Re: RARA-AVIS: Mercenary Questions

From: Allan Guthrie (
Date: 21 Jan 2008

Authors generally get an advance (a non-refundable sum), in expectation of royalties (a percentage of the cover price). A good agent (or wise author) will try to negotiate an escalator, so that (loose example), on trade paperback sales of over 4000 copies the royalty rate rises from 7.5 percent to 10 percent and over 10000 copies it might rise to 12.5 percent. Some publishers are agreeable to this, and others aren't. An escalator offsets, slightly, the increasingly prevalent 'deep discount' clause which overrides previously agreed royalty rates on occasions where the publisher supplies books to retail outlets at high discounts (much of the time in the UK, where book discounting is pernicious). If the advance is paid back, the authors get cheques twice a year for any subsequent sales. There are various other bonuses that can be built in -- again, depending on the publisher.

In the UK, authors are also compensated by library loans (a few pence each time a book is borrowed). Authors can also be compensated by rights sales: audio, film, foreign language, etc.

It's very hard to say what the average noir/hardboiled author would earn on a single book, since there are so many variables. But the average advance for a first novel in the US is reputed to be around $4K these days. The average advance paid to authors (new and established) in the UK last year was £4K (around $8K). Sadly, even with those unimpressive figures, most advances don't earn out.


----- Original Message ----- From: "mburch5717" <>
> For instance is there any feel for what the average noir or hardboiled
> author would earn on a book that isn't a blockbuster? When you do have
> a blockbuster or at least something that sells well, how is that
> defined in terms of what the author is compensated and how many books
> are sold? By blockbuster or best-seller I would assume we're talking
> about an Elmore Leonard or Michael Connelly novel vs someone who writes
> a good novel but who doesn't have huge sales?

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