Why You Shouldn’t Take That Big Advance

Why You Shouldn’t Take That Big Advance

Much has been written about the death of traditional publishing, the rise of self-publishing, and the steep road ahead for the Big Six-Five-Whatever the Number is Now (Are We Down To Two Yet? Amazon v. Everyoneelse?). There is much talk of the finances of self-publishing, and whether authors can be more successful holding out for a traditional contract with an advance or publishing themselves with no advance but much higher royalties. One thing that isn’t talked about is the emotional aspect of this–specifically, how the advance system can be devastating to the soul (and career) of young writers.


Illustration by Paul Sahr

A few days ago, young adult author Jessica Spotswood wrote a heartfelt and emotional post about managing expectations and rising above the feeling of failure when you don’t meet a publisher’s expectations. In short, Jessica got a major deal for her debut series. The books did well, but not well enough to meet her publisher’s HUGE expectations (which were reflected in the big advance she was given). Jessica saw her promotional opportunities set up by her publisher decline, even as she went through rebranding and efforts to bump up sales. She then had to struggle with the feeling of failure for not living up to her publisher’s expectations, and the sad reality of not getting the same level of promotion for future books.

What she hasn’t yet experienced is what will happen with her next series. Several authors in comments mentioned moving publishers or self-publishing after a similar experience. The reality is that bookstores stock books according to prior sales. If you didn’t sell according to expectations, the numbers follow you. Jessica is a top-notch writer and will have a long and successful career, I have no doubt. But the legacy of the overshot expectations will follow her, and her writing will have to carry her over an additional (and entirely unfair) obstacle in the future. From the comments, it’s clear Jessica isn’t the only one to have faced this. Add me to that list. My Delcroix Academy series (now The Talents–rebranding anyone?) went through a similar (heartbreaking) series of events.

But here’s what makes me angry about Jessica’s story: the current publishing system makes it inevitable. Traditional publishers don’t know which books will be huge hits, which will be moderate sized hits, and which will flop. They really don’t. No one does. They have good, educated guesses, which turn out to be wrong 70% of the time. So the system works this way: as a publisher, you identify a handful of books that might be big hits and throw the authors big money to get them to sign with you (aka, gambling). You know most won’t meet your expectations: 7 out of 10 books don’t earn out advances. It’s part of the game.

The system continues because every now and then publishers get it right and someone makes it big. This is how they survive. They give the other, less successful books a good old college try, and then quietly disentangle themselves from the authors.

It’s all well and good for the publisher, who writes off the losses and starts gambling on the next crop of debut authors. But the emotional legacy for the author is huge. How can an author not feel like a failure when her book fails to earn out that advance? When, despite all the promotion, it doesn’t hit a list? When she is faced with the uphill climb of finding a new publisher and a new deal, after not earning out the last one?

The really sad thing is, this experience isn’t limited to authors who get major advances. It’s heightened for those authors who get the big advance and attention paid to them, but there are hundreds of authors getting smaller advances who experience the same failure to meet expectations, the same loss of confidence and crushing doubt. As a lawyer, I can’t help but wonder if we should include a new clause in the publishing contract boilerplate:

DISCLAIMER: In accepting this advance, I acknowledge that my book has a 70% chance of not meeting expectations. I acknowledge that this may result in significant emotional turmoil and distress (for me). I acknowledge that my publisher has the right to drop me like a hot potato if a new and shiny debut author comes along who has a similar 70% chance of failing, but a 30% chance of being the Next Big Thing.

Is it fun to be on the right side of the publishing gamble? Well, duh…of course it is. If you think staying at the Four Seasons, being jetted around the country on a rock star book tour, and seeing your book front and center at a bookstore is fun. But that’s not really a fair question. I’m sure meth is fun too, until you get ulcers on your face.

But here’s the thing–there are ways to avoid the advance-expectation-failure trap. Writing for a boutique publisher is one, where advances are low and quality and artistic expression are high. Self-publishing is another. Taking a lower advance with a guarantee of on-going promotion is another. And of course, 30% of writers will actually earn out those advances. So there’s always that route!

The publisher I write for now, Entangled Publishing, doesn’t give rock star advances. They give higher royalties instead. Promotion is lesser, but more equivalent across authors. Though no one would claim all books are treated equally, no one (as far as I know!) is staying at the Four Seasons. Of course, this is still a business, and we all want to earn our living. But these days when I write a book I can ask myself–did I write the best book I could write? Did I love the process of writing it? Did I make some readers happy? Did I give them the take-me-away experience that we all need?

If so, then hell yes, it was a success.

Are there things you miss by turning away from the Big Advance? Yes, absolutely. See above. But can we please start telling debut authors that chances are they’re walking into a trap when they accept that big advance? That they’re taking a huge gamble that will most likely result in heartache and disappointment, and possibly do long term damage to their careers? Can we (established) authors start telling everyone that there are other ways to success, and start seeing it in our own careers?

