The Ugly Truth about the Big Book Deals #writing #amwriting #writerlife #writerproblems

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.

13 thoughts on “The Ugly Truth about the Big Book Deals #writing #amwriting #writerlife #writerproblems

  1. Reblogged this on Writing Under Fire and commented:
    So totally agree that book deals to celebrities are not fair, but as my Mom used to say, “Who ever told you life is fair?” My other comment on the subject is that they “celebrities, politicians, etc.” can break every writing rule in the book, but let us put one stupid comma in the wrong place or capitalize when we should italic, and POW, into the slush pile. I know Mom, quit whining.

    1. It is very true that life isn’t fair. And, yes, they get deals when writers don’t because of grammar and such. I guess that’s just another part of life. lol. Thank you so much for stopping by and for the reblog!! 🙂

  2. Although I knew that bog names, actors, politicians, etc. were being paid over the top advances for their ghost writen books, I never gave it another thought. I knew in my heart of hearts that I’d already written a “good” book and am about to publish another “good” book, my ambitions are not about the size of an advance I may, or may not, get. I don’t have a big name to work with. I’d be happy to have my book published by any publisher for any size of an advance. For me, that alone would stamp my book as one that is well written and has the potential of selling enough copies to at least get back the financial investment the publisher made in me.

    1. I hadn’t give it much thought either, until just this one afternoon. I actually had to laugh at the numbers and research I found. It’s part of life, though. And, you know what, good for them that they got it. I, too, am not after the big numbers and fame. All I want is for my novels to bring entertainment to whomever reads them. Thank you so much for stopping by!! 🙂

  3. I admire your balanced view of the ridiculous amounts paid to non-authors turned authors (of sorts.) They are much akin to the gobs and piles of money paid to sports stars and actors and rappers. At least it gives us non-famous people an incentive to keep on working. Good post.

  4. Oy. post and examples. It’s much like the acting and dance world that my daughter is in. Unless you’re already famous, it’s very hard to break out, much less make a living at it.

    This is disheartening to those of us who pound away at the keyboard but we can be proud of our accomplishments and the fact that we created something ourselves. From scratch. Oh, and those reviews and fan letters from readers: Priceless.

  5. Great post! I am totally stunned by those stats. The discrepancy is pretty sad, unfortunately. :/

    Good thing us authors write because we love it and not for fame or fortune. Otherwise the variety of books would be sorely lacking.

    1. Thank you so much! Yes, I was shocked, and yet, I wasn’t. I had an idea that such was the case, but I didn’t quite know for sure until I started the research. When an author can break through it, though, I think that’s great. Thank you so much for stopping by!! 🙂

  6. I always say that there in no profession I know in which talent, hard work, degrees, and experience have any impact. Luck and timing seem to be the key–as well as the glam factor and politics.

  7. It is a sad thing that those authors who wrote the books for famous people are simply ghost writers and will never get recognition for their work. Not to mention what this means for writers who actually write their own books.
    I did freelance writing with a company a couple of years ago and they asked me to ghost write a couple of books and I declined. While it might have paid hundreds of dollars, it seemed to me that I’d be selling my soul.
    I like your outlook at the end of the article though. There’s always hope, and even if we never make it big, we’re still doing what we love. ❤

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