Last week, I got my very first (post-advance) payment of royalties for Polaris Rising! 🎉🎉🎉 Thank you all so much for your support because this means the book “earned out,” a publishing term that means I’ve earned enough royalties to cover the advance the publisher paid me.
Traditional publishing accounting is interesting, so let’s talk about it!
First, having an agent who will explain your contract and answer questions is an enormous help, if not a requirement. I usually don’t lay down laws because everyone’s situation is different, but personally, I would not sign a publishing contract without an agent (hi, Ms. Sarah, I love you!). But that’s a whole other post, and today we’re talking about getting paid.
If your eyes glaze over at numbers and you’re not an aspiring author, you may want to skip this one. :)
When an author signs a contract with a traditional publisher, the publisher generally pays an advance. They calculate the advance based on how well they think the book will do, and where it fits in their lineup, and what phase the moon is in (okay, maybe not that last one, but there’s a lot of things involved I don’t know about). This advance is an advance payment on future royalties—hence the term advance.
Advances range from almost nothing to millions, depending on the author, their audience, the number of books contracted, and the author’s previous publishing history. Publishers Marketplace even has a coy little key for deal news so everyone can tell where the deal fell in the range without actually coming out and saying it:
|“nice deal”:||$1 – $49,000|
|“very nice deal”:||$50,000 – $99,000|
|“good deal”:||$100,000 – $250,000|
|“significant deal”:||$251,000 – $499,000|
|“major deal”:||$500,000 and up|
So someone who got a “good deal” made an advance between $100k – $250k, which is a pretty big range.
Once the number is nailed down by your agent and the publisher, then you get paid—yay! But you don’t get the whole thing at once.…