Correction Amazon does pay advances

Timebound by Rysa Walker

Timebound by Rysa Walker to be published by Skyscape

In my post earlier this week about the woeful woes of woe-weary authors, I made the statement that Amazon doesn’t normally pay large advances.  In fact, I said they likely don’t pay any advances at all in most cases.  Turns out I may have spoken out of turn.  Jane Friedman’s Writing on the Ether blog has a story about author Rysa Walker receiving a $50,000 advance for her self-published title Timebound.  That is not chump change, and congratulations to Walker on signing her first publishing contract.  With such a big investment on Amazon’s part, you can be assured she’s going to get some well-placed ad support on the mega online retailers site, as well as some push in the trades.

For those of you not familiar with advances, they are usually paid out a third at a time.  In the olden days of publishing (approximately 5 years ago), it took 12-18 months for authors to receive their advances in full and those advances were usually around $5,000. Authors would get a third upon signing, a third after the edits had been approved, and the last third when the manuscript was sent off to the printers.  I’m guessing Amazon is doing something similar although in a shorter period of time.  I think the book will be re-released under Amazon’s Skyscape imprint in October.

UPDATE – I neglected to credit Porter Anderson as the author of the piece on Writing on the Ether.

The Book That Can’t Wait – Good idea or marketing ploy that will quickly fade?

I’m not sure how I feel about this idea.  Here’s a quick description I lifted from Yahoo!

Buenos Aires-based bookshop and publisher Eterna Cadencia has released El Libro que No Puede Esperar – which translates as ‘The Book that Cannot Wait’ – an anthology of new  fiction from Latin American authors printed in ink that disappears after two months of opening the book.

The video at the end of this post explains their reasoning for publishing a book with a short shelf life, but the quick pitch is they believe their authors will be more successful if readers change their reading habits and devour a book as soon as they buy it instead of taking their time to read it.

Take it from me, publishing is a tough, tough business.  How tough?  I wrote The Takers in 2004.  Eight years later I’m still getting requests from publishers to read it, rewrite it, and resubmit it.  That’s eight years trying to get one book published by traditional publishers.  If not for my agent, I would have given up years ago.  At this point it’s turned into a weird social experiment.  I’m just curious how much interest and rejection one manuscript can collect in my lifetime… I’m assuming my agent will stop submitting it for consideration once I’m dead.  Hell, maybe he’ll have me killed so he won’t feel obligated to keep shopping it around.

I should insert a note here about my agency.  They haven’t been with me the whole eight years.  They picked me up about four years ago.  I have no complaints.  They’ve been friggin’ champs in this process.  They’ve never earned a dime off of me, but they’ve spent a whole lot of time and money trying to make good on a promise they made to me a long time ago.  “We’re going to do whatever it takes to get you a publishing deal.”  Kudos to them for going the extra mile.

So, that being said, I cheer for new authors when they get published because I know what they went through.  I want them to succeed, but industry numbers reveal that year in and year out, 70% of books published by traditional publisher fail to earn back the advance money paid to the authors, and we’re not talking about huge advances either. Those get all the press, but they are few and far between.  Most advances are in the $5,000 – $10,000 range.

When an author can’t generate sales, he or she rarely gets a second chance.  That’s why I’m intrigued by the Book That Can’t Wait. I like the premise that it may help the authors included in the anthology get a second opportunity to publish and earn money, but at the same time, it prevents people from sharing the book.  Sharing is a huge benefit for authors.  True, it doesn’t help sales numbers in the short run, but it greatly bolsters the sales numbers in the long run.  Word-of-mouth was, is, and always will be the greatest marketing tool for authors. When one of my readers shares one of my books with a friend or family member, another person is added to my word-of-mouth army.

Is the answer here really to bully readers into reading faster?  I know this is primarily a marketing ploy that will fade almost as quickly as the ink they use, but I find it interesting that they’re trying to change the habits of the reading public instead of adopting a strategy that will maybe alter their own paradigm.  For instance: they may want to reconsider putting their resources into publishing anthologies in the first place.  They just don’t do that well, and the authors involved don’t make a lot of money.  And, as a consequence, they don’t get a lot of exposure.  They may also think about a marketing strategy that does less to build brand awareness for the publisher and spend some of those marketing dollars to actually promote the authors.  People don’t buy publishers.  They buy authors.

I applaud them for trying something new, but in the end, I just don’t see this being of much use to either readers or authors.