How to get published in India

How to get published in India

 

Book advances: How much should authors expect?

Posted on November 26th, 2011 by Sameer

If huge, mouth-watering book advances got you interested in the publishing industry, you might be in it for the wrong reasons. Most of us will never be fortunate to get a big advance for our first book. But book advances, never mind the size, will figure in your publishing contract. It wouldn’t hurt to know more about the topic, so you know what to expect when it time to sign on the dotted line of the contract.

I’m sure you know the basics. For the uninitiated, a book advance is the money that the publisher pays an author when the contract is signed and before a single copy has been published and sold. Let’s put some numbers on the table.

Let’s assume the price of the book is 100 rupees and the royalty rate is 10%. If the publisher estimates that the book will sell at least 1000 copies, then the advance for you works out to 100 rupees/book X 10% royalty X 1000 copies. That’s a royal 10,000 rupees!

Not the number you had in mind, right? But 10,000-15,000 rupees is pretty much the ‘average book advance’ that most first time authors in India might get for their debut novel. Then there are the star authors in India and outside who get book advances that are in lakhs of rupees. Here’s a snapshot from a dated Outlook article:

Amitav Ghosh – Sea Of Poppies Trilogy (Penguin) – $110,000 (Rs 44 lakh)
Aravind Adiga – The White Tiger (HarperCollins) – $35,000 (Rs 14 lakh)
Dev Anand – Romancing With Life (HarperCollins) – Rs 15 lakh
Nandan Nilekani – Imagining India (Penguin) – $35,000 (Rs 14 lakh)
Palash Mehrotra – The Butterfly Generation (Rupa) – $20,000 (Rs 8 lakh)
Shrabani Basu – Victoria & Abdul (Rupa) – $16,000 (Rs 6.3 lakh)
Tarun Tejpal – The Story Of My Assassins (HarperCollins) – Rs 22 lakh
Tony D’Souza – The Konkans (Rupa) – 4000-5000 pounds (Rs 3-4 lakh)

and finally what Outlook didn’t cover
Sameer Kamat – Beyond The MBA Hype (HarperCollins) – (Rs ????) ;-)

One common attribute that seems to apply to most authors who get higher than the market averages. They all have good literary agents to help them get the best deal for their book – the best publisher and the best book advance.

The advance you get would be influenced by many factors. The market for the book is very important. If have written a non-fiction book on a niche subject (like I did with my book), then the sales numbers would be very different from, say, a mass-market novel.

Then there’s the pricing for the book. Is your book aimed at business readers, students or the man on the street? How much would the reader pay for the book? Business books are purchased by folks who don’t care so much about the price.

The author’s brand value also matters. If you already have a huge number of fans waiting for your book, you could command a higher advance even as a first time author. Essentially it is a judgement call for the publishers.

If statistics are to be believed (and depending on which source you look at) roughly 8 out of 10 books will not earn their advance back. This means that the book did not sell as many copies as the publisher had assumed. Though you, the book author, still get to keep the book advance, it is a loss for the publisher and it can impact the future contracts that you sign with them or with any other publishing house.

So if this is your first book publishing contract, rather than focussing purely on the advance, consider the other aspects as well. Keep it practical for yourself and your publisher. You and the publisher are working as a team here. If your book does well in the market, it would earn out the advance and you will continue to get regular royalties cheques from the publisher in the future.

Some authors who are confident about their books doing well ask for a modest advance and a higher royalty rate. That way the initial upside may not be too impressive, but the upside from having a better royalty rate can payoff in the long run as the book sells more copies.

Here are some more tips on how to get published in India

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8 Responses to "Book advances: How much should authors expect?"

  1. Great article! Exactly the info i was searching for.

  2. @Alakh: This is pretty much what most of the spamming bots post. So I was reluctant to approve it.
    But your email ID seems authentic and you have not added links to any porn sites. So I guess, it’s is an authentic comment :-)
    Hope to hear more from you in the other comments.

  3. Thank you, this was very informative. Some jaw dropping numbers there! I’m somewhat jumping the gun by looking at how to publish articles. I started writing my first novel a couple of weeks ago and I feel I have another 100 to 150 pages ready in my head that needs to get on paper. What is your advise for my work to be literarily competent. I have not written anything since essays in high school and now my boring work e-mails.

    thanks,
    Nikhil

  4. Nikhil: Inspiration is generally in short supply when there’s so much writing to do. Get those 100 pages on paper ASAP.

    In the words of Ernest Hemingway – “Write drunk, edit sober.”

    Though I wouldn’t advise you to start drinking to be a good writer, as I haven’t seen any research papers correlating the two.

  5. Can you please tell me whom to approach when my book is written?

  6. Eklavya, you might find this post useful to get started –>
    How to write a book and get published

  7. Thankyou Sameer
    I needed to know this. I wrote a novel by the name of Rich Losers which got released on the 14th of may 2014 by a self publishing company. I am not confident on (what you call) advertising or the press release as the price is 500rs which I think is high. Who would like to read a beginner by paying 500rs. I am struck as I am not confident on paying another 50k for the press release. Also I am thinking of talking to a traditional publisher for my other script. Please suggest everything you think I must know.

  8. Gursimran, I’m assuming your book is priced at Rs 500 and the publisher is quoting 50K for a press release.

    I think both are impractical numbers for a first time author. Seems like the company is looking at you as easy prey.

    Stop spending more money on till you are sure about how you’d get any real value from your investments.

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