Publishing's Bad Advance Anti-Hype

Book-buying editors sound like they're feeling the heat more than ever. What at least one big-house big-wig editor is telling the cute young novelists this week is that, in the current thinking on author advances, "$125K is the new $250K." We imagine what this really means is that he's damn sick of paying a quarter of a million bucks for a novel that has a 1 in 800 chance of earning out, and he's paring back his spending, probably at the strong request of his sudoku-monetizing bosses.

But what he's saying to authors, and he's surely not the only one, is that the market just won't support a hefty advance. Umm, well, sort of. In one way, you got us there. It never did, overall! That's just the crazy money game you're in. (Maybe he finally made it to Barnes & Noble and saw all the poor books composting on the fiction tables.)

In any event, fiction writers interested in getting paid somewhere in the vicinity of $250K for their scribblings should be encouraged to keep an eye on the performance of Joshua Ferris' Then We Came To The End, out this week, to see if he ever earns out what we understand is his own $250K advance. (We're going with a "probably" on that one actually. Well: a strong maybe.)

All this anti-hype is moot, of course, if you're represented by someone like Susan Golomb, Jonathan Franzen's and Short Hills Mall-hot Marisha Pessl's agent, in which case, last week you sell a first-time two-book deal for a million bucks. Don't listen to the editors—the publishing world is still throwing itself down the well head-first, which is a big "yay!" for authors who are happy to cash in and get the fuck out. So we figure the market is actually what it always has been, no matter what line the editors are selling. A million for one, and $60K for the rest of ya. Spend it fast and write everything off.