Advances: How Can I Find Who Got What?

youtubeToday I debut my video blogging. Please go easy on me – I’ve never done this before! I decided that in my video blogs I’ll answer questions readers have sent me via email, Twitter, my Facebook page, or the blog. So if you have a question you want me to answer in a video, send it along one way or another.

Today’s question:

“Where can I find information on actual advances writers have received for books?”

The writer noted that the Publishers Marketplace gives a ballpark advance – such as below fifty thousand dollars, or between fifty and one hundred thousand dollars. But they want to know specific advances.

Here’s my answer via video, and the same answer appears written out below.

My answer:

Publishers don’t give out this information, so the only way to know the amount of someone’s advance is to ask the author. But authors know it’s bad form to discuss the specifics of their book deals—kind of like how you’re not supposed to talk about your salary when you work for a company. Besides just being bad manners, revealing their advance or other specifics of the publishing contract usually violates the confidentiality clause of that contract. So while you CAN find sources that give ballpark information on advances, you won’t find a resource that lists accurate and specific advances on book deals.

By the way, the information on Publishers Marketplace is becoming increasingly unhelpful because it lumps all advances from zero to fifty thousand dollars in one category. But these days, the vast majority of advances are below fifty thousand, and obviously there’s a world of difference between a thousand-dollar advance and a fifty thousand dollar advance. So while we can glean SOME information from the Internet, there’s a lot we also CAN’T find out.

But agents have the birds-eye view, so this is something you can discuss privately with your agent if you have one.

How would it help you to know other authors’ advances? How could it hurt?

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel by clicking here.

(Although I only have the one video up so far!)

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  15. Enjoyed the vlog and really enjoy your blog. Thanks for all the great information.
    P.S. it’s probably best NOT to know another’s advance and instead simply be blessed by what God provides.

  16. Book publishing contracts are fraught with pitfalls for writers. As you would expect, contracts are written from the publisher’s perspective, and for the purpose of benefiting the publisher.

    Contracts are often the sum of a publisher’s past mistakes and problems. If something went wrong in the past–a disappearing author or a messy libel suit for example–the publisher will work into its contract clauses to prevent those problems from occurring again.

    Most of the time, the process of writing and publishing a book go smoothly. Publishers recognize this, too. As a result, they may be willing to be flexible about their contracts. But you have to ask for changes. Insist, sometimes. Otherwise, you will be stuck with a bad contract.

  17. In science fiction and fantasy, author Tobias Buckell ran a fascinating survey a couple of years ago about what a debut novel’s advance was. He’s written up the results of the survey on his blog.

    He had a good sampling of professional SF/F authors (over 100 responses, which of course he kept completely anonymous) and while the data is a couple of years old, from what I’ve heard it remains pretty indicative. Of course, there are no rules when it comes to this stuff. But if you’re looking for information on genre advances, it’s an interesting data-driven read.

  18. Ghenet says:

    I loved watching the vlog and am glad you’ll be doing more!

  19. Marni Derr says:

    Great information and video. I don’t think averages work as well in the publishing field as with salaried jobs. There are just too many factors to consider. The number one reason is the publisher is making an educated marketing guess about how many copies of the book will actually sell and then basing the advance on their figures and formula’s.

    Find an agent. This is the one thing I can’t stress enough. Especially first time authors. (Maybe this is a given in literary fields, but it isn’t the norm in my non-fiction market). My agent was able to guide me through all of these murky waters. She was an invaluable resource and a wealth of information.

    Just like this blog. 🙂

  20. Layla Fiske says:

    Like everyone else, I really loved your vlog. I think it is such a great idea, gives such a wonderfully personal touch. Very progressive and engaging!

    And as usual the information you share is helpful, enlightening and sensible.

    Thanks for your time and effort in making the process clearer for us all.

  21. Kim Kasch says:

    Loved it! I think it is so helpful to put a face with the actual person – of course I also love Skypeing. :

  22. love your first vlog ever!!! so nice to put a live person with the advice i read everyday. congrats!!!

