1.23.2008

The Nitty Gritty on Advances

There's a perception that if you've published a book, you're rollin' in the cheddar (nice street lingo, eh?). But with estimates positing that 3,000 books are published each day, that's a pretty saturated marketplace. There's not a tremendous amount of loot (eh?) to spread around.

Tobias Buckell undertook the admirable and laborious task of charting advances for 108 authors in the genres of Science Fiction and Fantasy. His findings were pretty telling on what a debut author can expect for a first genre piece. Take a look at Buckell's report here.

A median advance for a first novel hovers around five grand. The numbers seem to illustrate that a little bit of staying power helps (if you pump out a couple of books you can reasonably expect about thirteen grand). Having an agent helps.

Some of the really encouraging numbers in this survey: 89 of 108 authors sold multiple books; the range extended as high as $600,000. There's money to be made, but this sample does reveal a little of the reality that most hopeful scribblers are looking at.

But I think this is kind of a moot point for most writers. I know it is for me. I mean, money is good. I trade it for goods and services. I need it to maintain my lifestyle at a certain level of comfort. But mostly, I go to the word-well each day to slake my thirst. For most writers, that's it. You just got to get the words down--you got to tell the story. If you should happen to become wealthy, be very happy that people like to read your words and pay your good fortune on to the next writer.

And that's not even to discuss the idea of the break-out novel. Take a look at that post and tell me there's not an awful lot of career-building going on behind every writer's success. When you think about queries, synopses, submission schedules, rejections and promotion it makes your head spin.

Oh, and there's the writing every day. That little thing.

But with all of that, it's still worth it because the thirst doesn't go away. By the way, I had a nice drink this morning.

So what do you think? Are those advance numbers about what you expected, or is that amount of lettuce (eh?) absurd?

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