MaxBarry.com
dangerous when aroused

Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Mon 01
Nov
2004

I’m a real boy!

Jennifer Government The other day some money inexplicably appeared in my bank account. This intrigued me. I wanted to know more, like: Who put it there? And: Could they send more? It turned out it was from my agent, Luke. “Oh, that’s royalties,” he said. “Jennifer Government earned out the advance.”

Authors earn money in two ways: royalties and advances. Royalties are the cut the author receives from the sale of each book (usually around 10% of the cover price, but can be much higher or lower depending on the edition, country, and how much more famous they are than me). An advance is a payment made to the author before the book goes on sale. It can take a year or more for a book to hit the shelves after a publisher has accepted it, and months or years to sell significant numbers of copies, and six months on top of that for it to show up in a royalty statement with a check attached. So if there were no advances, authors would turn up to bookstore readings with their possessions in a shopping cart. Because this would be embarrassing for all concerned, the publisher makes a kind of bet: they guess how many copies they’ll sell, and pay the author the equivalent of a year or two’s royalties. The author doesn’t earn anything else until actual royalties exceed the advance.

You don’t have to pay back an advance even if the publisher over-estimates, which is fortunate because otherwise I’d be washing dishes in the Penguin Putnam cafeteria. They expected to sell more copies of Syrup than they did, so my royalties have never earned out the advance. On the one hand, this makes me one lucky asshole, because I got overpaid. On the other, it’s largely the reason why Penguin dumped me from their list, so I think it mostly works out.

Anyway, the point is this is the first time I have earned actual royalties. I’m so excited about it. I feel as if I am a real author, not just a guy with an attack-dog literary agent. I’m making a living from telling stories!

Comments

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Kx (#1449)

Location: UK
Quote: "inspirewithhope.com"
Posted: 3456 days ago

Aw, that's so cute. :) Congratulations!

Jennifer (#1643)

Posted: 3342 days ago

Well, you damned well earned it! It's an amazing book. I'm actually advertising it to everyone I know, and then they go out, buy it, read it, and advertise it to everyone THEY know. Man, I wish I was getting paid for this. many kudos!

Colin (#2725)

Posted: 2999 days ago

As a budding author, I can really understand how good it feels to get compensation for your work, if not just the gratification of that. I really hope I get around to reading Jennifer Government, probably this coming summer, but it looks like a good read. Keep livin' the dream man, peace.

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