  23. otin says:

    Love this! Putting a voice and personality to a face is a great thing. You are actually totally different than I imagined. Not that I imagined anything bad, but just different 🙂

    I’m at the point where I just want someone to read my entire book. The thought of never making a dime on it is not as disheartening as the thought of no one reading it. If you gave me the option of making 500,000 and having the book locked away forever, or selling a million copies and making nothing, I would take option B

  24. otin says:

    Love this! Putting a voice and personality to a face is a great thing. You are actually totally different than I imagined. Not that I imagined anything bad, but just different 🙂

    I’m at the point where I just want someone to read my entire book. The thought of never making a dime on it is not as disheartening as the thought of no one reading it. If you gave me the option of making 500,000 and having the book locked away forever or selling a million copies and making nothing, I would take choice number two.

  25. otin says:

    Love this! Putting a voice and personality to a face is a great thing. You are actually totally different than I imagined. Not that I imagined anything bad, but just different 🙂

    I’m at the point where I just want someone to read my entire book. The thought of never making a dime on it is not as disheartening as the thought of no one reading it. If you gave me the option of making 500,000 and having the book locked away or selling a million copies and making nothing, I would take choice number two.

  26. Larry Carney says:

    All I’m worried about is if it’s big enough to cover the costs of all those lattes I lapped up while writing the thing 🙂

  27. Very helpful, Rachelle!

    Funny story about your video. I hit the Play button, and my son (who was on our family computer playing Mickey Mouse games) jumped up from his seat to see what was on my laptop. He kept asking, “Who is it? Who is it?”

    Any video that trumps Mickey Mouse is a huge success! 🙂

  28. Eileen Cook says:

    Brenda Hiatt’s website does a “show me the money” survey every year where she asks romance writers what they earn in advance/earn out etc and divides it up by publisher. It is really only focused on the romance genre (including YA) but gives a good insight into general genre fiction advances.

  29. Care Anderson says:

    A+ on your first Vlog!

    You are really, real!
    It was great to be able to see and hear you in a new way than in just reading.

    You could be a Therapist. (just saying you have the gift of a soft voice and a sincerity that shines through)

  30. Obviously, we can’t all be fortunate enough to have you as our actual agent, but reading your blog, and hearing your friendly voice on the video, makes you like our virtual representative. Thank you for caring so much about the industry, and for caring enough about writers, in general, to share your expertise and insights with us.

  31. Great job on your first vlog! I really enjoy having the opportunity to see and hear bloggers whose words I read regularly. Adds a new dimension…

  32. While I think general data (and I agree Publishers Marketplace desperately needs to break down theirs better, perhaps by 10k increments from 20k-50k and by 5k increments below 20k) is useful in setting expectations (e.g. don’t quit your day job when you sell that first MS), I would not want to be privy to exact figures for particular authors.

    In my experience (albeit brief, as I am a debut novelist) this business boasts a level of good-fellowship that few others can equal. The number of established writers and fellow newbies who have reached out to me in support – well I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Why introduce an ugly competitive factor that doesn’t need to be there?

    The way I see it, a rising tide of readers will lift all boats. That’s how I view sales as well. Good sales for one book doesn’t take sales away from another book. Whenever I hear that someone in my genre is selling well I feel encouraged. It means there is a solid audience for what we all write.

  33. Very nice first video! I’ve been wanting to start video blogging for a while now… but I’m just too shy!

  34. JP Kurzitza says:

    My question: why is the publishing industry so murky and mysterious? A little transparency would do the industry a lot of good and answer a lot of questions. It’s like a secret society almost, where only members have exclusive access. Why the lack of transparency?

    Good Vlog. It’s always nice to hear the voice that goes with the picture.

    • Rachelle says:

      JP, I would have understood your comment and question if I’d heard it 5 years ago. The fact that you’re posting it today, on my blog, where my Agent Blogroll lists more than 20 other agent blogs and my Publishing blogroll lists 15 additional websites, and where we frequently discuss writers conferences that continually give writers unprecedented access to agents and editors… is absolutely mystifying.

  35. amanda says:

    Enjoyed the Vlog this morning! It was nice to put a voice to a daily read.

