As an wanna-be writer just about to start sending out her first manuscript, I'm getting a lot of weird looks from my family when I tell them that selling a book does not equal finding a suitcase full of money. If it's not too rude to ask, what's a common advance for a first novel? I'd like to have some realistic figures to give them over turkey when the questions start flying at Thanksgiving.
I about fell off my chair at BEA when Gillian Blake said the "average advance" she paid was $40K. Fortunately I was held in place by six other slack jawed agents in the row of chairs. We all wished that was the case.
Gillian Blake is the chief bigwig at Bloomsbury. They publish really great fiction very selectively. They probably DO pay an average of $40K but unless the only place I'm selling is Bloomsbury and their ilk (Holt, FSG, Random, Viking, SimonandSchuster, Warner) my average is going to drop like a rock when you factor in the small presses I sell to.
And make no mistake about it: I sell a lot to small presses. I love those guys. They are willing to take risks, to publish books that only need to sell 10,000 copies to be a raging success, and generally they don't have to answer to HerrGottzRocs from the mother company overseas.
So, if I can sell your novel to Bloomsbury, drag out the Louis Vuitton and let's rub the relatives nose in your new found suitcase of fun.
If I sell it to Ig Publishing in Brooklyn, you'll make money on the back end we hope but up front isn't going to break any records.
Now, I know this is delicate territory but if someone asks you what a writer earns you can just smile very enigmatically and say "my agent handles the money end of things. I just write GREAT prose." This works for everyone but your dad if you still have an account at the First Bank of Father.