So my agent called me the other day to discuss some business and she proposed this topic for the blog, so I want to thank her for today's fodder! We were chatting about how brutal the current market is and how everyone's expectations have had to change about not only what you should expect for an advance, but whether or not your book is going to sell at all in the current climate.
It got me thinking because as of late, I've heard from a few friends that they've received less-that-stellar offers for their manuscripts, and they weren't sure how to proceed: do you turn down a lowball bid knowing that it might be your only chance at getting published (for this book, at least) or do you hold out for something better, either a better offer or a better time to shop it around, because you suspect that the book is worth more and you further suspect that this shoddy offers aren't going to help your book make much of a splash?
It's a tricky thing to consider, and I suppose that it all depends on what you can and can't afford financially, and what your expectations are in terms of sales, attention, and doing a lot of the work on your own. As someone who did walk away from middling offers (for the book I wrote between The Department and Time of My Life), I have ABSOLUTELY no regrets about it. But it was a different time in the industry: the middling offers indicated to me that I had to write a bigger, better book...so I figured out a way to do that and promptly wrote TOML. But now, that isn't always the case: some of these lowball offers are simply what publishers are willing to offer period. Whether or not your book has breakout potential. So again, the question becomes, do I settle for this or do I hold out?
I don't really have any answers...I just thought it made for good food for thought. As I've discussed here before, whether or not folks like to hear it, it is very, very difficult for a book to break out if it's been sold for a low advance. This has nothing to do with the quality of the words inside, rather the attention and marketing money that will be devoted to it once it's in the publishing assembly line. But is it better to release a book that doesn't go gangbusters than release no book at all? The easy answer is, "Of course," until you consider that your future advances will be based on previous book sales...and if your book hasn't sold like crazy, well, your advances will remain low. It's a catch-22, a vicious cycle. And I don't really have the answers.
The best thing that I think you can do is trust your gut (I did when I turned down the three or four lower offers that middle book) and listen to your agent whom you hopefully trust as much as your gut. He or she should be able to give you an honest assessment of what your expectations should be with whatever advance you're receiving, and then you have to decide how that fits into your overall career game plan (and current financial needs). It's not pretty out there right now, but hopefully, with some smart strategizing, we can all make it through,
So what say you guys? Is it better to be published, even if your book doesn't make a huge splash, or do you turn down the low advance and hope for something better in the future?