Negotiating book deals can be rather tricky. Many authors go into it with the mindset of “How big of an advance can I get?” But that is not always the most important question.
In the last few months I’ve closed quite a few book deals and one in particular had a lot of publisher interest, and multiple offers. The publisher we went with wasn’t the one with the highest advance. But it was the best deal for a few reasons:
→ The quality, reputation, distribution and marketing track record of the publisher
→ The editor’s personal enthusiasm for the book, and the expressed enthusiasm of the entire publishing committee
→ The fact that the author will most likely earn back the advance and much more in the first year, setting them up as a success story with that publisher
One of the jobs of an agent is to get the author the advance they’re worth. Some would say the agent’s job is to get the author the biggest advance possible but as we’ve discussed before, that’s not always in the author’s long-term best interest if it’s going to make it impossible for them to earn out in the first year. In this particular case, I think we’re setting up this author for multiple future books and a good reputation with the publisher. Plus, the author is going to have one of the best editors I know, not only working to make the book shine, but being a champion for the book within the publishing house.
Book publishing can be a great experience for an author, or it can unfortunately sometimes be fraught with frustrations and disappointments. And a book can be considered a wild success or a dismal failure, even with the exact same number of units sold, depending on what the publisher paid for it.
So sometimes the agent’s job is to place the author into a situation with the biggest possibility for it to be a good experience, and for them to be considered a success so that we can get more book contracts in the future. Sometimes starting small is the best strategy. Baby steps can be the way to go.
I always negotiate in good faith and try to get authors all the best terms possible, including financially. And I did that in this case, and was very pleased with the results. But just in case you were thinking the agent is always after the biggest possible advance, that’s not always the way it goes.