I came across this meme on Instagram and it had me thinking immediately about advances. Among unpublished authors especially there’s a belief that the bigger the advance the better the deal. As many of my clients might tell you, that’s not always the case. I’m a strong believer that enthusiasm can go much further than money alone.
I suspect most authors dream of being a part of the Big Five, all of whom tend to be publishers with the capabilities to pay more money. But, what if you get an offer for $100,000 from a Big Five. They like your book, they figure they can do something with it, but you’re going to be in the middle of their list somewhere [said with a shrug].
Then you get a second offer, this from Little Ten. Little Ten is a considerably smaller publisher who, frankly, just doesn’t have the budget to afford $100,000 for one book. They offer $25,000. It’s significantly less, but in terms of what they typically pay, it’s millions. It’s more than they’ve ever paid for a book. They have big dreams and plans for you. They want to put your book at the top of the list. Sales, marketing and editorial all think this is one of the best books they’ve ever read. No one has seen enthusiasm like this for ages.
Where do you go? Well ultimately that depends on you. Take the money and run is always a viable option. If Big Five can do half of what they’re supposed to do you should earn out that $100,000 in a year and some royalties as well. There’s no guarantee you’ll get momentum toward future success from it, but of course there’s never any guarantee.
Little Ten loves your book and they’re excited. They are likely to put a fortune into publicity and marketing and will work their butts off to get it into all the right stores and bookshelves in the stores. Of course, there’s no guarantee you’ll get momentum toward future success from it and if you earn out the advance in a year and start earning royalties, you’re down $75,000 (maybe).
There’s no right answer to this question. It’s a very personal business decision, one you and your agent will likely talk over to death. She’ll give her opinion and hopefully base it on what you seem to be saying you want out of the deal. My opinion, based on the mock offers I just gave you, is that there are pros and cons to both. They equal each other, but I often like the idea of enthusiasm over a big check. Mostly because if it were me personally, I like the risk of a big career move over just a big (one-time) check.
Every author is different. In the end, frankly, I never believe you can make a mistake (mostly because the other is an unknown) what I always believe is that no matter the decision you make you need to live with no regrets. Life should be full of no regrets.