HarperCollins imprint = zero author advances

April 11, 2008

From The New York Times…

New HarperCollins Unit to Try to Cut Writer Advances

Published: April 4, 2008

HarperCollins Publishers is forming a new publishing group that will substitute profit-sharing with authors for cash advances and will try to eliminate the costly practice of allowing booksellers to return unsold copies.

Read full article here.




  1. This is a test. This is only a test. I’m so tempted to stick the Beavis & Butthead joke in here, since I’m going to erase this comment in a few minutes, anyway.

  2. The comment I kept trying to make (and have made poor B.D. insert his test Beavis & Butthead joke in here) is:

    And the difference between this “newfangled” approach and POD publishing is… what?

  3. Good question, Gayle. The only difference I see is that a major house gets to get away with paying writers nothing up front, risking little in effort to potentially profit greatly. The author too. What risk is being assumed, I reckon, is HC itself unless it’s going to establish and sustain a benchmark of quality in the titles it “publishes.”

    Given that most vanity presses, Xlibris, AuthorHouse, Publish American, et al, traditionally don’t place books in brick & mortar operations because of their unwillingness to accept returns (w/exception of those that charge an extra fee to the author for doing just that), it ought to be interesting to see how this plays.


  4. Great. Now I have to leave that comment there.

    Anyway, I’ll speculate. The first difference I can figure is the appearance of legitimacy. POD is still widely regarded as a cosmetic term for what we know as vanity publishing. And while there are people out there who will certainly split the hair for us between POD and vanity, the book that reaches the shelves through the new HC imprint will allegedly have gone through a number of processes that any other HarperCollins book would go through. This includes editors who might say, “I need you to rewrite chapter seven”, and actually be right about that.

    I have more superstitions about self-publication and POD, though, than actual knowledge, so take my two cents for what it’s worth: about two cents.

  5. I’d like to see a firmly established author among the first titles released. Upside is that this may provide an avenue for books by known, traditionally published authors to be released that otherwise weren’t as a result of being rejected by the marketing department.


  6. For what it’s worth, I’m currently pursuing POD publishing for a book of my columns. The traditional publishers I have queried have told me, in so many words, “it’s an interesting idea and you’re very funny, but come back to us when you’re as famous as Dave Barry.” Gordon Kirkland has been very encouraging in my decision, so I’m pressing onward.

    The publishers I am looking at require that your book has been professionally edited before they take you on. I figure, it’s a start toward legitimacy.

  7. I think POD is the legitimate way to go for you, Gayle. Comedy, as a genre, is tough to place. For starters, you’re dealing with a subjective subject. Next, you’re dealing with a collection of columns (if I understand correctly), an anthology that’s not book-ended to provide symmetry to the reader.

    So long as it’s “ready for Prime-Time,” that is, professionally well edited and has a great jacket, you should be fine.

    …so long as you’re funny.


  8. You were laughing pretty hard when you read my winning entry at the SD conference this year… or was it the combination of sleep deprivation and alcohol overload?

  9. I laughed, Gayle, sure, but I was laughing at my usually comically pronounced delivery of your award-winning story. I was amused by my oratorical skill of bemusing a befuddled audience with whatever it was being projected from my mouth — or as I like to think of it, the flapping hole in my face.

    Obviously and of course, the fact that it happened to be funny stuff written helped to some degree, but I hardly credit the writer for source material. Geez.


  10. OK, the more I read this article, the more it vexes me. How exactly is HC going to “share with authors any savings from eliminating returns”? How quantifiable is that going to be? And how do you get a book in a bookstore if you don’t have a return policy? That’s why POD books don’t get in brick & mortar – you can’t return them.

    I’ve learned from the SCWC that, as an author, if you want your book to succeed, you need to be active in its promotion, and not expect too much from the publisher’s publicity department. If HC is not going to give its authors any front-end money, are they going to increase their promotion efforts to make each book as successful as possible?

    Having just finished working my own horse and teaching two lessons on a hot, windy day, I may just be tired, but…

    HarperCollins is making me pissy.

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