Hello everyone. It's good that you are searching for an answer to this
question and I hope you are here BEFORE you SIGN your contract. But in
case you didn't, welcome here anyway and good luck with your book.
I am a writer who writes techincal books. These books retail for over
$75 dollars and the three books I have written retail for 87.50 to
93.00. One of my titles is being remaindered so when it sold in 1999
for $82 it is now being discounted at $41. The publisher may have me
update it and release it as a second addition or they may drop it.
So how much should you get? You can look in Writer's Market and there
is some information there. You can do this and search the web. You can
also make progress by searching "Advance for Novel" and "Royalties for
Novel" these are writer's terms. An advance is an advance against the
royalties. The royalties are a percentage of each book that goes to
the author, usually between 8 and 15%. The advance is something the
publisher gives the author based upon what the publisher thinks the
book will sell. So if your royalty is 10% and the book sells for
$10.00 then the author gets $1.00 for every book that the publisher
sells. If you got an advance of $5000, then the publisher would have
to sell 5000 books to earn back your advance. Another trick of the
trade is the inital press run. If the author does and inital press run
of 5000 books then he thinks he might sell 5000 books. On my most
recent title, my publisher is going to do $750 books.
In my three books, I get a royalty statement every six months. On my
first book, I had a $1000 advance. This was paid to me in two
installments. The first $500 when I signed the contract to write the
book and the second $500 when the book was sent to the publisher (and
they accepted it.) I am out of the advance on this book and every six
months it sells about 50 copies. My royality is about $10.00 so I get
about $500 on this book. (It's more complex than this. There is the
Ebook and a CD with the book and then the hard cover but that is the
On my second book, I received $1000 when I signed the contract and
$1000 when the manusrcipt was submitted. But the book was transfered
to an new publisher before it was printed. I asked the new publisher
for and additional advance of $750 and they gave this to me. But when
I received the royalty statement, my advance was $2750. I was upset,
because I thought the $2000 from the first publisher was gone, but
what could I do? Sue them? So, I let that go. Anyway, it has been five
years now, and I have never gotten out from under the advance on this
book. I still have about $600 in advance against the royalities to go.
Since the book is down to half price, I don't think it will ever get
out from under. When this publisher stops its' publication, I will
rewrite it and offer it to another publisher as a new book. I may make
more money on it yet.
On my third book, I did not ask for an advance. I signed the contract
to write it in August of 2003, and finished it in August of 2004. I
did not want an advance on this book because I had a big income in
2003 from employment and didn't want to increase my taxes. The book
will come out in February of 05 and my first royalty check will be in
October of 2005. So from August of 2003 to October of 2005, I receive
no money from this book.
The publisher called last week and asked if I would consider doing a
fourth technical book for them. I told them I didn't want to do any
more books for them, because I haven't been making much money with
them, but I said I would consider it. In retrospect, I would offer
them a nice outline, enough to get them interested and then tell them
I want a big advance, like 5000 or 6000 dollars. If they won't go that
high on the advance, then I won't do the book. They know how many
books they will sell, so I can negotiate with them in this way. Once I
get them to make an advance that they are willing to pay, knowing how
much they will charge for the book, probably about $75, I'll know how
many books they expect to sell.
Now after reading all this, you might ask why I'm doing this if there
is so little money in it. And this is why I'm still in the game.
Another author for wrote a book similar to my book called "Disaster
and Emergency Preparedness." And his book came out right BEFORE the
Oklahoma City Bombing. Because of the timing, he sold 7500 books (I
was told) and with a royalty of about $10 bucks I figure he made about
$75,000 in the first year. The books still continue to sell today. So
even though I don't make a lot, or hardly any, I figure I might get
lucky and hit on one of these. If I do, then I'll be set. So, like all
writers, we keep hacking, hoping to strike it big.
There are things a writer can do to help sales, like do press
releases, mail letters, and be a guest on radio and talk shows. This
is general promotion and the more of this a writer can do, (and still
keep writing) the better it is.
I'm thinking of trying a novel. And one last thing. If you have been
offered a book contract, the "Authors Guild" will have their lawywers
look it over for you for free, even though you aren't a member. Their
dues are about $200 per year. But they will do this free for new
authors. The Authors Guild has several distingushed members, including
Michael Criton (Jurassic Park) and others. If you are offered a
contract, you can also get an agent. An agent gets 10% of what you
get, so for every $5000 the agent would get $500. But the agent can
help you negotiate for more and they know the game as well as the
publishers. So they can help.
Oh, and one last thing, I keep writing, because I like to write.