STATUS: Blogging a bit late tonight. Busy day.
What’s playing on the iPod right now? MR. JONES by Counting Crows
The answer is yes.
The answer is no.
The size of the advance paid can increase the likelihood of success as the publisher is more likely to commit significant resources toward a title that a large advance was paid for.
However, the size of the advance is not a guarantee of success for any specific title.
I remember reading an article in Publishers Weekly last year (and I wish I had saved it). The article outlined two thriller titles being released by two different publishers. Both thrillers were in hardcover and the lead titles for their specific imprints. Both titles had a solid six-figure advance. Both titles had significant resources allocated for the marketing and promotional push. Both titles were from debut authors.
One title hit the New York Times Bestseller list. The other title had, in the publisher’s own words, “disappointing sales.”
So what happened?
Quite simply, no amount of money can force a public to want and buy a book. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t. If the publishers knew what created that ground swell to catapult a title onto bestseller lists and a million copy sell-thru, they’d do it for every book.
It’s a dangerous to assume that the size of the advance paid is the only indicator of possible success. (Or that a publisher who has paid a large advance will always pay attention to that title rather than embrace a newly bought title that might sell even better.)
And every agent I know has a story of a little book that could. The book that was a hard sell, that didn’t have a big advance, that had almost no marketing or promotional budget attached and yet defied all the odds.
A great success story that exemplifies this exactly is agent Deidre Knight’s 90 Minutes in Heaven—a book that was not sold for a lot of money and certainly wasn’t released with a lot of hoopla. Initial print run was by no means huge. The hardcover sold modestly well but then when the paperback version released, an explosion happened. The book kept gaining traction. Word of mouth. The ground swell that money can’t purchase started to happen. In the end, I don’t know exactly how long the title stayed on the bestseller list but I do know that it was for more than a year. This book has now sold millions of copies.
So does a large advance equal large success?
The answer is yes and the answer is no. All the stars ultimately have to align.