Monday, March 25, 2013

Striking it poor with great fiction

There’s been lots of talk about shrinking author advances lately, with the once-common $10,000 advances for mid-list writers being replaced by sums that are half, or even a fourth of that amount. Author royalties above and beyond the advance can still add up, but trickling in as they do twice a year for a pretty limited period before bookstores return the unsold copies to be pulped by the publisher, they’re hardly a sure-fire way to get rich quick.

But you’re not alone, discouraged writer. One of the most-heralded debut short story collections of the last century, Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time , was given an advance of only $200 in 1925. In today’s money, that comes to just under $2,600. And the print run? A whopping 1,335 copies. If He was lucky enough to get, say 25% in royalties (most would kill for that today), and every book sold, he was looking at another $8,600 in today’s money. (The book was priced at $2.00 a copy)

No wonder he had to keep slaving away as a foreign correspondent while penning his fiction.

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