Writing and Publishing

Using a Book Advance for Marketing

Some publishers strongly suggested that authors use their advance for marketing their book. Though this sounds reasonable, my advice is not to do it unless you have a long-term reason for it.

First, let’s talk about advances. An advance for a book was originally intended as money for the author to live on as they wrote their book.

Nowadays, fiction books must be completed before a publisher offers a contract. Many nonfiction authors also write their book before signing a publishing agreement. Therefore, needing an advance to cover living expenses while writing the book is no longer an issue.

Over time the advances have reportedly decreased to the mid to low four figures. I even know of one publisher who routinely offers $100 advances, though I do question their ethics.

Though you are understandably disappointed about your low advance, it’s not unusual.

This brings us to your publisher’s request to use your meager advance to market your book. The worry is that if your first book doesn’t sell well, they’ll never offer a contract for your second one. Spending your advance to market your first book to ensure a second book is published may be a move you want to make. Just know that the second book contract is not guaranteed.

Consider, however, the reality of book publishing. Most traditionally published books don’t earn out. This means there’s never enough book sales to offset the advance. Therefore, the writer never earns one penny of royalties.

As a result, for most traditionally published authors, the advance is the only money they’ll ever earn from their book. Though you may be an exception to this, the odds are that you won’t.

Do you really want to spend all your book’s earnings on marketing?

Take away: Though there is no right answer, consider carefully how you use your book advance for marketing.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: Successful Author FAQs: Discover the Art of Writing, the Business of Publishing, and the Joy of Wielding Words. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book Successful Author FAQs for insider tips and insights.

By Peter Lyle DeHaan

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, publishes books about business, customer service, the call center industry, and business and writing.