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Advances Are Overrated
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Last week at Grumpy Old Bookman, there appeared yet another interesting series of entries, this time about the realities of advances -- the realities so far as publishing in the UK goes. It would appear that earning out one's advance is not quite so vital to the health of publishers as many of us have believed.

I'm continually bemused over the fascination with advances. I admit, I'm always curious to see what other writers are earning. (and I'm also a hypocrite because I'll be damned if I'm going to divulge my own financial information) But if you're not making a living writing books (and most of us aren't) how vital are advances?

Granted, after months of labor it would be nice to be paid for one's work when it is turned in, instead of waiting two years until the royalties have finally, mostly, been earned and passed on. Usually, companies simply pay you for doing your job and if they eventually fail to show a profit that's their problem. Until the employees are laid off, of course.

But we all know book publishing doesn't work like other industries and if your livlihood lies elsewhere anyway, how much difference does it make if you see those royalties now (as an advance) or later?

To me there are only two kinds of advances: the don't-quit-your-day-job advance and the quit-your-day-job advance.

Unless an advance will pay you enough to live on while you complete your next book, and thus allow you to quit the day job (and make the gamble that you will be able sell the next book for a similar amount) then you're talking about a sum of money which is very nice to have sooner rather than later but nothing that is going to drastically change your life.

Besides, if you aren't living off your fiction, but have a viable writing career in the sense you are able to keep publishing books, then the payment eventually flows in regularly, even though you're being paid a year or so "behind."

I try to look on royalties as a savings account. Money that might come in handy some year when we're "between books"!

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