1. Hollowly
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    Hollowly Member

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    What is an "advance"?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Hollowly, Sep 17, 2009.

    I don't get what an advance is. From what I do understand, you find a publisher who accepts your work and they give you money, say 1000 dollars, so that's the advance? But when the book is published you don't get royalties immediately, not until you've surpassed 1000 dollars in royalties because that's where the advance came from? What happens if they give you an advance then sell only 2 copies? do you have to return the money? Sorry if this has been asked before, but I don't really know how to properly use the search function :confused:
     
  2. Dermit
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    Dermit Member

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    Your basic understanding of how an advance work seems sound. You are paid a set amount in advance of expected proceeds, after which you will start earning royalties in addition to the initial advance. The publisher will generally do their best to guesstimate the likely earnings for your book and pay you accordingly.

    Keep in mind around 70% of published books do not "earn out", that is, generate enough sales to repay the advance at the contracted royalty rate. That doesn't mean the publisher loses money - it just means they don't earn quite as much as they predicted. Of course, if your book only sells 5 copies and you got yourself a $20,000 advance...well then, yes, someone, somewhere is losing money on the venture. But it won't be you.

    No reputable publisher will ever require you to return an advance on a book that didn't earn out. Any publisher with such a clause in contract should be avoided like the plague.
     
  3. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    An author should not have to return any portion of an advance, and if it is included in a contract, the author should get the clause removed.

    There are instances, for example, where an author might sign for a two or three book deal, and get an advance on the first novel. If the novel does not earn out, the publisher may have wording to link the other books such that any advance promised (or royalties) would not be paid but instead first applied to covering the advance of the first novel.

    I don't recall the particular terms or language...but a clause like this should also be resisted and removed. A good agent would spot this immediately. An author unfamiliar with literary contracts very well may not (among many other pitfalls), sign and then find out the hard way.

    Terry
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    which is why you'd be best off with an agent!
     
  5. Hollowly
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    Hollowly Member

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    Thanks for making it clear guys, I appreciate it :)
     
  6. Colonel Marksman
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    Colonel Marksman Member

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    I second this.
     
  7. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Surely get an agent after a publisher agrees to publish your novel. The agent will be sure you don't get ripped off. The agent will look over all the contracts and what not because he is there to protect you. But as Orson Card says, "There really is no point to find an agent until after you have found a publisher."
     
  8. Colonel Marksman
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    Colonel Marksman Member

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    Huh?

    The agent finds publishers for you. They find book designers, artists, reviewers, have contacts with newspapers and magazines, as well as sales managers and editors. They examine your contracts and because they are esteemed in the business, people like editors and publishers trust them. Hence, they are agents, it's what they do. They get your name out there in a professional manner.

    And they only charge 15% of profits. Good ones don't even charge fees. You pay only the postage to send the material (unless you send the material through e-mail, then you really pay nothing). I don't see why people don't like going through agents because they soak up a lot of profits. I'd rather make profits than hardly anything at all because I'm having to pay people to do work and do all the promotion myself.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    my best advice is to ignore card, if he really said that!

    it's sheer nonsense, since the best way is to get an agent first and let the agent find you the best publishing deal... that's how they earn their 15%... and that's what makes it worth more than that to the writer, who'll almost always get a better deal with an agent, than without one...

    but agents don't "find book designers, artists,"... that's done by the publisher, who'll have both in-house... but the agent will support author's wishes in any negotiations over design and such...

    and legit agents don't charge ANY fees, though some may add mailing and copying costs to the standard commission, all of which is paid only AFTER the book is sold... it's paid to the agent off the top and the author then gets the rest...
     
  10. Colonel Marksman
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    Colonel Marksman Member

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    I remember reading an article somewhere (written by an agent I think) that said that the author actually gets absolutely no say-so. It was only one person saying that. But if the agent had suggestions contrary to what I wanted, well, I'm listening. :)
     
  11. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Scott Card said it's better to find your own publisher and only use the agent to be sure you don't get ripped off when signing contracts.
     
  12. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Although, I wonder, if by getting an agent, who then sends it off to a publisher, that may decrease the chances of it ending up in the "slush pile" or whatever. Having an agent would mean to the publisher, perhaps, that your manuscript was something the agent thought was "worthy," and so the publisher may be more interested to take a look at it.

    Also, just from reading what happened with other authors, it seems that their agents helped them tidy up their manuscripts, knowing what its weak points were and what could help it sell better to a potential publisher.
     
  13. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I forgot to mention that Orson Scott Card said this in his book about writing sci-fi and fantasy. Here is a webpage where he pretty much says the same thing.

    http://www.hatrack.com/writingclass/lessons/1999-01-29.shtml

    He anwers the question about if you should get an agent.
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Note that Card's advice is directed at first time authors. Once you have an established relationship with an agent, you will send futire manuscripts through tat agent to query publishers (assuming you are happy with that agent's work with your first publication).
     
  15. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Then why ever get an agent, if only to look over contracts? A lawyer can do that for a one-time fee and they would never have to swallow up a whole 15% of your money.
     
  16. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Some publishers will only look at manuscripts that come from agencies, because they trust the agent's reputation and know that there will be less dross that way.
     
  17. Hazel Eyed Scribe
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    This would be completely true if this above said author already had books published. That would be a case where they would already have an agent. If you are being published for the first time, you probably don't have the resources to have found a "free" agent going in. It's true that an agent will be more likely to find you if they hear of you being published but chances are you might have to find one once someone agrees to publish your book.


    As for the advance, I've always thought of it as a "in good faith" sale. That is, someone agrees to buy your book but obviously there will be additional work to be done like editing, promoting and publishing. So, these publishes now own your book and you will eventually get more money from royalties and such if it sells well but first you gotta finish it completely. No book is completely done just because YOU finish writing it. The editors and publishes gotta have their say to.

    This is at least the impression I've always gotten and things I've heard. Hope it helps.
     
  18. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    The reason I see to get an agent is to get into the market of the "Big" publishing houses. Most large publishing houses only accept manuscripts from agents, not from authors directly. The middle man (the agent) who is representing the authors work, has already done some of the leg work that editors do, by reading the author's work and agreeing that it has a chance to be published and be a success. Work being represented by an agent is more likely to be read because the publishing houses assume the agents aren't stupid and can see a good book when they read it. Thus it is less of a waste of man power (editors time) to read through agent represented work.

    Smaller, newer publishing houses (which there are some that aren't scam publishers) do sometimes have open calls for unagented manuscripts. However these have to be looked at very carefully because there are so many scams out there that it is easy to fall prey to them, especially for unagented authors who are looking to publish their first book.

    To me the 15% expense of an agent is much like paying to have a lawyer. While it isn't always necessary to have a lawyer represent you in court, you are much more likely to win by having one. An agent is the same idea. They act as a lawyer would act, only instead of in court it is in the publishing world. A good agent is like a good lawyer. They will get you the best deal because it benefits them in the end, thus it benefits the author in the end.

    You are much more likely to get an advance from a big publishing house, thus you must have an agent to get your work into those publishing houses. The bigger the publisher the larger the advance will most likely be. So you need an agent.
     
  19. Eddyz Aquila
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    Eddyz Aquila Member

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    How much do authors usually get as their first advance? An average?
     
  20. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    there's no such thing as 'usually'... many publishers pay no advance at all, to new writers... some will pay $5,000... some perhaps a bit more...

    as for an average, you'd have to go from zip to millions, which wouldn't really tell you anything useful...

    if you want examples, just browse publishers' websites and see for yourself...
     

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