  36. Casey says:

    The Vlog worked great, Rachelle! And the perfect length and flow, I would watch more that you put out in a heartbeat. 🙂 Thanks for sharing that info! Looks like I won’t know figures until I have the paper in my hand. 🙂

  37. Thanks for your helpful answer, Rachelle!

  38. Jen J. Danna says:

    Wonderful first video blog post, Rachelle! And you’ve given us some great information as well. I really find Publishers Marketplace to be very useful, but your point about lumping advances together is very well taken.

    Thanks and looking forward to your next video blog entry…

  39. Marty says:

    Now that was fun… GREAT job on your first video!

  40. Erin says:

    LOVE the video Rachelle… you look great and there’s great info, too!

  41. Else says:

    I have a related question. How can we find out how many copies of different kinds of books have sold?

    It seems like that’s related to the question of what the advance should be.

    Thank you.

    • Rachelle says:

      Similar answer, Else. The publisher typically only releases that info to author or agent, although you may have better luck getting this info than advance info. Occasionally you might see a press release about a book that has reached a super-high milestone, 100,000 copies or whatever.

    • Else says:

      Thanks, Rachelle.

  42. Kudos! You’re great on film. 🙂

  43. Kay Elam says:

    I love your new website and you did a fabulous job with your first Vlog. It’s nice to put a voice with a face. I look forward to more in the future.

  44. Sarah Thomas says:

    Vlogging adds a whole new dimension in getting to “know” you–thanks for that!

    This is such an interesting discussion. I think I’d have to come down on the side of NOT comparing myself. Though I did like the idea of having something like Might help weed out the writers in it for the big bucks!

  45. Kerry says:

    Love the vlog! What a nice change of pace. My morning quiet time before the kids get up is catching up on all the new blog postings. I was able to sip my coffee as I listened.

    Great info, too. It’s such a changing environment in the publishing industry. I appreciate the insight.


  46. Tracy says:

    This is just a repeat of everyone else but, You did a great job. You have a very pleasant speaking voice. Easy to listen to.:o) Have a great day at RWA!

  47. Rachelle, you made it look so easy!

    And good point about the confidentiality clause in contracts.

  48. Kristy Bryan says:

    I love the new feature on your blog. Thanks for developing the video message and posting it for this community.

    Regarding advances, I don’t think the information is necessary or even helpful to know as you craft and hone your own manuscript. We should write first because we feel like that is what we are meant to do.

    If a multi-published author senses the publishing house is not giving advances that reflect a proven sales history, then the author and his/her agent need to develop a strategy for negotiating different advances in future. Needless to say, that’s a much different situation, and one I wouldn’t know about since I’m just beginning my first manuscript.

  49. David Todd says:

    Alas, YouTube is blocked at work, and my ancient home computer has no speakers. I’ll bow out of this one.

  50. Dan Blank says:

    Thanks for this. Discussions about actual dollar amounts earned – in any field – is often rare. That’s what I find so fascinating about some who self-pub ebooks sharing their specific earnings. I imagine as this practice grows, that we will hear less and less of people’s specific earnings. Off topic – sorry!
    Have a great day.

  51. Jessica says:

    I found Brenda Hiatt’s Show Me the Money a long time ago and it helped give me a realistic view of what authors make. But knowing individual advances isn’t important to me and I don’t think it’s helpful either.

  52. That was fantastic, Rachelle! Loved the vlog. (Something about the word vlog makes me smile. It’s fun to say. Try it.)

    Great info as well.

  53. Well see now, that was just darn fun. Loved seeing you this morning!

  54. Wendy says:

    Hmm…someone wise once tweeted that comparison is the death of contentment. That’s how it could hurt me. I’m not all that curious about needing to know other authors’ advances.

    And yeah to see you. 😀 Made me smile.
    ~ Wendy

  55. I loved your video, Rachelle – you have a lovely warm, soft voice that echoes how approachable you seem to be on your blog.

    I never imagined there was any way to find out advances, so I shall continue to wait and see if it ever happens to me! I vaguely know what a friend received for a 2-book advance but that was years ago and I’m sure it will have changed quite a bit. I’d rather not have unrealistic expectations.

  56. Neil Ansell says:

    My agent told me that a couple of years earlier, before the recession, I would probably have got twice as much. Nonetheless, because it was a five publisher auction for my first book, I got enough that I decided to take a gamble and quit my work. I was only working part-time as I’m a single parent, and I reckon that I’m earning roughly the same as I was then. We shall see if I can sustain this and support my family by writing alone.

