What Not to Expect When You’re Expecting (a Book Advance)

There’s a question authors ask, around which there’s alot of hype and not alot of clarity: “What can I expect for my book advance?

It’s a perfectly reasonable question to ask an agent after several conversations and a verbally understood agreement of representation; not recommended to ask upon preliminary conversation.

Why should an author be cautioned against asking this question at the get go, however important it is to know?

First, because as agent Rachelle Gardner writes, one of the only posts I’ve seen on the subject, “there is no typical advance.” For a high-profile author with an exceptional concept and an already established audience, an agent might be able to predict a range based on comparative recent deals. For debut, if the topic is hot in the news, the next 50 Shades of Grey, a YA vampire trilogy (yep, that trend lives strong), or the work has been chosen as the crowned novel among peers the Iowa Writers Workshop, perhaps that range can similarly be predicted. But if you’re really just starting out? There can really be no accurate estimation, and any false promising should make you wary.

The most truthful advice an agent can give, and to a writer at any level, is: Don’t quit your day job. See this article in the Times for more to that story.

Why else shouldn’t you ask right away?

Because “popping the question” so early — and the marriage analogy is accurate when it comes to the writer/agent relationship — is not only potentially futile, but raises a red flag. Agents can tell if a writer is in it for the money, or if writing is a true vocation: a calling to tell your story, whatever the cost or profit.

Something else to consider for later on, which we talk a bit about in “4 Tips for Managing Your Agent or Editor:” give your agent room and time to seal a book advance when he/she is on submission with a project.
Our next post will discuss the question of the “free book deal.” Wait, is that an oxymoron? You’ll see.



Susan Peirce Thompson

““I just finished reading Bright Line Eating— every single word. This book is not like anything else out there. Not even close. Dr. Thompson has illuminated the reasons why so many of us are so addicted to today’s food supply and why obesity is so common. Most importantly, she outlines the path to freedom, thinness, and health. Freedom from the tyranny of the scale, of fast foods, of carb addiction. All of it. This book is totally different— and if you read it— every word— like I did, your life will be changed. A light bulb of “aha” will go off in your brain. This book is based not only on the personal experiences of thousands, but also backed up by solid brain science that has never been presented like this before. And I’m willing to bet you’ll be eager to start Bright Line Eating yourself so you too can start “living happy, thin, and free.”” — Christiane Northrup, MD New York Times bestselling author of Goddesses Never Age