HarperCollins’ new no-return/low-advance business is generating plenty of discussion.
Kassia Krozser from BookSquare:
If HC can pull this off, it will restore my faith in humanity. In a low-margin business, it just makes sense for everybody. And now that printing presses are moving ever-closer to true on-demand printing, the crazy process of overprinting in anticipation of theoretical demand can end.
Emily Gould at GalleyCat echoes the margin-friendly sentiment:
… publishers are routinely forced to overpay their name-brand authors in order to keep them, making it impossible for even bestsellers to earn out. And they also routinely overbid on debuts, doling out big advances to “unproven” authors whose sales rarely measure up to expectations. So eliminating advances in favor of a 50/50 profit split makes total sense, then — at least, it does for authors who are already known quantities.”
The positivity isn’t universal. Author Paul Witcover has a decidedly different perspective:
Here the talk is of “profit-sharing,” with the author foregoing an advance and (perhaps) splitting the net proceeds with the publisher. As a writer, I’m very, very leery of this approach, especially as implemented here.
The advance vs. profit sharing debate is touched on elsewhere, as well. In an unrelated but relevant post, Joe Wikert analyzes the $300,000 advance given to Stuff White People Like blogger Christian Lander:
Divide the $300K author advance by the $473K publisher receipts [Wikert's estimate, based on 75,000 copies sold at a discount of $6.30] and you get 63 percent. In other words, Random House would have to pay the author a royalty rate of 63 percent (against net) in order for the author to earn out that $300K advance after selling 75K copies.
The current discussion also relates to Evan Schnittman’s “flat-fee” suggestion from last summer (link via read20 listserv):
I propose that trade contracts move to a flat fee or payment for the standard rights associated with publishing a book. This fee would function just like an advance in that it would be paid on signing, delivery and acceptance, but it would be the only expected payment for the work.