Joseph Perry, Esq.
Tips on Negotiating Your Book Advance
The question on most writers' minds is the advance. Who can blame them? It's what authors see in the news all the time. For instance, just this week, Penguin Random House made news for paying Prince Harry $20 million to write his memoir.
So when the big day comes when you get your contract and your advance, here are some basics of advances and tips you can use in negotiating your next contract.
Advances can be paid in one lump sum upon signing your contract (usually for smaller presses). However, advances are usually broken down into fractions in the following schedule:
1/3 upon signing the contract.
1/3 upon submitting a manuscript that is satisfactory in form and content to the publisher.
1/3 upon publication.
Some publishers pay advances in 1/2's upon signing the contract and accepting the manuscript. Recently, publishers have even starting paying advances in 1/4's (the extra payment being 6-12 months after publication, which is horrible for authors, but that's another post for another day).
In my experience, the things authors worry about are how much they're getting paid and if they'll have to return the money for any reason. Below are tips concerning these areas:
I'll state the obvious. Ask for a higher advance and/or performance bonuses if you don't like the amount (for example, making a bestseller list or selling a certain amount of copies).
Ask for written confirmation that your manuscript has been accepted and is satisfactory in form and content. The second advance payment is tied to delivering your manuscript, so it is very important you receive confirmation. (For tips on delivering your manuscript, see https://www.josephperrylaw.com/post/tips-on-delivering-your-manuscript-1).
In that same vein, ask for reasons in writing why your manuscript isn't accepted (if that's the case) and time to make any revisions (for example, 30-60 days).
Ask for a First Proceeds clause (that is, you don't repay your advance until you get another publisher). This usually applies if you timely deliver the manuscript but the agreement is terminated. This provision may not be possible if you don't timely deliver the manuscript.
Returning the advance can also be tied to violating your representations and warranties. For tips on negotiating reps and warranties, see https://www.josephperrylaw.com/post/tips-on-negotiating-representations-and-warranties-in-author-agreements.
I hope this helps in negotiating your next contract. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out.
Disclaimer: This is not meant to be legal advice. You should contact an attorney for any legal issue you may have.