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About Varied / Professional Premium Member Queenie ChanFemale/Australia Recent Activity
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The NBN has come and gone the Internet seems to be working so far... hopefully it stays working so there won't be any problems. On the other hand, this post will be the second-last one. The next one after this will address royalties and returns - and then Section 2 (about manga publishing) will end, and I'll be getting back to drawing my next story!

Part 5: Getting Paid - Advances

When people talk about publishing contracts, the first thing that comes to mind is probably money. How much will I get paid, and how will I get paid?

Money’s obviously very important, but the general answer to that question if you’re a manga-style artist in the West is: “Not that much,” and “in chunks.” Usually, the money you get is paid in 3 parts – once on signing the contract, once when you’ve reached a milestone, and once when the project is complete. Regardless of the sum, the money is called an ‘advance’, and regardless of whether it fulfils the normal definition of an ‘advance,’ (like in the event of work-for-hire), the money will usually be called an advance.

The first thing you must know about an advance that a lot of people don’t know:

An advance is technically a loan.

That’s right. It’s not ‘free money,’ or ‘payment for your writing of your book which we are now going to license the rights and then publish.’ The money you get paid upfront… isn’t actually yours, though you get to keep all of it, even if your book doesn't sell well. However, if you screw up your end of the deal and don’t deliver your book on time (or to the publisher’s satisfaction), then the publisher has the right to demand the advance money back from you. Usually they're highly unlikely to do so, due to the time and costs involved, but sometimes they may.

The advance is money the publisher lends you, in the expectation that you’ll have something to live on while you’re working on your book. When the book is done and published, the publisher fully expects you to repay that money. In other words, if a publisher advances you $10,000 to do your book, your book is expected to earn them that $10,000 back – not through the money they make, but through the money you make.


Well, I’m sure you’ve heard of this thing called royalties. I’m sure you’ve heard that writers (and musicians, etc) get royalties from publishers, which are a small percentage of the sale of each book. Typically, royalties are 8-10% of the list price (15% for hardcovers). This means that if your book’s retail price is $10, then you’ll earn 80c to $1 for each copy of your book sold.

You are expected to earn your advance back through royalty payments, before you’ll see any actual royalty cheques from your publisher.


Say I wrote ‘Awesome Story,’ and I sign a publishing contract with QC Publishing to publish the book. The advance was $20,000 at a gross royalty rate of 10% of the list price. The book will be sold at $10. The book just got published.

Question: So, how much royalties will I be getting right off the bat?

Answer: NONE. I’m in the hole to QC Publishing for $20,000, due to the advance they paid me. An advance is a loan, remember? It’s money I technically owe QC Publishing, which I have to recoup for them.

Each copy of ‘Awesome Story’ sold at $10 gets me $1 per copy. If I sold 1000 copies of ‘Awesome Story,’ then I’ve made $1000 worth of royalty money. Take that out of the $20,000 I owe QC Publishing, and I still owe $19,000.

Anyway, I need to sell 20,000 copies of ‘Awesome Story’ before I will see a single cent in royalties. If I don’t sell those 20,000 copies, then I’m in debt to the publisher, and the publisher may not want to publish my next book.

This is why 85% of all books don’t earn back their advance. It’s because not that many books will sell consistently over 20,000 (this is too small a number, actually).

Now, if ‘Awesome Story’ sold only 18,000 copies, QC Publishing is highly unlikely to ask for that remaining $2000 back from me. It’s simply a dick move, and no publisher does it because it’s unfair. Once a publisher pays an advance, the author usually keeps all the money, regardless of the outcome. However, nobody will be impressed when they look at your royalty statement either.

But hey! The Publisher lost money too, right? They took a risk and paid me $20,000, so they lost $2000 on the gamble, right?

Not necessarily.

