January 26, 2007

That One Question, Finally Asked

Last night, a person whom I always think of as a "merry auld grig" (One of my fave Dickensonian words) asked me The Question that nobody has asked -- not my mother, not my father, not my curious siblings, not my writing group.

The question? "So, how much was your advance?"

I had a good giggle that he was the one who asked me. I mean, that came entirely out of left field. I had a little mental pool going about who would ask first that didn't even include him. I assumed it would be a family member, someone like my father, who has never thought that I had a real job (Of course, like many people, he's also got quite a short attention span, so I haven't actually bothered to tell him that I've sold a book... I'll show it to him, in 2008, when he can hold it in his hand, and that will be enough notice for him. And then he'll ask, "How much...?"), or my eldest sister, who is, well... forthright. (Otherwise known as nosy). But I'm glad someone asked, actually.

Not that the dollar amount is the point. The reality is that no matter how much your agent negotiates for, your advance is an advance amount on money that YOU are going to earn. It's a payment against anticipated royalties, and, in a way, it's a statement of faith, which explains why JK Rowling received an amount roughly equivalent to $4,000 U.S. (£1500 - £3000 are the amounts I found with some judicious searching), and the gentle suggestion that she keep her day job. Her editors at Bloomsbury UK weren't convinced she could make a living from writing books. Of course, that explanation doesn't always work... because it begs the question of what it means that Kaavya Viswanathan received $500K for a pair of books she hadn't yet written. Little, Brown, & Co. apparently either believed that Kaavya was going to be writing bestsellers forever, or that she was a one-time flash in the pan, and that they'd best pay her off and be done with her.

Anyway. I hadn't ever really given advances much thought, and I smile now to think how much time S.A.M. spent earnestly trying to elucidate to me the vagaries of royalties ("Okay - you get half the money after contracts, and the other half after you do exactly what she wants in the editorial letter, all right?") and what it means to receive money. He was disappointed that my advance wasn't bigger, but I'm okay with what I have... because again, to what do I have to compare the amount? Nada. Maybe I'll get snotty about it later, but I really can't see that happening. If you're trying to write for a living? Honey, just about ANY amount is good.

So to answer The Question? Thanks for asking, the amount is ... just enough for me.

3 comments:

a. fortis said...

HAHA! Honestly, I have nothing to compare it to either, and neither does the "grig!"

Jen Robinson said...

It must be a very cool feeling to have an advance, that's for sure!

TadMack said...

It's a cool feeling to know it's coming... I don't know WHEN it will arrive, but my agent PROMISES he'll let me know as soon as he's heard anything!