One thing that you should know if you’re just starting out in this business is that no one will ever tell you how much they got for a publishing advance. This was one thing that startled me, because I thought I wouldn’t have to ask. That it would just be out there listed as an expected range, like looking up salaries on Glass Door. (Of course, you can’t really go by them either. I went to Glass Door and looked the average base pay for Adjunct Professor and got $42,451 and almost fell off my chair laughing.) Like Penguin/RH paid the best, followed by HarperCollins, etc., but that was ridiculous because no one ever advertised this stuff. The closest I got to real figures was a survey author Brenda Hiatt used to compile called “Show Me the Money,” but I don’t think she’s updated it in a long time. So where do you go to find if this writing life is even worth it?
Er…in case you haven’t found it out yet, it’s like that old saying: if you have to ask, you can’t afford it. In other words, if you’re looking to make a mint out of writing fiction, well here’s a piece of advice–don’t quit you’re day job. On the other hand, if you’re willing to occasionally starve, absorb a lot of criticism, and spend hour after hour behind a keyboard, you may have a future in the literary life. If you do that, you may eventually sell, and when you do, you’re likely to get an advance with your book contract. (If you don’t, that means you’re may be getting on a higher percentage royalty-only contract, but that’s a whole other post.) And when you do sell, your agent will post the sale on Publisher’s Marketplace, using only these vague descriptors to outline compensation:
“Nice” – $1.00 – 49.00
“Very Nice” – $50.00 – 99k
“Good” – $100k – 250k
“Significant” – $251k – 499k
“Major” – $500k and up
So there you go, publishers’ advances decoded! Don’t you feel much better now?