Last week, I shared my most recent royalty statement from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.??Joy Acey asked a couple of questions in the Comments, and I thought I’d answer them here, to the best of my ability.
At a recent children’s poetry workshop, an editor told us their ’standard? first run for a poetry book is 4,000 copies.? Do you know if that is true for the big 6 houses??
I don’t know for sure. I think 4,000 is probably about right or even high?for my two poetry books so far (both with Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), because BookSpeak is in its 5th printing, but I only just passed 10,000 copies sold in June of this year. So I assume they’re printing just a couple thousand at a time. And that would be because publishers WANT to publish poetry and many editors love and appreciate poetry…but they’re also very cognizant of poetry’s sales records.
And if you’re wondering how I know what printing it is, here’s the cataloging page of a recent copy of BookSpeak:
See where it counts down at the bottom RDT: 10 9 8 7 6 5 ? That lowest number is the number of the printing that that book is part of.
If an advance is made, ?an advance against royalties,? does that mean? authors of poetry collections get smaller advances, or do they even get advances?
An advance is always against royalties. It’s like if you get an advance on your pay, it’s an advance against future paychecks. My advance for Stampede and then also for BookSpeak was $4,000. It’s what I was? offered, and then I used that offer to get an agent, and my agent couldn’t get any higher, either. But–I was in a crit group at the time with?well-published and award-winning picture book writer and novelist, and she had gotten the exact same advance for her first book with Clarion. So I don’t think it had anything to do with it being poetry.
I often hear $10,000 is a standard picture book advance for the big 6 publishers, and that would be split between the author and illustrator. I don’t know exactly how accurate that is, but I hear it thrown around a lot.
With Millbrook Press/Lerner, for A Leaf Can Be…, Water Can Be…, and A Rock Can Be…, my advance has been $3,000 each time.
Here’s why I don’t worry too much about advances. If your book sells well, you will get your percentage. And I want my books to sell well. I don’t want to lose the publisher’s money. If they pay me a big advance, and then my book doesn’t sell well, sure, I’ll have made more cash (because you don’t return the advance, even if it never earns out), but I’ll have a black mark against me with that publisher. I’ve worked with good publishers so far, and I want to continue to do so, so my focus is on writing great books and helping to promote them. A huge advance would be more pressure on me, and I would be more likely to fail to earn it out.
It seems like it might take forever to earn out one’s advance.?
That’s true! I hear (again, no particular stats to back it up) that most picture books never earn out their advance. The other thing I hear is that the advance is generally based on what the author would make if the first printing sells out.
I hope that answers your questions, Joy. Holler (anybody can holler, not just Joy:>) if I haven’t been clear about anything!