What’s a typical debut novel advance?

I sat up in bed the other night and wondered, ‘If I finish my draft novel, and find a publisher for it, how much money might I expect?’

The figures are diverse, but it seems a one-book deal might produce about £5,000. Maybe. Or nothing. Or a million. Hmm.

I found a few quotes (click the links for full articles):

(March 2013 update, here’s an interesting article: My Amazon bestseller made me nothing, by Patrick Wensink.)


Rachelle Gardner, Literary agent (own blog, March 2012). What’s a Typical Advance?

A publisher will pay the advance they think your book merits, based on sales projections… A typical first-timer advance might be anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 per book (or… lower or higher). But it’s harder to talk about “average” advances for experienced authors. It depends on your genre and your previous sales.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch (The Passive Voice blog, Jan 2012). Writers Work Cheap.

Traditionally Published Writer A says she’ll never self-publish. When told that her $5000 advance is the only money she’ll make on that book, she shrugs and says, “I’ll sell more copies if I go traditional,” as if that’s a fact rather than a supposition.  And even if she does sell more copies of the book through her traditional publisher than she would in the same period of time if she published the same book herself, the traditional publisher will take the book out of print after a year or two.


Boris Kachka, Contributing Editor (New York magazine, Aug 2011). Big-League Payday.

Book-publishing revenue is up almost 6 percent since 2008, and the monster advances are back, too—seven for first novels in the past year. “They’re coming back in a big way,” says Eric Simonoff, an agent at William Morris who sold a debut for more than $1 million in February.


Will Gompertz, BBC’s arts editor (BBC News, Feb 2010). How to get your first novel published.

The average advance for a previously-unpublished writer is £5,000, which is also likely to be not far off your annual income as an author.


Kate Kellaway, journalist (The Observer, March 2007). That difficult first novel.

First-time novelists divide into those paid small sums by their publishers (rarely above £12,000 for a two-book deal) and a lucky minority who secure flamboyant advances… What seems to be missing is a middle ground.


Tobias Buckell, SF Author (own blog, 2005). Author Advance Survey (version 2.0).

Science fiction.

The range is from $0-$40,000 for an advance on a first novel. The median advance is $5000.


Justine Larbalestier, author (own blog,  Dec 2004). Average First Novel Advances.

Average advance: $5,920. [Article contains list of individual advances from 1962 to 2004] Ah ha! See the pattern? No? Nah, me neither. Someone in 1970 got the exact same amount as someone in 2004. 

It will be interesting to see how much the “average” self-published e-book makes over the coming few years; allowing that the book does not have to go out of print, will e-books make more over a writing lifetime?

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