11 Frequently Asked Questions About Book Royalties, Advances and Money

by Chuck Sambuchino

If you’re going to wheel and deal with literary agents and editors, you’ll end up spending more time than you’d like discussing rights, contracts, advances, royalties and a whole lot of other boring important stuff. That said, I want to address the most common questions regarding how advances and royalties work. In other words, how does the payment process work when you sell a book? Here are some FAQs:

1. How do writers make money?

You sign a contract with a publisher. In exchange for signing over the North American and English language print rights to your book and possibly other rights, as well, you are paid one of three ways:

  1. flat fee: a set amount of money upfront that’s yours to keep. The amount does not change no matter how well the book sells. For example, if your flat fee is $10,000, the amount remains the same no matter if the book sells 10 copies or 10 million.
  2. royalties: a small amount paid to you for every book sold.
  3. advance against royalties: a sum of money upfront to you with the promise of more (royalties) should the book sell well.

2. Which of the three methods above is most desirable?

An advance against royalties. It’s probably the most desirable, and it is by far the most common. It’s like you get both #1 and #2 combined. Let me explain exactly how an advance against royalties would work. For this example, I’ll keep it real simple (for my own sake). Let’s say the publishing house offers you an advance of $60,000 and royalties of $3/book. Note that the upfront advance of $60,000 is not in addition to royalties, but rather part of royalties – meaning they’ve given you royalties for the first 20,000 books (times $3/book) upfront. Since they’ve already paid you the royalties of the first 20,000 books, you will not start actually making an additional $3/book until you sell copy 20,001. The royalty possibilities are essentially endless. You can make $3 a book forever as long as it keeps selling in bookstores and on Amazon.

3. What if my book bombs? Do they get the money back?

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5 Tips on Writing First Drafts

by Chuck Sambuchino

Having just completed the first draft of my second novel, I can attest to the fact that writing a first draft is still a lot better than oral surgery, but a good measure worse than folding laundry or even cleaning the bathrooms (which, full disclosure, my husband does). First drafts require starting from nothing and creating something only slightly better than nothing. At least, that’s how my first drafts feel to me. The good news? Now I have something to work with. Fresh from the trenches, here are a few tips on writing the first draft of your novel.

1. Make an outline. Then be willing to leave it behind. Writing an outline forces me to think through some big questions before I begin. But I follow it the way I travel with my husband sans kids: “Hey, Honey, look at this weird little mountain on the map. Wanna check it out?” And pretty soon the story has taken a turn. Sometimes the side trip changes everything, and I revise my outline. Sometimes it’s a dead end. Then I have my outline to get me back on track.

2. Think of your first draft as the clay, not the sculpture. Imagine that what you are doing is digging up clay, just a hunk of stuff from which you’ll create something later. Much of it will be messy and unrefined, but that’s not your problem now. Your job is simply to get from the beginning to the end. Keep digging! When it’s time to write a second draft, you will have your raw material.

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