Decoding The Book Advance

Jane Friedman at Scratch Mag has published an amazing rundown of publishing advances for debut authors, broken down my gender and genre. As Friedman is quick to point out, the data is taken from advances that are self-reported to Publisher’s Marketplace, and far from perfect. “It is not a catalogue of all publishing deals made, but it’s the best insight we’ve got.” Nevertheless: fascinating!

My favorite part, of course, is where she breaks down the publishing code for reporting advances. I knew that when someone says they got a “major deal,” it means $500k and up, and that those writers were the ones to hate (or, um, be happy for!). But I am happy to now have this more specific rubric for judging the successes of people I read about on the internet:

Nice deal: up to $49,000
Very nice deal: $50,000–$99,000
Good deal: $100,000–$249,000
Significant deal: $250,000–$499,000
Major deal: $500,000 and up

Moving beyond my own insecurities, the results of the gender breakdown were not so discouraging after all! 69.1% of the debut authors accounted for were women. The overall range of advances was never starkly unequal by gender. Women dominate the romance category, bigtime, as well as Young Adult. Men get paid a lot more for debut science fiction. There were no debut crime fiction novels written by women reported to Publisher’s Marketplace in the last four years. Crazy.

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3 Comments / Post A Comment

moreadventurous (#4,956)

not to shoot the gender equality sentiment, but could it be that women authors are more likely to self-report?

chickpeas akimbo (#6,745)

@moreadventurous these reports are submitted by publishers and agents, not authors.

chickpeas akimbo (#6,745)

some insight about this data:
1.) the percentage of deals that are reported to PM that even include a monetary figure is very small — I would say probably less than half, maybe even less than a third. The company I work for does not report the deal category, as a matter of policy. Of the 40 most recent deals posted, only 9 contain a category. (All 40 of those deals are dated May 23, just to give you an idea of the kind of volume we’re dealing with here.)
2.) My sense (from reading these things every week) is that publishers of genre fiction are more likely to report the deal category than publishers of literary nonfiction, general fiction, YA, etc.
3.) I’m guessing that the high percentage of women is due to the fact that the romance publishers publish A LOT of books, and most are written by women (or, I guess, people with female pseudonyms.) A HUGE chunk of the weekly deals email is romance books.
4.) It would have been fairer, I think, to exclude multi-book deals or to divide the advance between the books. If you get $100,000 to write four books, that is very different from getting $100,000 to write one book. Multi book deals are more common in YA, romance, and scifi than other areas — the first two categories skew heavily towards women authors, and treating those multibook deals like single book deals makes it look like women are earning more money than they really are.

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