Aug 28 2008

Mr. Buckell reports: the median advance on a first sci-fi or fantasy novel is $5000

Tobias Buckell gathered some data describing how much authors make on their first advance. The median author in SF or fantasy makes $5000. The average in both categories is slightly higher (about $6500), but that’s probably distorted by a few superstars that skewed the distribution curve.

He also broke the data down by agented vs. unagented submissions. The median advance for an unagented manuscript is $4000, compared to $5500 for an agented manuscript. You might think to yourself “aha! I will make more if I have a superior negotiator on my side!” That’s probably true, but please also consider that a novelist that is good enough to convince an agent to work with him is probably better-than-average to begin with. In addition to that selection bias, you’d also have to factor in the agent’s share of the advance.

That said, I think an agent can be a powerful ally and (all things considered) one that will probably pay for himself.

5 responses so far

5 Responses to “Mr. Buckell reports: the median advance on a first sci-fi or fantasy novel is $5000”

  1. Michael Nataleon 31 Aug 2008 at 5:53 pm

    Stupid question time:

    What *is* an advance, really? Is it just a payment that the author gets to keep regardless of how well or poorly the book sells or is there more to it?

    M

  2. B. Macon 31 Aug 2008 at 6:44 pm

    Thanks for your question, Michael.

    It’s an advance on your royalties. No matter how poorly your book sells, you keep 100% of your advance. (However, book publishers are less forgiving of authors that fail to clear their advances than they used to be… if you fall far short of your sales figures, your publisher will get skittish about working with you in the future).

  3. Tyon 10 Sep 2008 at 5:47 am

    I was looking for an estimate on how much screenplay writers make. Just wanted to find an average number for scripts and pilots. (A lot of other people were looking for an answer too) and while this is not exactly what I was looking for, it’s a lot better and closer than the un-intelligent answers of ‘about $1000 – $1 Million’ that I found.

  4. B. Macon 10 Sep 2008 at 10:04 am

    Hello, Ty. I hate to punt here, but I’m damn clueless when it comes to screenwriting. I’d like to refer you to The Economics of Screenwriting, which suggests that inexperienced screenwriters are generally paid “[$]100 against [$]250” and that typical writers get “[$]300 against [$]600.” The second figure would be if you get sole credit; the first figure would be if you shared credit.

  5. Tyon 10 Sep 2008 at 4:28 pm

    Great post. Thanks, B. Mac. When I first read your reply, I thought you were saying it would be 100 bucks– lol. But, yeah, thanks. That’s what I was looking for.

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