HarperCollins: No Advances, No Returns

I saw a post at Kristin Nelson's blog that made me somewhat nervous.

The article was published in The Wall St. Journal today.

Number 1 - No Author Advances

I read an opinion on another blog wherein the blog writer wondered how long it would be before writers would freak out at this prospect.

Not long.

The problem, as I see it, isn't necessarily not receiving advances; for most first-time writers, the advance won't pay one month's rent or mortgage payment.

No, the problem is that the unit will share its profit with writers.

Hunh? And what if there is no profit? The writer, who has spent months, sometimes years, writing a particular story...is stiffed. At least if he has some sort of advance - even if it's $1,000 - the writer has had some kind of payment for her hard work.

To PublishAmerica people: Commercial publishers pay a token amount as an advance, but it's well above the paltry, insulting $1 PA throws your way.

I'm sorry, but I don't like this part of the idea. More details will be needed.

Number 2 - No Returns

This is something I think a lot of publishers would rejoice at; from what I've read so far, bookstores probably wouldn't go for it.

I'm thinking that this HC imprint is going to print fewer copies of books, thereby letting bookstores have just enough on hand. Bookstores can then cut prices on the copies they have left; at least they'd still squeeze some money out of it.

But could it be that bookstores are so used to returns (plus, what is it now, 50-60% discounts?) that they'd balk at the no returns bit?

My take is, no returns might work to everyone's satisfaction. Again, more info is needed before anyone can pronounce judgement.

Number 3 - No Paying For Special Placement

According to something I've read (and this person sounded like he knew his stuff), placement is used all over the place. Product placement in movies - yup, seen it. I've seen product placement in books, too (one in particular made me want to pull out my hair; it was one of the reasons why I put down that book and never went back to it).

I worked for a company that had special software - this was back in the mid-1980s - wherein the company's manufactured products could electronically be placed according to how a particular store's shelving was laid out.

So I guess you have to pay to play. (And if you live in New Jersey...you know exactly what I'm talking about. ;-))

I'm up in the air about this one, although my initial thought is: How silly. I will say, though, that I'd forgotten the current book I'm reading had come out the day I was actually in the local Borders; if I hadn't seen it facing out, I wouldn't have bought it.

But I would have bought it at a later date, because I've really enjoyed the author's books. :-)

In Summary

Details are sketchy, so it's really hard to have anything other than knee-jerk reactions. Hopefully, HC will come out with more information so authors and agents can make better decisions.

~Nancy Beck


Robin S. said...

Hi Nancy-

I saw this article as well - makes me wonder about the agent/author relationship as well, as the agent won't have the advance percentage to help make a living.

PS - IMPORTANT- please email me a note. I want to send you an invitation to something.


Serena Joy said...

This is the first I'd heard of this particular situation. I don't know what HC is thinking, but I don't think it bodes well. If this plan flies, I think it will affect all writers at some point. Just my 2 cents worth.:)

Nancy Beck said...


Welcome to the blog! :-)

That was my initial reaction, that this isn't going to be a good thing. But in the interest of fairness, I want to wait and see what further details come up...and then I'll probably pounce on it really hard. :-)