The NY Times has a neat little essay on the world of advance payments to writers, and how deals are; and used to be structured.
Most everyone agrees that big numbers turn small in a big hurry.
"Take a reported six-figure advance, Roy Blount Jr., the president of the Authors Guild, said in an e-mail message. “That may mean $100,000, minus 15 percent agent’s commission and self-employment tax, and if we’re comparing it to a salary let us recall (a) that it does not include any fringes like a desk, let alone health insurance, and (b) that the book might take two years to write and three years to get published. . . . So a six-figure advance, while in my experience gratefully received, is not necessarily enough, in itself, for most adults to live on.”
The money stat, as it were, is that seven out of ten books published don't earn out their advance.
On the whole this makes most of the industry still a hobby, just as it was about a hundred years ago.
As an aside, it's nice to know that Walter Kirn is getting some movie money for his novel Up in the Air, a neat little novel about one man's relentless grab for frequent flier points.
Posted by Dave