I came across an interesting article at NyMag.com today about debut novel advances. Sure, I knew that at some point in the past publishers shelled out fantastic advances to writers (new and proven alike) for their novels. I had no idea they were still doing it.
According to the article, a laid off copy writer named Chad Harbach recently pulled in a $650,000 advance for his debut novel The Art of Fielding, a book about a gifted shortstop who tries to get his small college to the top of Division III baseball.
Does this novel sound like something I want to run out and buy? No. Would I have ever heard of it at all if its advance wasn’t written about on NyMag.com? Also no. The article also discusses how publishers are using large advances as a marketing ploy: if a publisher is willing to throw down that much money for a novel, it must be good, right?
Not really. Sometimes the books do well, sometimes they don’t make back their publisher’s advances, sometimes they just break even. Only time will tell how Harbach’s baseball tale does in sales, but I can tell you right now it’s going to do much better than if it didn’t get this advance (and consequently, free publicity via NYMag.com).