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Just Got a Book Deal … Now What?! [Part 2]

I hope you remember, but if you don’t, this is the second part of my short three-part series on getting a book deal. Originally, it was supposed to be a two-part series, but as it turns out, there’s a lot of things that deserve to be mentioned, so now it’s a three-part series.

A while back, I was happy to announce that I got a book deal and am now a part of a well-recognized publishing company. The first post (linked to above) explains how getting a book deal usually happens, how to get noticed, how the work process itself is laid out, what’s with the presence of templates (for everything) and why scheduling is crucial.

This second part is about the legal/official stuff and about the thing everyone wants to know – how do you make money on a book deal.


My experience is still a bit narrow when it comes to dealing with contracts like this. I mean, I am happy to be a part of a publishing company but I still don’t have any previous experience. So, the only things I can say about contracts are based on the way this one publishing house is dealing with them. In other words, your mileage can vary.

First of all, you obviously need a contract. Scratch that. The publisher needs a contract. No one will work with you unless they have some paper to hold you accountable with in case anything goes wrong (works the other way around too).

This is quite different from being a freelance writer. Depending on the scale of your freelance work, you might even be working without any contracts with some of your clients. This is not even remotely possible in the publishing world.

Now, about the contract itself. Just as I mentioned in the previous part, publishers have templates for everything including contracts. If you’re the average author (whereby average I mean that you are one of many that the publisher employs in one way or the other), you’ll get a standard template contract.

If you’re a more recognized person in the community, you can negotiate and get a custom contract, but it’s not really possible for first time writers especially in niche topics (like in my case – for a book about WordPress).

Though there was a very interesting post on what you could call the “big league” publishing on Tim Ferriss’ blog, where a guest author – Roman – described how he got a 7-figure book deal. This, I actually encourage you to read to get a more complete spectrum of the publishing world.

Going back to the template contracts, such documents feature some pretty standard provisions that can be found in all kinds of other paperwork. But as it turns out, your main responsibility is to deliver on time. This is eventually the only thing you have to worry about when it comes to the mundane stuff.

In my case, the signing of the contract was an interesting experience. Because PACKT Publishing is a UK-based company doing business internationally, they don’t send their contracts via traditional mail. Instead, they use a custom online service that allowed me to sign the contract via my browser. (I’m not sure if I can give you the name or the address of the service so I better don’t.) In the end, the whole thing takes minutes instead of weeks.

Of course, if you’re like Roman and you’ve just scored a 7-figure deal then you’ll most likely have to sign it in person. In which case, congrats!

How do you make money?

Finally, we’ve arrived at the big question.

If you want to make money from your book directly, there’s only one way. Your book must sell and must sell well.

Just like recording artists, writers make money on royalties. In other words, whenever a copy of your book sells somewhere, you get a cut from the profits.

This “cut” can be anything between 5% and 20% (for e-books it may be more). This doesn’t seem like much, but when you look at it, it’s the publisher who takes the most risk. If the book doesn’t sell, you still get your advance, but your publisher gets nothing or more accurately, they lose money.

Now, about the advance. In general, every publisher agrees to pay an advance against future profits. If you’re Bill Clinton then you can ask for an advance of $15,000,000 (did happen). But if you’re just so and so then your possibilities are limited. In most cases, your publisher will give you an offer and you can either take it or leave it.

The whole point of an advance is that you will get paid as soon as you get started. But then, before you see any royalties-money checks, you need to earn out the advance. For example, if you’ve got an advance of $1,000 (just to make the math easier) and you get $10 for every book sold then you need to sell 100 books before you see your first check (for the 101st book).

The main win = branding

For bigger publishing deals, the ones where you earn high 5 figures on the advance, the main win is money itself. But for smaller deals, it’s branding – the sole fact of being a published author.

Once you are one, you can use this fact in many MANY places, starting from your LinkedIn profile, to your blog, to your freelancing offers, to your other businesses … virtually anywhere.

And it should work even better in niche topics. For example, my book on WordPress will let me take my WordPress-credibility to the next level. If I ever need to prove to anyone that I know WordPress, all I have to do is point them to the nearest book store. I believe that a similar thing can be taken advantage of in every other niche.

There maybe is one more specific question on your mind right now, should you still take the deal if the advance is not that impressive? In other words, will the project be worth your effort despite the low upfront payment?

To give you my personal take on this, I believe that the answer is yes. If you’re dealing with a big publishing company then being one of their writers as well as the aforementioned fact of being a published author can still do a lot for your future career. The immediate gratification may just be a tip of the iceberg.

… still to come in part 3

There’s still one more part waiting to be published – the final episode #3. In it, I will focus on the in-the-trenches everyday work, the additional skills required, and also, how much time it takes from start to finish to get a book published.

In the meantime, is there anything in particular you’d like me to explain in the final part of the series? Feel free to shoot me a comment.

Karol K. (@carlosinho) is a freelance blogger and writer. You can also find him at newInternetOrder where you can tune in to get various articles on how to launch and run an online business. For instance, check this new hub page on the complete process of building and launching a new site for your business.

Category: writing

4 Comments on "Just Got a Book Deal … Now What?! [Part 2]"

  1. Kingsley Agu says:

    Thanks for this article Karol.

    1. How does the “royalty” part work?

    2. If the book sells at a great loss, will the publishers still pay the “agreed” cut to me?

    • Karol says:

      1. You get a cut from every sale. However, the first check arrives after you earn out your advance.

      2. If the book sells badly you still get your advance.

  2. Peter says:

    Karol great article waiting on the wings for Part 3

  3. Abhishek says:

    I have read both the parts and trust me I am desperately waiting for the third part to come and will read that for sure. Thanks a lot for this informative post.


Welcome! I'm Bamidele Onibalusi, a young writer and blogger. I believe writers are unique and highly talented individuals that should be given the respect they deserve. This blog offers practical advice to help you become truly in charge of your writing career.

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