After reading the news that John Scalzi, a Science Fiction author, just signed a deal with Tor Books for 13 books worth $3.4 Million dollars, it got me thinking about book advances.
Now, before I go any further, one thing you ought to know about me is that I’m far from an envious person. It’s just never really been in my nature. People have things that I don’t, so what. I mean, I have things that others don’t, too, so what does it matter? We all have different lives, different wants, needs, and different beliefs of what will make us happy in our years on this earth. So why should I care if someone wants to fill theirs with things I don’t, or necessarily, can’t.
Seems like a waste of emotions, really.
But, back to my point. It’s not too often you read about an author getting an advance for such a huge amount. Usually, those types of advances are saved for the Hollywood actors and actresses or politicians, who feel their lives are so important that they (most often than not) hire a ghostwriter and BOOM, they have a multi-million dollar book deal.
But, a hardworking author who has a passion for pen? Nope. Natta. No way.
Don’t believe me?
I did a little research on the biggest book advances on record today. Here is the list I found:
Sarah Palin: “Going Rogue” – $1.25 million, Demi Moore: (Future book) – $2 million, Dick Cheney: “In My Time” – $2 million, Sarah Silverman: “The Bedwetter” – $2.5 million, Lena Dunham: (Future book) – $3.7 million, Amanda Knox: “Waiting to be Heard” – $4 million, Tina Fey: “Bossypants” – $6 million, Tom Wolfe: “Back to Blood” – $7 million, Jerry Seinfeld: “Seinlanguage” – $7 million, George W. Bush: “Decision Points” – $7 million, Jack Welch: “Straight From The Gut” – $7.1 million, Keith Richards: “Life” – $7.7 million, JK Rowling: “The Casual Vacancy” – $8 million, Hillary Clinton: “Living History” – $8 million, Alan Greenspan: “The Age of Turbulence” – $8.5 million, Pope John Paul II: “In My Own Words” – $8.75 million, Hillary Clinton: (Future book) – $14 million, and Bill Clinton: “My Life” – $15 million
Out of those 18 people, 2 of them are actual authors. The rest are politicians, ex-heads of big corporations, or Hollywood stars. So why is this a big deal? Well, considering that probably all of the 16 non-authors had ghostwriters, that is really saying a lot in the writing/publishing world.
And, what it’s saying isn’t great for authors.
Why? Well, let’s take a look at a sales numbers vs advances example. Hillary Clinton’s received a whopping $14 Million for Hard Choices. Now, although, her first book, Living History did well, its sales numbers are at about 1 million. Hard Choices actually flopped and has only sold a mere 250,000 copies to date. While I will say that selling a million copies of her first is a very good accomplishment, I don’t think it should warrant a $14 million dollar advance for her second. Especially, when you compare her sales vs advance numbers to Stephanie Meyer.
After the popularity of Twilight, Meyer received an advance for only $750,000 for the last three books of the series. Sure, she was an unknown author and not a former first lady; however, that unknown author ended up selling over 120 million copies of her novels worldwide. Heck, by the time Breaking Dawn hit the shelves, it sold 3.7 million copies in one day. ONE DAY!
That’s 3 times what Hillary’s first novel did in its whole time on the shelf.
So as you can see with that example, authors are getting the shaft. Big time.
And, it’s not looking as though it will stop anytime soon.
It’s enough to bum any author out.
So what is an author to do? Nothing, except keep your chin up, keep tapping away on your keyboard and keep releasing your novels. Maybe one day you’ll be lucky to sign a big deal. Or maybe not. But, even if you never do, it’s okay. You’re still an author. You’re still a good writer. You’re still making an impact on the writing world, and you still have fans and readers who love your novels.
So what if you didn’t get a five, six, or seven figure advance. At least, you didn’t hire a ghostwriter to get it.
Oh, and a big CONGRATS to John on his deal!!
For more information on the study of royalty checks and book advances, see my post on Great Expectations of Fat Royalties.