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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