Christine, what do you make of this article by Lincoln Michel in Electric Lit that says publishers can make back their money even if an advance doesn't earn out? I've read it several times over the years and sent it to others because so much of the publishing financial model is opaque, and I thought this explained things well. I'll pull out the pertinent bit, but it's part of a larger point. https://electricliterature.com/everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-book-sales-but-were-afraid-to-ask/

"When an article talks about how some huge advance given to a debut author and/or celebrity author won’t earn out, that doesn’t actually mean the publisher won’t make money. (Here’s a blog post breaking down the example of Lena Dunham’s huge advance.) In fact, publishers may give huge author advances on books they know won’t earn out as a way of paying a de facto higher royalty rate.

Take our example above. If My Big Literary Novel sells 20k copies, the author still hasn’t earned back her advance yet the press is taking in $90,000 (35% of cover price minus 50k advance). Of course, the press also has to pay for the printing costs of the book as well as any marketing costs or money spent on cover art before it can even pay the various employees that worked on the book… but you get the general idea."

Expand full comment

In my former life, people who were famous for doing something other than writing - cooking, wildernessing, skateboarding - hired me to create book proposals that featured/furthered their brand. The buzzwords you cite were often used. And advances given. Books published. It felt good to help someone make their publishing dream come true but it’s certainly very different than this writer’s life😊 20 years ago, I used to say I needed to become a recovered heroin addict to sell a book. Now? No rhyme or reason. Best to stick to the page.

Expand full comment