Thank you so much to the 105 authors who took the author advance survey! Here are the results (now with author comments added below):
Average and Median of All Advances
Five people reported multi-book deals (four two-book deals and one four-book deal), which skewed the results a bit. Below are results counting the multi-book deals first as one deal, then as separate deals.
Counting each multi-book deal as ONE deal
Average advance: $73,897
Median advance: $25,000
Counting each multi-book deal as SEPARATE deals
Average advance: $63,776
Median advance: $25,000
Big 6 vs Non Big 6
64.8 % of authors surveyed sold books to Big 6 publishers (Random House, Hachette, Penguin, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster)
27.6% sold books to small publishers
7.6 percent sold books to medium- to large-sized publishers other than the Big 6 (Norton, Harlequin, McGraw-Hill, etc.)
Percentage by Genre
30% sold nonfiction books (including narrative nonfiction)
22.9% of authors surveyed sold Young Adult books (Disclaimer: I added the YA category after 13 authors had already taken the survey, but only one of those first 13 sold a novel, so this number is likely correct)
21.9% sold novels (including one novella)
19% sold memoirs/personal essay collections
3.8% sold short story collections
2.9% sold “other” books, including an art book, a humor book, and an illustrated art/style book
0% sold poetry books
Percentage of Advances by Year
First Book vs Subsequent Books
61% of authors surveyed said the advance was for the first book they sold.
37% said the advance was not for a first book.
Agented vs Non-Agented Authors
82.8% of authors surveyed were agented at the time of the sale of the book
17.2% of authors surveyed were not agented at the time of the sale of the book
Disclaimer: This question was added after approximately half of the authors had already taken the survey. If you were one of the authors who didn’t get a chance to answer this question and you want to add your response, you can e-mail me at meghan (at) meghanward (dot) com.
And now for the graphs!
Number of Authors/Advance Category
This graph shows the number of authors who received advances in each category. For example, the first (and tallest) bar is $0-$20,000. The second is $20,000-$40,000, etc.
Number of Authors/Advance Category II
This graph shows the same data split out into smaller categories on the lower end. (The numbers are $2k, $5k, $10k, $20k, $40k, $60k, $80k, etc.) Multi-book deals are counted as one deal, including the million dollar deal for four books at the far right end of the graph.
Advances by Year and Genre
The following graphs show first all genres combined, then each genre separately, divided by the year the advance was received. The red portion of each bar is Big 6 advances; the blue portion is non-Big 6 advances. There wasn’t enough data to make graphs of short story collection or “other” advances. 2008 was a great year to sell your book—right before the Kindle changed the publishing world
All Advances by Year
Big 6 vs Non-Big 6
The following graph shows average advances for each genre given by Big 6 vs non-Big 6 publishers. The lefthand side shows advances given by non-Big 6 publishers, and the righthand side show advances by Big 6 publishers. This graph is a bit confusing because it includes a two-book deal for a short story collection and a novel that went for $315,000, and a humor book that sold for $125,000. However, it is evident from a quick glance at the graph that Big 6 publishers tend to garner higher advances than small publishers.
Agent vs No Agent
This graph divides authors who were agented at the time they received their advances (Y) vs those who weren’t (N), and then further divides those groups into first-time advances (Y) and non-first time advances (N). The clear message is that agented authors tend to get higher advances than non-agented authors. Disclaimer: Because I added the agent question after about half of the authors had already taken the survey, this data is based only on the second half of responses.
Minimum, Average and Maximum Advances by Year
This graph plots minimum (blue), average (red) and maximum (green) advances by year. The peak for both average and maximum advances was in 2008.
Scatter Plot of All Advances
This is one of my favorite graphs because it plots every advance reported, with multi-book deals divided into separate deals (eg. $80,000 for two books is listed as two separate advances of $40,000 each) according to the year in which the advances were given.
Advances by Genre
Lastly, we have a pie chart of all reported advances by genre. Nonfiction book deals are the most prevalent.
Author who reported a $15,000 advance for a nonfiction book sold in 2009:
“Am currently shopping around a second proposal and since we didn’t earn out our advance, my agent thinks our chances of securing another contract are almost nil (even with major press coverage from the first book and a lengthy appearance on Dr. Phil!). Considering self-publishing the second time around.”
Author who reported a $60,000 advance for a memoir sold in 2005:
“Agent negotiated. Small bidding skirmish—first offer was $50K, another offered $55, RH topped it at 60. I went with RH for their reputation as much as the $ but later wondered if I would have had more editorial and publicity support with the other (a smaller imprint of a bigger company).”
Author who reported a $15,000 advance for a novel sold in 2008:
“Still waiting for my advance from my publisher, who owes money to everyone!”
Author who reported a $100,000 advance for a YA/Middle Grade novel sold in 2011:
“I sold 9 books to penguin between 2005 and 2009. My advances were between $5000.00 and $7500.00. I’m now self publishing via amazon and make that amount and many months more than that.”
Author who reported a $5000 advance for a novel sold in 2006:
“The advances are now given out in a way that makes even a large advance not enough. I got one quarter on signing (minus my agent’s cut), will get another quarter on acceptance (not delivery, an important distinction), another quarter on publication and the last part on publication of the paperback. No wonder authors are always broke.”
Author who reported a $2500 advance for a crime fiction novel sold in 2011:
“I have four books, one each in the last four years. The advances were: $3000, $3000, $2500, $2500. The first three did not earn out. The fourth has done much better and may have lifted the first three past the threshold. I don’t yet know precise numbers yet, but I do know the fourth earned out in its first month and has continued to do well. Still keeping my day job though.”
Author who reported a $25,000 advance for an illustrated art/style book sold in 1990:
“I have published more than 20 books with traditional publishers. Now I am thrilled to be developing my own publishing enterprise.”
Author who reported a $150,000 advance for a memoir sold in 2010:
“I had two strong platforms. I don’t think my advance is the current memoir norm.”
Author who reported a $120,000 advance for a nonfiction book sold in 2008:
“I was the second author. The book sold mainly on the platform of the first author, an expert in his field. The original advance was actually higher, but the publisher bullied us (through our agent) into giving back part of it for reasons beyond anyone’s control.”
Author who reported a $60,000 advance for a nonfiction book sold in 2010:
“My advance was a little less than HALF what I made for a very similar book (which has been very successful) in 1998. But: Great house, known for smaller advances, great marketing. I intend to make the money on the back end rather than the front end. Still, it bites.”
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And there you have it! Questions? Comments? Observations?