Friday, May 15, 2009

The Slowing Down Of Book Deals

Everyone's heard about how bad things are getting in the publishing industry and how clouded the future is due to the growth of electronic publishing.

I get the free version of the Publishers Lunch. If I get to a point where I'm selling to good markets regularly and/or have a book deal on the table, I'll subscribe to the full version in a snap. But the the free version does give you some interesting information.

The amount of deals being reported does not seem to be going down. Almost daily there are 30 or more deals done in the industry. Of course these are over the entire industry so include, fiction, non-fiction, memoirs, etc, etc, but 30 new book deals a day adds up. What it means in a nutshell is that publishing houses are still buying books.

The free version also lists a legend in regards to the type of deals:

nice deal" $1 - $49,000"
very nice deal" $50,000 - $99,000"
good deal" $100,000 - $250,000"
significant deal" $251,000 - $499,000"
major deal" $500,000 and up "

Hands up everyone who wants a major deal? Hands up anyone who wants any kind of deal? Okay, everyone, put both hands down. Cate, Carrie, and KC, get off the table. Getting your hands higher into the air won't help. Nat, I said hands, not feet.

Now, go have a look over at Janet Reid's recent deals that she has posted on her blog. Take careful note of the wording. Many state "in a nice deal" which tells us most deals are in the first category. You can stop dreaming about those in the "significant deal" section (for now).

I'm guessing for most people, getting a deal in the upper reaches of a "nice deal" would be equivalent to a year's wage (remember it's listed in US dollars). If this happened to you, would you be able to give up the current day job for 12 months, do the promotional stuff for the first book, and write the second book? Remember you only have a few months to write the second book this time, not the years you've had so far to pen the first book. After a few months it has to go to the editor, come back for revisions, and back , and more revisions, etc, etc, and then to the publishers, find a cover image, etc, etc, and then comes all the promo stuff for the second book while you're still trying to earn out the advance on the first one. Rinse and repeat for every year to come.

Oh the joy of the publishing industry - who wouldn't want to be a writer? No hands? Good.

So, if you are fully aware of what lies ahead, all the hard work yet to come, which will make the work you've put into your current manuscript look more like a picnic, then be assured that agents and publishers will still buy an excellent book.

Put in the time, put in the effort. Produce the very best work you possibly can. Polish it till it shines. Use feedback and crit groups and any and every other tool at your disposal. And maybe, just maybe, you'll get there.

Worry about the things you can control.

And good luck!


  1. That sounds like such a nice dream - earning enough to write full-time for a year...

    *wakes up*

    Guess we all need to get back to work. *Flashes his red pen*

  2. Another reason you can't give up your day job when you sign a book deal - if you're wise, you'll spend half the deal amount promoting the book. For me, a book on the shelf of a major retailer (my eyes are misting over now) is all I want. Not much to ask for, right? ;)

  3. I don't have any choice but to succeed. I promised Ying I would make him a trophy husband, and I can only string him along for so long.

  4. "Worry about the things you can control."

    Best advice ever.

  5. I’d go part-time in a second, no doubt about it. Just need to write the novel first, but that’s the easy part... right?

  6. I know from sad experience that having the time and using it wisely are two different things. Having been out of a job before (I called it being self-employed), I know how many other things demanded my time and attention. Looking for another job wasn't one of them, btw--I had money saved up. I kicked myself later, naturally, once I was shackled to a full-time job again, but I had no one to blame but myself.

    Maybe you and your readers are better organized or better disciplined than I am, but this writer finds delicious irony in the fact that one of the big drivers to write seems to be the apparent lack of time to write.

  7. I was JUST abut to start blogging about how i feared electronic media was going to kill traditional publishing.

    Thanks for proving me wrong before I made a fool of myself!

  8. once again, thank you for the information. it is mildly encouraging. Now all I need is talent to go with my ambition.

  9. I've heard (from many, many sources, and from many published authors) that the average advance for a F/SF and probably H book too is around $5,000 US. Definitely not enough to quit the day job for, but enough to, well, make you think it was worth all the trouble. At least, I hope.

    I'd be a fool to quit my job anyway. I find I keep to a writing schedule much better if I'm forced to a schedule in other parts of my life.

  10. I won't name names, but a friend of mine is a traditionally published author (that you would probably recognise). He currently has twelve books in print in the fantasy genre. He still works full time. He probably could give up the day job, but he would be drastically changing his lifestyle to do so and would probably have to downgrade his mortgage, etc. Things would be VERY tight.

    Deals are still being made, but fortunes aren't. Write because you love it - if you ever make a good living out of it too, consider yourself very lucky indeed.

  11. Alan - spot on. I think what you've described here is the life of the mid-list author - the majority of those who are published authors - what most of us will become if we keep at it and have a little luck.

    I think if we look at any recompense from writing as a bonus rather than a new way of life, we may be closer to the truth.

    A 5k deal for a book, would probably make a couple of months payment on the mortgage, or buy a new car - a bonus.

    For me, it would probably allow me to drop a day from work. I could move to a four day week and use the fifth day as a proper writing day.

    That's my goal at this point in time.