Retailers take a 40-60% cut of a book’s retail price, so if a book is sold for $10, then $6 go to the retailer (whoever it is). The remaining 4% will be split between the publisher, publishing costs and the author. If the author gets $1 per book, the publishing house gets $3, which has to cover printing, shipping, warehousing, cover design, formatting, copy-editing and all the overheads of running a publishing house.

Anyway, assuming I sold 18,000 copies of ‘Awesome Story,’ then it means my publisher grossed 18,000 x $3 = $54000. Did they lose money? Depends. Generally speaking, publishers calculate print runs through mathematical formulas that will give them an idea of how many copies a particular book will sell. They will usually print a number of copies close to how they think the book will sell, and they will definitely make sure they’ll recoup their costs. The number of copies they print of a particular book isn’t a wild stab in the dark. It’s calculated to ensure that the publisher at least breaks even. If they don’t do that, they’ll go out of business real soon.


Next Wednesday - royalties and returns! Last post on this!


QueenieChan's Profile Picture
Queenie Chan
Artist | Professional | Varied
Hi all! I was originally born in Hong Kong, and moved to Australia when I was 6 years old. My first published work was the three-book series "The Dreaming" in 2004 with publisher TOKYOPOP, and since then, I've worked with author Dean Koontz on graphic novel prequels to his series "Odd Thomas". The series became a NYT Best-seller, and afterwards, I worked on "Small Shen", a prequel to best-selling author Kylie Chan's "White Tiger" Chinese fantasy series.

I'm also author-artist of many books and short stories on my website. Right now, I'm working on a collection of 8 short ghost stories called "The Man with the Axe in his Back", which will be out on 1st August 2014 in both prose and comics-prose format.


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AzabacheSilver Featured By Owner Aug 15, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Impressive work!  You have earned my watch!
QueenieChan Featured By Owner Aug 15, 2014  Professional General Artist
Thank you. :)
Much of what I do next will be different though! (it's all comics-prose).
Just a note to let you know, that's all! XD
MBaerStudios Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2014
Found your deviantART profile while looking for Legend of Zelda fanart. After reading a few pages of your manga/comic, and seeing the fantastic artwork, I became a watcher. I am looking forward to reading all that you have here on this page, and I will also be checking out your website.
QueenieChan Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2014  Professional General Artist
Oh, thanks~
Nice to hear from the Internet in general. :D
I love Earthbound and Megaman too, so it's good to see like-minded people around!
MBaerStudios Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2014
Aha! I see someone has checked out my page. I am trying to learn how to draw comic book and manga style drawings, but I mainly dabble in pixel art and video game sprite work.
QueenieChan Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2014  Professional General Artist
I think pixel art is art artform in its own!
Ultimately, someone who is good at drawing may not be good at pixel art (myself, that is).
I love pixel art, but am no good at it myself.
There's a guy called Paul Robertson who is AMAZING at it though... he lives in Melbourne and has tonnes of fans~
(1 Reply)
QueenNillaXD Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Oh, wow! We found your page! We're diehard fans of The Dreaming, and would like to thank you for such a great work! It taught us much about expressions, poses, and page layouts. Thank you for helping us improve through your stunning style! ^w^
QueenieChan Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2014  Professional General Artist
Awww, thanks for the nice comments!
I'm glad you liked "The Dreaming", and it's nice to see its fans on DeviantArt too.
So glad it helped you improve...

(I must say that it was drawn 10 years ago, and I'm even better at facial expressions and drawing now. Seeing the progression of my art over the years has been interesting to say the least...)

Hope you stick around! I'll be posting my newer work in 3 weeks time, after I finish posting vol2 of "The Dreaming"! :D
QueenNillaXD Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Of course we'll stay! We look forward to seeing your new work!!
QueenieChan Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2014  Professional General Artist
Aww thanks!
There's 2 new works - one short story collection that's up next, and one long fantasy story that starts in November.
For the fantasy story... I get to draw pretty clothes/dresses/armour again, just like "The Dreaming" *so exciting*
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