Author Advances Come Tumbling Down?

Back in May on POD, Self Publishing & Independent Publishing I wrote a couple of articles about publishing advances and the reasons why they might one day be a thing of the past and the implications if more publishers continue to reduce or suspend paid advances altogether.

Well, Jack Malvern, writing in the entertainment section of The Times reports that authors are starting to see their advances reduced by anything up to a quarter of what was paid to them two years ago.

“Among the hardest hit are historians, who have found that books that would previously have earned them an advance of £120,000 are now commanding only £30,000. Some academics have turned from serious history to historical fiction to earn more money.”

In light of the downturn in publishing, it does seem a risky business for our academic writers to move from historical texts to the mainstream of historical fiction. While the financial kudos may remain more attractive at the moment – this may not continue for much longer with more publishers trimming back on scheduled titles and in some cases suspending any more commissions and even closing their doors to any kind of submissions for 2009.

The implication in Malvern’s piece from The Times and some of the authors he quotes is that publishers could use the recession to take advantages of authors. One writer quoted states:

“I know a very successful female historian hawking a book on a very marketable topic who was only offered £25,000 for three years of work. It’s pretty serious when something like that happens. There is no reason for it, because book sales are only down by about 5 per cent, which compared to shares and so on is hardly anything.”

The same seems to go for large chain stores now centrally ordering as much as a quarter of what they may have ordered on a new release title a year or two ago. The fact is that both publishers and retailers are holding back on any long-term committals and this may not change for a year or two.

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