Quite often, the question that comes right after ‘when are the books out?’ is the one above. Money, it fascinates people. I can’t stand the stuff, largely because I’ve never really earned that much before and it seems to cause all manner of problems.
So does an author get all that filthy hard cash once the book deal is made? The short answer is no. The long answer is this (rather simplified one).
First off, take a fictional figure, let’s say twelve-hundred of your English pounds. All books sell for different amounts, but let’s say you sell your page-turning behemoth of an Epic Fantasy novel for 12 grand. Now divide by three (see, I chose 12 for a reason).
You just earned four large for signing the contract – a third of your total advance for signing two words. This often known as the signature advance. Enjoy! You just got paid for making shit up. You can now officially say ‘I’m a professional writer’ at dinner parties, assuming you get invited to dinner parties. I don’t, but that’s because I’m addicted to burritos from Chipotle.
The next third of the total advance comes for delivery of the manuscript. This is delivery of a completed and edited manuscript. My advice is finish the book before you submit it anywhere – agent or publisher – You’ll sleep better. And so will everyone else concerned I’d wager.
The last third of your advance comes on publication. As if the unalloyed joy of seeing your creative offspring on the shelves of book stores wasn’t enough, you get more money. KER-CHING! And you’ll need it to get drunk at the launch party, right?
Now factor in a few things, like lead times. The lead time is how long it takes to get the whole thing done. This seems to be about a year in the UK and a stretch longer in the US of A. So that advance will come to you in fractions over the course of 12-14 months.
Knock off 15% for you agent and put aside about 25-33% for the tax man. Now go get horribly drunk somewhere hot with great room service, but refrain from throwing the TV from the window into the pool because you’re a writer, not a rock star.
Now think up a new book, start writing it, finish writing it, and do it all over again.
That’s the rather simplified version, obviously it gets a trickier with trilogies. Some publishers might even opt to divide the advance into four slices.
And finally, a little bit of etiquette. Don’t tell people how much the publisher paid for your book. That’s why people describe ‘six-figure deals’, or ‘significant five-figure deals’ and so on. Maintain a little financial mystique. After all, the deal should be about the books and the words and the story. Money is just the stuff we use to buy noodles so we can keep writing.
Until next time,