two weeks ago, word broke that indie author Blake Crouch landed seven figures at Crown for Dark Matter, his science fiction novel. For some in the industry, the flurry of big advances is simply business as usual. Others, however, attribute the run to a dearth of great material, along with the ever-pressing need on the part of the big houses to publish major bestsellers.

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For the Big Five, especially, the highly sought-after projects have become essential. “The game plan to make your budget, or exceed it, relies on having bestsellers. That’s always been the case, but it’s the case now more so than ever.” Because both midlist and backlist titles aren’t selling as well as they once did, Gibson explained, the big books, “are more important.”

That a number of the major deals of late have been for debut works—five of the six aforementioned acquisitions were for books by first-time authors—is also not surprising. One editor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that since the advent of BookScan (which gives editors, sales reps, and retailers approximate print sales for any given title), having no track record is usually a plus.

Other insiders, who also spoke off the record, theorized that there is less of everything, which drives up the price for the most coveted projects. “The whole pool of talent is shrinking,” explained one source. “There are fewer publishers, fewer slots, and fewer submissions so… the higher the quality of the project, the more you’re likely to get.”
Fewer publishers, fewer slots... fewer submissions.

More at the source.
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Old 11-26-2014, 02:47 PM   #2
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A smaller pool at the legacy publishers, yet a larger and larger ocean to fish from for the consumer.
It hasn't been hard to predict that this was where things would go in the world of writing, since we have an almost exact parallel going on in music.
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Old 11-26-2014, 05:02 PM   #3
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A smaller pool at the legacy publishers, yet a larger and larger ocean to fish from for the consumer.
It hasn't been hard to predict that this was where things would go in the world of writing, since we have an almost exact parallel going on in music.
Nope.
Much like the hollywood studios, their reliance on high volume sellers drives them to put their money on big payout lottery tickets rather than slow but steady midlist titles. Especially now that midlist/backlist buyers are increasingly receptive to indie titles.

Combine those two trends with declining midlist advances and the process can only accelerate as future midlisters stop submitting, waiting, and praying.

Hollywood studios rarely deal in cozy little movies these days; those are increasingly the province of indies or cable. Corporate publishing is well down that road.
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Old 11-27-2014, 11:36 AM   #4
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I have frequently predicted that we will see more and more small independent publishers, a la Baen Books, as the overhead for publishing goes down. I see the publishing industry being a lot more like the music industry rather than the movie industry. I think this blog post by Larry Correia about why he likes Baen Books is worth reading, it may have been linked here before.

http://monsterhunternation.com/2014/...with-baen-too/

Larry Correia is the sort of author who is going to thrive in today's publishing world. He started as an independent, then moved to Baen Books. He publishes a mix of independent and regular publishers depending on the project that he is working on. He mentions the multiple streams of revenue from paper books, ebooks and audio books.

For authors who generate a number of books a year, advances aren't really a big deal, especially is the advance is priced appropriately so that the author earns out in the first month or two. If a publisher does their job and provides value (i.e. editing, marketing, etc...) then they take all that work away from the author. Not all authors want to do all the grunt work needed to be a successful indie.
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Old 12-04-2014, 07:06 AM   #5
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I can guess why there are fewer submissions to the traditional publishers. Author's are going the e-publishing route. Add in that the older writers are getting older all the time and in some cases have already died and that adds on to the situation as well. A dead author writes no new books after all.
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Old 12-04-2014, 08:41 AM   #6
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I can guess why there are fewer submissions to the traditional publishers. Author's are going the e-publishing route. Add in that the older writers are getting older all the time and in some cases have already died and that adds on to the situation as well. A dead author writes no new books after all.
There is also the shrinking mid-list advances, the catfights with retailers (S&S vs B&N, 8 months--Hachette vs Amazon, 9 months), all the publishing press reports on how little money authors make, the increased visibility of contract terms, the mergers...

The tradpub world is evolving and new authors are increasingly aware of the risks in dealing with the big corporate publishers. Increased risk requires increased payouts. Unless the risk is mitigated in other ways, the submissions will continue to decline and the BPHs and the Agents that feed them won't even get a chance to gate keep unpublished manuscripts. Some will go to smaller specialty presses, some will go to the honest (non-vanity press) publishing service channels, and some will selfpub.

Many of the BPHs have talked of tapping successful Indies for books but at that point the upfront costs go up. Into 7-figure territory. Because if an indie author is good enough to come to their attention, they are good enough to make six figures on their own.

Of course, each of those 7-figure advances eats up the cash that would otherwise go to 50 or so "lesser" manuscripts so the direct result of this would be less titles published. Which fits in nicely with the decreasing bookstore shelf space.
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Old 12-04-2014, 09:48 AM   #7
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Funny how people want to talk about the extremes while pretending that must be the norm.

