Friday Midday Links: Is the Advance Model Going the Way of the DoDo Bird?
Over at Library Job Postings, there is a gallery of repeated images on covers. Oh, the dangers of using stock photography. Via SmartBitches.
Gawker mocks Newscorp in its fight against Google. Murdoch plans to stick it to Google by selling his content to Bing, the Microsoft search engine. It reminds me of publishers. They don’t want to have Amazon in control of their pricing, but they seem more than happy to get into bed with Google.
How costly will it become for vendors and retailers to provide free wifi? Motion Picture lobbying group, the MPAA, got a town’s free wifi network shut down after discovering a possible, not yet confirmed, illegal download. Barnes and Noble, Borders, McDonald’s and the like are easy targets for piraters not wanting their illegal activities to be traced back to their home networks. Google, by the way, is giving free wifi away at airports this christmas.
PW looks at Amazon’s Vine program. This is where Amazon sends out a monthly email with all the products vendors are offering for review. It’s not just books. (I am actually a Vine member, but I’ve never requested anything nor reviewed anything under the Vine program). Authors are apparently not fans because the Vine reviews aren’t “professional” and they aren’t “consumers”. One author argues that because Vine folks receive free books, they are employees. Really?
Carolyn Reidy of Simon & Schuster will be in Korea next week talking about the digital market and new strategies. According to “advance script”, Reidy will argue that the digital market will comprise 25% of publishing in 7 years.
In the advance script, Reidy argued that “ebooks are still relatively small but are a rapidly growing part of our business, but could be significant (25 percent) within seven years.”
Brenda Hiatt updates her “Show Me the Money” page. I haven’t decided whether this helps or hurts authors given that the averages are so easily skewed and there are so few reporting. One thing that jumped out at me where the deals that Ballantine had made which seemed out of line with the other publishers. (Out of line on the high end). From Publishers’ Marketplace data, it appears Ballantine has paid in excess of six figures for three or more books to authors like Lindsay Graves, Kimberly Raye, Tessa Dare (2 sets of 3 book deals), Christy Reece, Tracy Anne Warren (who is now with Avon), Cherry Adair, Mariah Stewart (7 figure deal for 4 books), Nicole Jordan (250K-400K), Allison Brennan (500K+).
Lindsay Graves never made a bestseller list. Kimberly Raye squeaked into the USA Today list for the first two books (126 and 145 for books 1 and 2) but the nothing since 2008 has placed. Christy Reece’s books were published back to back to back this summer but she never placed on the bestseller list either. This isn’t to say that Graves, Raye or Reece aren’t great writers or that their books aren’t worthy of 6 figure deals or that they won’t earn out someday. It just highlights how uncertain the advance model is. Audrey Niffenegger received a $5 million advance and sold, according to Bookscan, under 40,000 copies.
Newer publishers are abandoning the advance like OR Press and Carina Press, modeling themselves after the digital press business model. If advances are eliminated (and I’m not convinced that they totally are. I think that there will be low advances and really high advances but not much in between), this will undoubtedly result in a loss of some talent who will choose not to risk copublishing or forego advances for their work. Will the resulting rise of the digital market and the broader economic opportunities lure new authors in? It’s hard to say at this point where we are going. I like to think that the market will become more diversified. Nathan Bransford argues that the publishing industry has to learn to minimize its risks and learn to leverage the internet to seek out its audience. It’s an uncertain time for those who make their money off of the written word. In the end, I want to believe that the changes will benefit the reader. What do you think?
The Vine article made me laugh:
I’m confused; I thought people who get free books are shills.
Okay, nobody give their opinions about books. You can only talk about a book if you’re advertising it.
@MaryK Yes, the concern is that these readers have complaints. About their product. Not very good employees if the Vine program is designed to sell books.
I think making the bestseller lists may be a poor way to gauge whether a book has earned back a large advance, though. Making most of the lists requires a large “clump” of sales. A book that sells steadily over 4-6 months may actually be a better earner for the publisher than one that has made a bestseller list for a week or two and then has its sales drop off significantly. I know of several books that had an initial print run well above the earn out point for a $40k advance that have gone into a second printing without ever hitting any bestseller lists.
That said, while Audrey Niffenegger was obviously overpaid for her current book based on its sales, I say more power to her. She probably won’t earn out that advance and she’ll probably never get that kind of advance again, but hey, one payout of $5 million plus a first book that’s more than earned out its advance and continues to hit bestseller lists is a lifetime’s income. I’d take it :).
Free wifi at Starbucks in Borders is a great teaser. Brings people through the doors. For what it’s worth, that’s why I sought out a Borders near the airport in upstate New York state: so I could fit in a bit of work on a trip. My dh has portable boardband: nice, but it’s so adds so much weight to the puter.
I think it will, because it will benefit the midlist writer–eventually. In the short term, though, I think some writers will give up and some good books won’t get written. More likely, though: a lot of mediocre books won’t get written.
Just my 2 cents.
One thing I’ve noticed is that Ballantine (and Random House in general) has really, really good market penetration–that is, it gets its books on lots of shelves in lots of little corners of the world. I’m always seeing Ballantine books in tiny grocery stores and the like. A lot of those places are not reporting to the major lists (or Bookscan).
If you can identify a series of genre authors over a course of a number of years who are consistently getting six figure advances from one house, I think it’s much, MUCH more likely that the house has a pretty good idea of earn-out figures and doesn’t feel like it’s risking the farm paying those advances. If the initial set of authors had really burned Ballantine, you’d think that they would have cut back for the former, if they had even an inkling of rationality, right? They’re running profit & loss statements for the new authors when they make an offer, and they have to be basing their figures in part on past performance. That they haven’t cut back the advances is evidence that they don’t feel they’re overpaying.
This is not to say that there isn’t overpayment on advances, but I suspect that overall there’s less of that in romance than you see in some other fields.
This is not to say that times are not a-changing; just that I wouldn’t look at Ballantine’s model and say that high #s for romance indicate overpayment.
You’re going to love this one about the mother from Australia who got a million dollar advance:
@katiebabs: No way! Nightswimming (at Samhain) only net her $100?
OMG that book was freaking awesome! Someone from DA should review this, because folks are missing out. (MRs G gave this a 95! And we all know how often she give out those.)
Oh, I had no idea Rebecca James had landed a deal like that, good for her. I remember that book, and the second she subbed, and the conversations I had with her editor. Her writing was excellent but the second book just didn’t “fit” for us and the editor and I agreed we weren’t going to sign it. How awesome for her that this has happened.
Holy moly. I’m in awe. Though I wasn’t around for the second book, nor around to edit Nightswimming, I was the editor who contracted that book.
I’m just flabbergasted. For one brief moment, I (figuratively) touched a shining star. I’m tickled pink for her!
I don’t see how readers will benefit if writing becomes a riskier, costlier, and less profitable venture for authors.