Friday, 30 May 2008

The dotted line

My new Bloomsbury contracts arrived yesterday. It is always a satisfying moment, signing a new contract - not least because then actually receive some money.

For those not familiar with the arcane process of payment in publishing, the writer receives a wedge of money on signing the contract for a book, another wedge on delivery of the manuscript and another wedge on publication (and possibly another on publication of paperback if there is to be a hardback/paperback publication).

These payments are an advance from the publisher set against royalties on sales of the book. The better the book sells, the quicker your royalties will pay off that advance. The more generous the advance, the harder it is to pay it off.

But that is infinitely better than having a measly advance and still not selling. Royalties are pie in the sky - better to have a decent advance (unless you are J K Rowling - and then you get both anyway). Sales of a book are not a judgement on the quality of your book (or at least not always). Really bad books sell well and very, very good ones disappear without trace. It is a bit of a lottery.

In any case - a decent advance is a show of commitment from the publisher, and that means they are more likely to give your book a publicity budget. Anyone can promote authors who are already famous. It takes a bit more work to develop the careers of the rest of us. The work of the sales, marketing and publicity people is vital. There is a big difference between printing a book and publishing it. Anyone can print a book. I have to say Bloomsbury have been excellent publishers for me.

That said, a writer needs to justify an advance. It is always good to work off that advance - and that means helping to promote the books in any way that helps: doing author visits and talks, doing festivals, doing interviews. . .

And maybe running a blog.

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