Writing Books/advances



If an agent does sell your work, when can you receive an advance? At what point  or  at what conditions can you receive an advance?


ANSWER: It all depends on the terms of the contract, but if there is an advance (and there isn't, always), you would generally receive it at the time of, or shortly after, the signing of the contract with the publisher.  Remember, though, that when using an agent, all payments first go through him/her.  They get their cut, then you receive the rest.

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QUESTION: I didn't think about an agent getting a percentage of the advance (if there is one). It is not possible or likely to get a good deal without agents?

Are there any known best-selling  fiction authors who did it without the use of an agent?
ANSWER: To answer the second question first... I dunno.  Probably.  But I'm not well-versed on who uses agents and who doesn't.

Yes, it's certainly possible to get a good deal without an agent.  It's also possible to make a killing in the stock market without a broker.  But it ain't easy.

Many publishers today won't even look at a submission from an unpublished author who doesn't have an agent.  And, frankly, most authors don't know enough about the intricacies of publishing contracts to know how to negotiate good deals for themselves.

A good agent can be the best thing to happen to your writing career, making that 15% commission he/she takes completely worth it.  Of course, the flip side is that a bad agent can be worse than no agent at all.  But in today's market, I would not consider it the wisest thing for a new writer to attempt major publication without using an agent.  It puts too many obstacles needlessly in your way.

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QUESTION: You said that sometimes there is no advance. I was wondering why? Under what circumstances would there not be an advance?


Advances are gauged based on how the publisher expects the book to sell.  The better they expect it'll do, the higher the advance is likely to be.

Logic would dictate, therefore, that all books should receive some advance, since a publisher wouldn't put out a book they didn't expect to sell.  But logic doesn't always have much to do with the publishing world.

A book that, 25 years ago, would have garnered a $50k advance might bring in only a $5k advance today.  The industry has really tightened the purse strings.

And of course, it doesn't help when situations happen like what did with HOW I DID IT, by O. J. Simpson.  When the book was yanked by Regan, they demanded he return the advance.  But he'd already spent some or all of it, so they were out of luck.  And though I'm no lawyer, I think he could easily have made the case that he didn't have to return it.  (Hell, if he could get off of a murder rap, he could get out of this.)

The margins in the publishing world being what they are, advances are considered more of a risk now than ever before.  So they're shrinking and, in some cases, disappearing altogether.  Especially for the first-time author.

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Vincent M. Wales


I am a speculative fiction novelist (fantasy, science fiction, and so on). While I may be able to answer questions on non-fiction, my specialty is fiction. Please keep that in mind when asking questions.


For four years, I taught a series of fiction writing classes in Sacramento, CA.

BA in fiction writing.

Awards and Honors
My 2004 novel, ONE NATION UNDER GOD, won BEST FICTION in Fresh Voices 2006, BEST FICTION and BEST YA FICTION in the NCPA Book Awards, and placed as a finalist in BEST BOOKS 2005. In 2002, my novel WISH YOU WERE HERE won awards for Best Fantasy and Best Fiction/Drama in the 8th Annual SPA Awards. My latest work is a trilogy titled THE MANY DEATHS OF DYNAMISTRESS (a superhero memoir). The first book, RECKONING, was released in 2013 and won the SF category in the 2014 San Francisco Book Festival, took second place in the 2013 Royal Dragonfly Book Awards for the SF/Fantasy/Paranormal category, second place in the SF category of the 2013 Reader Views Reviewers Choice Awards, and was finalist in Foreword's 2013 Book of the Year Awards, Fantasy category. The second book, REDEMPTION, will be released in early 2015 and the final book, RENAISSANCE, is scheduled for release in late 2016.

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