I was in the library this morning and picked up Londonstani which looked pretty interesting but when my pal saw it tucked under my arm she nodded sagely and commented on the Londonstani effect.
I had no idea what she was on about so I looked it up on the net and apparently this was supposed to be THE hottest new book and publishers had paid an advance of £380 000.
Unfortunately for all concerned it sold 15 000 copies. Whoops.
Now it got me thinking what I would do. Would I take the money and run off to Antigua or would I realise it set me up for very high, probably unreachable, expectations?
What would you have done?
HB x

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High advances paid on books that don't earn out are very bad for the author's future career. The trouble is that most authors have no notion of a possible disaster and believe in their agent and the publisher. I wonder sometimes if any of the authors involved in truly horrendous misjudgments ever got another book published (with a decent advance).

Harper/Collins supposedly is working on a new format that eliminates all advances and substitutes a 50/50 profit sharing deal. Sounds very interesting.
I'll take the big advance every time. Most novels fail in the marketplace, so to me it's better to be rich and watch my book tank than to be poor and watch my book tank. Plus, publishers tend to give novels with higher advances more promotion.
I would certainly be willing to do a comparison.
My debut launches in November for which I received a better-than-a-kick-in-the-ass-but-not-enough-to-live-on advance in a two-book deal.
For my third book, I would be willing to take the Londonstani advance and then report back to the group what the differences are.
Consider it my humble sacrifice to the arts ;-)
LOL. Let's ask you again when the time comes.

The point about the promotion that goes with the big advance is, I think, true, but I doubt it happens every time. Unfortunately, the public seems to associate quality with the price tag and the large advance is, all by itself, a promotional tool.
There are two parties to this: the publisher and the author. I suspect the author is having the last laugh (lights barbecue with a five pound note, etc).

I'm not sure how the HarperCollins format would work out, as profits are presumably net profits, and there are probably ways to disguise net profit.
Ah. good point. One would have to count on one's agent keeping an eagle eye out.
I don't know, there are plenty of careers for people who love money - the whole finance industry is full of them, that's all it's about.

Even for writers looking for, "the big score" there's screenplay writing (though I would say that going after that big score has affected the movie business in a very bad way).

By the time they get published most novelists have put in a lot of years and it's become about something in addition to the money.

The HarperCollins plan seems to be based on ones already operating, like Hag's Head Press. Smaller in scale, but the same idea.

Maybe I say this only because I received a small advance, but the big advance seems like it's agent-driven and almost always doomed to fail. Sure, publishers may try and do more promotion, but one editor told me if they feel they've overspent they have a tendency to dump that one quick and move on to something with a better chance at profit. Most big-advance books are really just movies-in-waiting. Some publishers may be good at that, but books and movies are still a little different.

there have been many stories of big-advance failures lately and a lot of writers who start out small and grow into making a decent living.

I see an advance like a debt, if you pay it off you're fine, if you don't you're in trouble. If you're writing because you want to get rich there are a lot of other things you could/should be doing.
I'll be interested to know if Malkani, the author of Londonstani, gets a second book.
At the moment the editor is saying he still loves the book and believes it's 'important'. Maybe they won't ditch Malkani on a point of principle but he's buggered either way because the second one will be reviewed in the context of the disaster of the first.
It's all so avoidable, I mean 15 000 wouldn't have been a bad debut for a literary author on a £10 000 advance.
HB x


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