    • Sherri says:

      That is so exciting! And probably more than a little scary. I hope this works out for you. I totally understand the dream of wanting to write for a living. Best of luck.

  57. Lisa Marie says:

    Nicely done vlog, Rachelle! You look and sound just like I imagined. 🙂

    I do have published author friends, and I do know their advances. *Bleak.* Really makes me wonder at times if there’s a point to all this at times. (!)

  58. Great vlog! You sounded really friendly and professional.

  59. Million Dollar question: Was that kinda like when one tries to leave an “out of office” message on their voicemail and has to redo it a billion times before they don’t stumble over a word????

    It always took me about 10 tries (unfortunately that is not exaggerating) so I can’t imagine a trying to video a message and not missing a beat! You did FABULOUS!

    Re: Advances

    For years my day job has been in payroll, so I’m used to knowing EVERYONE’S salary and also knowing that I’m not allowed to use it to my advantage or really care about it or discuss it. So I guess I’m used to the wide variety in salaries and not talking about the issue.

    I think instead of really wanting to know what one “person” makes, it’d be nice to have a proverbial equivalent to that you can plug in your status, genre etc and get a normal range. Obviously that is impossible and won’t happen, but I think the curiosity is more for a ballpark and not wanting specific book information.

    That said, personally I’m not that hung up about it. I think that, too, is where a good agent comes in. They’ll be able to better know what is acceptable and in a normal range.

  60. Loree Huebner says:

    Love the vlog!!

    I guess we’re just curious at times. I really haven’t thought about advances recently. The only time my ears perk up is when I hear that so and so celeb got a 6 or 7 figure advance. T

  61. Laurinda says:

    I love the use of the video blog. I have nothing on my YouTube channel. I need to make use of it. You are inspiring me.

    Why would an author take an advance? Is there any risk to the author if the book doesn’t sale?

    • Sherri says:

      I’m curious about this as well. It’s not an issue right at the moment, but it would be helpful to know.

      Should an author save an advance in case the book doesn’t meet sales expectations? Are authors ever required to return an advance in part or in whole?


  62. Thanks for the video blog, Rachelle! Always so interesting to hear someone’s voice. Looking forward to more!

  63. Ruth Taylor says:

    Love the video. I almost felt like I was sitting down with you having coffee and a conversation.

    I can’t say that I haven’t wondered about the range of advances. In my eyes it is a private matter, and like you mentioned, the equivalent of revealing ones salary.

  64. Author advances seem to be the topic of the day. I read an interesting post today by Jessica Faust of BookEnds. One of her author clients listed her average advance & I was rather stunned as she is a prolific writer. I found the amount quite low & therefore somewhat discouraging. I even blogged about this subject today and though it is informative to know what’s going on in the industry, I don’t need one more thing to deter me from writing. It’s already challenging enough. So I’ll keep my ignorance & remain dedicated to the craft, thank you very much.

  65. Fabulous! Just fabulous! What a great tool to use on your blog. Keep going!

  66. Very nice, Rachelle! I want to say, “Aww!” but I’m afraid it would sound condescending and you’re still a professional, so I don’t want to do that. Your voice was a surprise! I’m not sure exactly why. I mean, not that I’d really given thought to what your voice would sound like… (Believe it or not I’m really editing this as I go and I’m still not sure I’m not sticking my foot in my mouth.) Your voice is *so* friendly. It’s not that you’re unfriendly in written form but this puts a great welcoming voice to the blog. Good job.

    Oh, and I liked the information. The confidentiality clause sounds like a wonderful phrase to pull out if someone asks questions like that. 🙂

  67. I don’t want to know what others got for their books. Their books aren’t my writing and what they got (and money in general) is not an accurate reflection of the worth of the words and stories I have to share.

  68. Marji Laine says:

    Great job on your first video blog!

    I think the ballpark figures could help someone as they decide to make writing their career, but your questions revert back to another post you had recently about comparing yourself to others. One author knowing the advance of another, especially from the same publisher, is a jealous conflict waiting to happen. In this case, ignorance is bliss.

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