I asked for blog content suggestions on my Facebook fan page: http://facebook.com/eadavisblog and Chris Brown, author of One Man to Love, requested a blog…Do authors get what they expect, when they sign a publishing deal? Hmm…well Chris that is a good question.
The answer in this question really depends on many factors. However, simply put…No. Let me explain why I say this.
A self-published author knows the costs to publish and essentially enters into a contract with themselves and the company they use to publish their books. They know that cost upfront but they do not always know what to expect. Sometimes they pay upfront for a vanity press and get little in return. Also, there is the cost of marketing materials which isn’t always taken into consideration. This is a long subject that I could get into further, but I won’t. I think the real question was traditionally published authors and/or indie authors.
If you publish with a small time or indie publishing house, there are almost never advances paid. All writers would love an advance, but small houses can’t risk the cost. Especially, not knowing what the return is. Typically you will see a lot of 70%-30% contracts, but these again can greatly vary from publishing house to publishing house. Most times they get a good chunk off your sales to repay the costs for editing and cover work. Do they get what they expect? Yes and no…they do when they see the contract and sign it, but before hand they probably do not know what they are getting into. Also, can you really afford to be too picky as a new author? Not really.
Now, let’s talk about traditional publishing houses…medium and larger size. 20 years ago you may have gotten a decent advance as a new author, and by decent I mean $500-1,200.00 depending on the publisher. However, the more the advance the lower the royalties. Also, children’s books get the smallest amount of royalties and advances if any advance at all. If you are a new author today, very few receive any kind of advance for their first book. Not to mention that getting published through a traditional house alone can be a challenge for a new author.
Some authors have had much more luck when the publishing house really believes in their story and can and have offered them up to $5,000 but it is rare. The only authors getting huge advances nowadays are ones that are long since established and even they are feeling the pinch. Some authors that used to get $10,000.00+ dollar advances have gotten cut in half (or so I hear). Not everyone feels comfortable sharing their financials.
Only about 6% of traditionally published authors rake in a six plus figure advance, and when you consider all the authors out there, that isn’t a lot. So, as I said…there are so many factors that go into this question. There is one person that hasn’t even completed his book yet, but because of his huge Facebook following and social media influence was offered a book deal and a part of an advance before completing the book. That is some feat. You have to remember that there are a lot of authors now that it is so easy to write something and put it out for the world to read. Also, because of the economy it has greatly impacted the amount of money writers see.
Aside from the economy there is the very sad fact that many people have turned to e-books versus traditional books. I myself am guilty of that. This means that the publishing house saves money from print, but the cost of e-books is also much cheaper than the cost of a traditional hardback/paperback copy. That means less royalties for the authors and more profit for the companies that publish them. However, with that said, overall publishing houses are feeling the pinch themselves. I hope this answered the question of whether or not authors get what they expect from a publishing contract. I can say with certainty that the answer is almost always no. At least to some degree. Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments. I would love to see how it worked out for all of you.