Here is the latest article about the Author Advance Survey I’ve been doing over the last year (you can find the first one here). Basically I put up a survey on my website that people could fill out who were SF or Fantasy authors (sorry other genres, I don’t log your data, even if you do submit it). It’s basic (I don’t try to deal with royalties). You can choose to remain anonymous, although most people who filled out the survey chose to give me their names.

We now have 108 authors who replied to this author advance survey versus the 78 or so for the last article I wrote about this.

There are some changes in this article. You will no longer see much in the way of ‘mathematical averages.’ I use the more useful median, which isn’t as affected by high outliers (figures that seem out of the ordinary). Everyone kept worrying about occasional large advances that weren’t normal, like 1/2 million, but those outliers don’t affect the median.

If you found this data useful, please link to it or email this link to a friend. If you would like to reprint this article please do so if you’re a not-for-profit group, but contact me if you are a for-profit. Please make sure to provide a link to my website and my name (Tobias S. Buckell) as a byline in either case.

First Novel Advances:

The range is from $0-$40,000 for an advance on a first novel.

The median advance is $5000.

The median figure is a better indicator of what most people consider ‘typical.’ Mathematical average for first time advances was $6424.

Adjusted for inflation, as the figures range in year from advances given in 1970 to this year, the median advance is ~$6000.

First Novel Advances, Fantasy vs. Science Fiction

The range in Fantasy first novel advances is from $0 to $40,000.

The median first novel advance is $5000 for Fantasy (average is $6494)

The range in Science Fiction first novel advances is from $0 to $20,000.

The median first novel advance is $5000 for SF (average is $7000)

In version 1.0 of this article, with 74 respondents, I had enough of a difference in the data that I hazarded a guess that Fantasy first novel advances were larger than SF advances. I was wrong.

First Novels: Agented vs. Unagented:

58% of our first time novelists had an agent, the other 42% sold the book without an agent, and a high number indicate they got agents right after or during the sale of the book.

The range in agented advances is from $1500 to $40,000

The median agented advance is $6000 (the average is $7500)

The range in unagented advances is from $0 to $15000

The median unagented advance is $3500 (the average is $4051)

These figures have noticeable differences any way you look at them. Not having an agent looks to cost one well more than the agent’s percentage on average, and certainly most of the higher ranging figures come from people with agents.

note: Geoff Landis points out that the reverse may be true, agents may not choose to represent clients with lower advances.

Hardcover vs Trade Paperback or Mass Market for First Novels

Hardcover advances had a median of $5000

Paperback advances had a median of $5000

First Novel Advances Chart:

Here is a chart of all the first novel advances by year and amount:

Advances1

And then when adjusted for inflation:

Advances2

Careers

When I initially created the survey I added fields asking what the last novel the author in question got for an advance, as well as how many books they had sold, and how many years they’d been selling books. I was curious to see if the data would reveal any certain trends over time.

89 authors in this survey have sold more than one book. 47% answered the survey saying they were ‘full time writers’. Here is how that data breaks down:

The range was from $0-$600,000 for an advance on their latest novel.

The median advance for the multiply published is $12,500.

Broken down by Fantasy and SF

The range in last Fantasy novel advances is from $1000 to $600,000.

The median novel advance is $15,000 for Fantasy



The range in Science Fiction novel advances is from $0 to $45,000.

The median novel advance is $12,500 for SF.

Fantasy novels seem to breakout into higher sums.

Broken down by Agented vs. Unagented:

16% of our authors with multiple books sold over multiple years had no agent.

The range in agented advances is from $1000 to $600,000

The median agented advance is $12500

The range in unagented advances is from $0 to $21,500

The median unagented advance is $7250

These figures have noticeable differences across the board. Not having an agent looks to cost one well more than the agent’s percentage on average, and certainly most of the higher ranging figures come from people with agents.

note: Geoff Landis points out that the reverse may be true, agents may not choose to represent clients with lower advances.

Charts:

Advance by number of novels written:

Advances3

Advance by years published:

Advances4

Somethings to note about these charts. 1), I cut them off at $100,000 as only a few data points were above that, most of the data charts in the 0-$50,000 range. 2) they seem to be fairly randomized, meaning that there is no guarantee between years and numbers of books sold.

Hardcover vs Trade Paperback or Mass Market for Multiple Novelist

Hardcover advances had a median of $15,000

Paperback advances had a median of $10,000

Summary:

The typical advance for a first novel is $5000. The typical advance for later novels, after a typical number of 5-7 years and 5-7 books is $12,500. Having an agent at any point increases your advance. There is some slight correlation between number of books and number of years spent writing as represented in the 5-12.5 thousand dollar advance shift of an average of 5-7 years. Charting individual author’s progressions, which I will not release to keep anonymity, reveals a large number of upward lines at varying degrees of steepness for advances, some downward slides.

Some authors noted that they’d gotten large advances in the 90s but were being paid less now.

What now?

I hope that we can get more people to provide anonymous survey data. So if this is your first time here, please, please fill out the survey. I will release updates every several months or so if I keep getting data.Form currently unavailable.

I am trying to keep this form as simple and easy to fill out for

I welcome all feedback and discussion, either here in the comments or at my email. Please be civil ya’ll.

-Tobias S. Buckell