Seth Godin, Guest Author
For the last fifty years, the driving economic force of the book business has been the advance against royalties.
Virtually all books aimed a mass audience earn precisely the same royalty per book. Stephen King, the unknown first time author and I get paid exactly the same royalty per book by Penguin.
What changes is the advance. This is a non-refundable earnest payment the publisher puts up to entice the author (and her agent) to sign on, to choose them. When everything else is equal (and it often is), the advance is the thing that gets looked for and reported on.
As you can imagine, this affects the rest of the process. The royalties earn out against the advance and in fact are rarely paid at all (if the advance is bigger than the royalties, the author gets no new money). Most publishers don’t associate an…
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