If this writer thinks his publisher didn't do much for him after receiving his large, life-changing advance, he should consider that the effort would have been far less if his advance had been small … I've heard this "I got too large of an advance" story before and it defies logic. Sure, he didn't earn out. But who's to say he would have earned out with the smaller advance? Smaller advance would have certainly meant smaller effort by the publisher, smaller interest by the media, and smaller sales all around.As an editor in good standing who has paid seven-figures for books, and who has far more frequently paid five figures, I’m here to dispute, emphatically, the claim that publishers never publish well books they don't pay a ton for. And before anyone accuses me of striking a pose designed to contradict the ingrained cynicism/skepticism with which publishers are viewed—after all, people so enjoy demonizing the ugly for-profit instincts of publishers, and have such uncanny insight into the ways this ugliness motivates us, above all other things—I’ll speak not of art, or of supporting the little guy, but as the bottom-line capitalist I am. Because here’s the truth about what a “small” advance represents to me: it’s a chance to earn a profit—
To turn a (relatively) modest investment into a (potentially) lucrative return… From the Latin lucrativus—from whence comes the rallying cry of investors since time immemorial:
“Hey, man—Do publishers pay tons of money for books sometimes? Yes. Do they sometimes support such investments aggressively? Often, yes. But it's specious (and down-right illogical) to suggest that the inverse is true—that books bought “small” are necessarily doomed to be published that way. Again, I won’t play the “for the love of literature” card; rather, it stands to reason that, if we buy a book for $50,000 (a “small” advance, according to some), and publish it well, there’s a far greater likelihood of
let’s make us some
Getting…into…the BLACKThe failure of a book for which a small advance has been paid is no more guaranteed than is the success of those seven-figure mega-deals that get headline ink in the trades. Are there publishers whose eyes, as a matter of course, glaze over when they see such books on their publishing grids? Yeah: stupid ones. Smart publishers are opportunistic. Sometimes opportunity presents itself in the form of bestselling authors for whom huge sums are paid based on the expectation that huge quantities will be shipped out, generating a stream of receipts that, even when not profitable by every conceivable measure, can nonetheless make a huge contribution to operational overhead. But nothing represents a greater (theoretical) opportunity for publishers than a book bought low that can be sold aggressively. These situations represent the ultimate win-win for author and publisher alike.
What does this outcome require? It requires vigilant activism on the part of editors, and it requires the trust of the people managing/supervising those editors. As the number of publishers shrinks; as the remaining publishers grow in size; and as the number of titles being published on each list increases, especially relative to the number of people needed to publish them well; it is, of course, inevitable that those charged with overseeing those lists focus greater and greater portions of their resources on titles & authors that have a proven track, or on which large bets have been placed—this is what Anonymous means by “chasing the money.”
But under these circumstances, editors have opportunities to be mini-publishers, even—no, especially—for these relatively smaller titles. Their managers are counting on them to do precisely that. And at the end of the day there is nothing so satisfying, so thrilling, so rewarding—for everyone involved—as putting the right book into the right hands at the right time, and turning a project for which expectations are modest into a lead title. Is part of that thrill the realization that you may have earned a terrific return on your investment? Well, this is a business--what do you think?
"Writing is considered a profession, and I don't think it is a profession. I think that everyone who does not need to be a writer, who thinks he can do something else, ought to do something else. Writing is not a profession but a vocation of unhappiness. I don't think an artist can ever be happy."
PRACTICAL MARKETING [Courtesy Zornhau, 2005]
"They should put the 1st couple of pages up in subway adverts. Having read them several times, you'd feel compelled to try the book - if it was any good."
PLATE OF SHRIMP [Courtesy Alex Cox’s REPO MAN, circa 1984]
"A lot of people don't realize what's really going on. They view life as a bunch of unconnected incidences and things. They don't realize that there's this like lattice of coincidence that lays on top of everything. I'll give you an example, show you what I mean. Suppose you're thinking about a plate of shrimp. Suddenly somebody will say like "plate" or "shrimp" or "plate of shrimp" out of the blue, no explanation. No point in looking for one either. It's all part of a cosmic unconsciousness."
- How 5 = 13: A Few Comments on Writing, and Other ...
- But of Course! (B)log-Rolling in our Time
- Happy to Report
- Rant? or Fine Whine? You be the Judge
- Not-So-Fine Whine: On the (Much-Desired) Passing ...
- Fine Whine I: An Unpublished Writer’s Rant
- Anatomy of a Career
- Mad Max Survey, Vol IV: They Lied
- Filthy Lucre: Some Thoughts on the Profit Motive
- Mad Max Survey, Vol. III: Big v. Small
- ▼ May (10)