Monday 18 July 2022


The Passage is an interesting case to study if you want to learn about the non-linear frenzies the publishing world can throw itself into.

I read and reviewed the book a few years back. I watched episode 1 of the recent series on Disney+ last night.

This vampire book was sold half-written (along with the promise of 2 more books) for an advance of ~$4 million. The bidding frenzy was driven by Hollywood interest in making a movie based on the manuscript. The film rights (for book 1 by itself) were secured for $2 million.
It's this sort of thing that makes many readers believe that the author of a book they've heard of is financially set for life.
In reality a "good" deal, reported as such in Publishers Weekly etc, is generally in the region of $100,000 - maybe up to $250,000 for a 3-book deal. The vast majority of book deals are for much smaller sums, typically $10,000 or $5,000.
But take that recipient of the SIX FIGURE DEAL - $100,000 advance for a trilogy (note: the 6-figure deal is the holy grail for writers). If they manage to put them out at 1 book per year, that's $33,000 a year. Immediately we can reduce that to $28,000 having accounted for the agent's 15%.
Here are some average salaries against different professions in New York.
TEACHER $50,516
CHEF $48,827
CASHIER $25,790
WAITER $24,652
If the author were to take longer than a year per book ...
Chances are that if you're a fantasy fan and follow fantasy groups and forums, you'll end up hearing about that author with the six figure deal. You'll see their books if you haunt the fantasy sections of bookstores.
But if their book only does "OK" then they won't earn out that advance. They'll never see another penny from the books. And if they get another book deal after, it will very likely be at a MUCH reduced amount.
So, that big deal author you read, you saw their books on shelves, you saw discussions of their work on r/fantasy etc. That author, by dint of being extremely lucky and getting that six figure deal, will likely have existed on an income hovering between cashier and teacher for 3 years, with none of the job security, pension, health benefits etc. And after that ... crickets.
To return to The Passage:
Because such a vast sum was invested into it, the book debuted on the New York Times bestseller list at #3.
It did OK sales-wise. It came out a year before Prince of Thorns and has nearly twice as many Goodreads ratings, which is a fairly safe bet that it has about twice as many sales as my debut.
The three books came out over 6 years (reducing a $100,000 advance to $14,333 a year - try living on that) but with ~$6 million in their pocket the author wouldn't hurt over that.
The film was in development for well over a decade before being abandoned. In the end they made a TV series, which came out recently and was cancelled after the first season.
I watched episode 1 last night. It seemed pretty decent to me.
I'm sure the publisher and the film studio both lost a great deal of money. And the author made a mint.
But this is a WILD outlier.
It's also the sort of thing that explains the attitude shown in this recent comment following the death of author Eric Flint:

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