occasionally some wacky marketing stunt I dreamed up for one of my novels
comes true. Films as advertisements, logo tattoos, naming people after
no matter how outrageous I try to be, real-world marketers are
scampering along right behind.
But this is something else. First, a few lines from
of Jennifer Government:
The Johns smiled. “We started selling [Nike] Mercurys six months ago. You know how many
pairs we’ve shifted since then?”
Hack shook his head. They cost thousands of dollars a pair, but that wouldn’t stop
people from buying them. They were the hottest sneakers in the world. “A million?”
“Two hundred million?”
“No. Two hundred pairs.”
“John here,” the other John said, “pioneered the concept of marketing by refusing
to sell any products. It drives the market insane.”
This green thing
is an invitation to the launch of
new range of Nike shoes that has gotten coolhunters drooling
down their buttoned silk shirts. And what’s that down the bottom?
700 pairs worldwide, 140 in the US only
The next step, in Jennifer Government, is to throw open the warehouse
doors and try to shift as many pairs as possible before the aura of exclusivity
wears off. Also to shoot a few customers to make it look as if demand
for the shoes is so hot that people are killing each other for them. If that turns
out to be Nike’s plan in real life, too, I’m putting in a call for
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