There’s a lot of great inside-knowledge on the business of being a novelist from pros to be found on blogs lately, all of it pure gold for aspiring authors. Not so long ago, Alison Kent shared her latest royalty statement with the world. Now author Sara Donati explains in simple terms how royalties and advances work.
I’m always surprised that many aspiring authors don’t understand how
the money works. A publisher offers you a contract, and an advance. The
amount of the advance doesn’t have to do with how good the novel is, or
how much they like it. A million dollars does not equal an A+. The
advance is their best guess on how many copies of the book they can
sell. No matter how much the acquiring editor loves your novel, the
publishing house does not want to overpay you. End of story.
Not exactly the end. She has a few more interesting observations to share in that post and in another one on the subject as well (UPDATE: Sara made an error in her figures in her original post, which she has corrected and so have I:).
If you’re talking about a hardcover book, the author generally gets
10% on the first 1 to 25,000 copies sold, 12% on the next 25,000 and
15% on anything sold above 50,000 copies — after the advance is paid
out, of course. And these figures are negotiable. I would guess Stephen
King’s numbers are better.
For softcover, the range is much greater, usually someplace between
6% and 10% of the cover price, again with increases as the number of
This probably is pretty sobering for those who are hoping to make a living writing fiction.