Authors, be they indie or traditional publishers, who pull in 6 to 7 figures on a book are very much the exception rather than the rule. A little research shows that the vast majority of authors who do get advances, get under 20K.
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Old 12-04-2014, 10:17 AM   #8
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Funny how people want to talk about the extremes while pretending that must be the norm.

Authors, be they indie or traditional publishers, who pull in 6 to 7 figures on a book are very much the exception rather than the rule. A little research shows that the vast majority of authors who do get advances, get under 20K.
The topic was set by Publisher's Weekly.
Perhaps this is a foreshadowing of the new norm for the big five.
Sell big, or don't sell at all.
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Old 12-04-2014, 02:51 PM   #9
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The topic was set by Publisher's Weekly.
Perhaps this is a foreshadowing of the new norm for the big five.
Sell big, or don't sell at all.
The dynamic of a handful of big selling authors and then everyone else scrambling to make a living hasn't really changed in the last 100 years or so. People stormed the docks to get the latest Sherlock Holmes back at the turn of the century. William Morris, not so much. Somehow, I doubt that particular dynamic is going to change anytime soon.
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Old 12-05-2014, 01:50 PM   #10
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Funny how people want to talk about the extremes while pretending that must be the norm.

Authors, be they indie or traditional publishers, who pull in 6 to 7 figures on a book are very much the exception rather than the rule. A little research shows that the vast majority of authors who do get advances, get under 20K.
And in 1974 Anne Rice got 12k for Interview with the Vampire when the norm for new authors was 2k. That is not even 10 times as much gap. 20k vs even the lowest figure 7 digit advance is a factor 50. If anything the pushing and creating and depending on a few best sellers became even more important over time. Especially now with ebooks.
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Old 12-06-2014, 04:36 AM   #11
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And in 1974 Anne Rice got 12k for Interview with the Vampire when the norm for new authors was 2k. That is not even 10 times as much gap. 20k vs even the lowest figure 7 digit advance is a factor 50. If anything the pushing and creating and depending on a few best sellers became even more important over time. Especially now with ebooks.
She earned it back fairly quickly didn't she? I don't necessarily know that Anne Rice and Interview with a Vampire is something to say that the advance system is broken. The idea on an advance is that the publisher advances the money based on what they expect to make. As long as the author earns out, then it's not a problem but rather an accurate reflection of what the author is expected to earn. Certainly, there are some examples of books getting huge advances and then not coming close to earning out. That's a lot more problematic, but I suspect that sort of thing is self correcting over time.

The publishing industry is a lot like the music industry and movie industry in that they all depend on the blockbusters to carry the financial load. It's been that way for a long while. As the cost of publishing books, creating music and creating movies goes down, we see more of the mid list artists becoming more profitable. I would still expect all three industries to be dominated by the blockbuster in the future, but that doesn't preclude non blockbuster authors from making a decent living at it.

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Old 12-06-2014, 06:13 AM   #12
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She earned it back fairly quickly didn't she? I don't necessarily know that Anne Rice and Interview with a Vampire is something to say that the advance system is broken.
No, I meant the opposite. Back then the advance system was not broke. Not sure how long it actually took to earn out for her. But if she didn't earn out, then the risk was not painfully high. The gap is widening a lot between the rich and the poor. Imagine for a second that instead of 12K they would have shelled out a 120k advance for her - more in line with the difference between todays below 20k typical, 7 figure high advance. Go even crazier and imagine that book didn't come close to earning out, not even breaking even. In that case it would have taken ten times as many smaller books to make up for it.

No, Anne Rice was an example of how the system wasn't broken, and now it is.
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Old 12-06-2014, 06:25 AM   #13
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As I recall when Stephen King published his first book "Carrie" he got around 250k in advance money and that was his share after his agent had theirs (if I recall correctly). It was a big advance I imagine for the time.

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Old 12-06-2014, 06:58 AM   #14
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As I recall when Stephen King published his first book "Carrie" he got around 250k in advance money and that was his share after his agent had theirs (if I recall correctly). It was a big advance I imagine for the time.
He got a $2500 advance when Carrie was published. Enough to get him out of a big hole he was in. Not enough to be writing full time as he first thought. When the paperback rights were sold he got 200k out of the deal. I am not convinced that is still considered an advance since the book was already published in hardcover.

More of the story here: http://www.mentalfloss.com/article.php?id=53235
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Old 12-06-2014, 07:15 AM   #15
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I concede that I mis-remembered it. Still selling the rights to a 1st book for 200k had to be a lot back then I'd think.
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