Digital Book World Panel Explores No- and Low-Advance Author Contracts
On Tues., Jan. 26, a panel of executives explored “Back-Loaded Book Deals: No (and Low) Advance Contracts, Profit-Sharing and Other Innovative Business Models,” during F+W Media's Digital Book World conference at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers in New York City. The main philosophies driving the discussion: more mutually profitable arrangements for publishers and authors, true partnerships and transparency.
On the panel were: Robert Miller, president and publisher of HarperStudio; Roger Cooper, publisher of Perseus' Vanguard Press; Mary Ann Naples, co-founder of The Creative Culture literary agency; and Ira Silverberg, literary agent with Sterling Lord Literistic Inc.
Robert Miller—who made headlines industrywide with his 2008 launch of HarperStudio as a new unit of HarperCollins that would experiment with new publishing models that challenged the status quo—led the discussion.
Miller said the idea behind HarperStudio was that “it would be nice to keep more of the money we've made,” referring to high-advance contracts that may not sell to their expectations. The flip side of that, he said, is that low-advance contracts that outsell their expectations benefit the publisher more than the author. “The publisher or author used to always come out ahead with typical advances,” he said.
Designed as a solution for a more mutually profitable relationship, HarperStudio offers low advances, with a maximum advance of $100,000, and a 50-50 profit share.
Every decision made regarding a title—from print runs to marketing—is also a shared decision between publisher and author, Miller said.
Getting Back to the Business of Publishing
Cooper said the goal for Perseus' Vanguard Press was to “make contracts simpler” and to address a shifting publishing business. “It was moving toward a business where a huge number of books were being printed and shipped, but very few were being published the way I was used to,” he said, noting that many titles received less attention with leaner publishing staffs working on them.