Publishing is a hard, hard business. My husband often shakes his head in wonder that anyone makes it through the gauntlet of negative reviews, rejection, and uneven or non-existent paychecks. My advice to young writers: do this because you love it. For all that is good and holy don’t do this for the money. Find joy in the process. When the bad reviews come (and they will!) focus on the good ones. And most of all, don’t live by someone else’s expectations.

With love,



100 Review Giveaway!

IMPORTANT UPDATE! First of all, let me say that I am overwhelmed at the response this weekend to my Bencher Family, especially Melissa and Garth! The Boss’s Fake Fiancee spent time in the top ten on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble bookstores, which is just unbelievable! And then just a few minutes ago, review #100 came in, which means it’s time to give things away.

First, a $25 gift card goes to ESTHER!!!! I’ll be emailing you this afternoon with your prize!

Because I am so excited, I am also going to give away THREE copies of book 3 in the Bencher family series, Falling for Mr. Wrong, to Claudia De La Fuente, Rosangela Jones and @Dandelionns!

Thank you times 100 everyone!!! :-)

I was surprised and incredibly touched when The Boss’s Fake Fiancee first released a year ago, and we found that it really struck a chord with a lot of people. The hero, Garth Solen, is not the traditional romance novel alpha male. He’s a sexy billionaire, the head of his own company, and firmly and deliberately single–that’s all pretty standard. But when you start to get to know him, you realize there’s more under the surface. Garth loves deeply and fiercely, but he doesn’t open up easily.

He can’t. It’s far too frightening a prospect.

You see, Garth is on the autism spectrum. He finds social situations painful, and after some tough childhood experiences, has a very hard time trusting. He’s one of the most complex characters I’ve written, and one of the most dear.

He’s also hot. Let’s just be upfront about that. ;-) Here’s how Melissa, our heroine, describes him:

In person, of course, the first thing you noticed wasn’t his mind: it was the sexy curve of his mouth, his broad, rangy shoulders, and thick black hair. Right now, he was clean shaven, but by the end of a long day he would have an astonishingly sexy five o’clock shadow that only seemed to accentuate his piercing gray eyes.

Not that she looked.

Okay, she looked.

Yeah, she’s got a little crush, and by the end of the book, I hope you will too.

The Boss’s Fake Fiancee is currently on sale for only $.99. It’s also got 94 really lovely reviews from people who were touched by Melissa and Garth’s story. Frankly, I wasn’t sure it was such a good idea to write this book. I worried that readers wouldn’t understand Garth, or his journey to love. I can’t believe how wrong I was.

Now, I’d like to give something back. If we can get to 100 reviews (it’s a nice round number; I think Garth would appreciate that) I’ll give a $25 Amazon gift card to a reader. Just let me know you want in on the contest by either:

1) Posting a link to this blog on your Facebook page (or sharing the post from my FB page announcing the contest: Facebook.com/inarawrites)

2) Tweet this: Love Garth? Review The Boss’s Fake Fiancee http://amzn.to/18G9x6Z! If @inarascott gets 100 reviews, she’s giving away $25 Amazon gift card!

3) Comment on this blog–make sure to leave your email address so I can get a hold of you if you win!

And thanks. (Garth says thanks too.)

Newsletter Winner!

Newsletter Winner!


Winners of the newsletter contest have been notified! Prizes went out today, so check your email!

Wait, you didn’t know about the newsletter contests? You must not be subscribed to my newsletter. You can sign up on my website homepage: go back to www.inarascott.com!


Book Release & SALE!

Today is the day! Falling for Mr. Wrong, book three in the Bencher Family series is OUT. It’s live. It’s on your screen, in your e-reader, and ready to be read.

One more time…here’s that gorgeous cover:

Falling for Mr Wrong COVER

And here’s the book! Falling for Mr. Wrong is available at: KoboAmazon, Barnes and NobleiBookstore

Oh, and the added bonus? Book One in the Bencher Family series, Rules of Negotiation, is on sale to celebrate the release. You can buy it for only $.99 at Amazon , Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and iBookstore.

Falling for Mr. Wrong

Falling for Mr Wrong COVER

As impossible as it may seem, I’ve got another new book coming out…in just a few days! Falling for Mr. Wrong is a contemporary romance that’s the third in the Bencher Family series. You can find out all about the book, including buy links to all major retailers, here: http://www.inarascott.com/falling-for-mr-wrong/.

Here’s the back cover copy to get you started!!

Looking for Mrs. Right…

Single father of three Ross Bencher knows the kind of woman he wants: someone predictable, reliable, and safe, who can give his kids the security they deserve. Someone entirely different from high-altitude mountaineer Kelsey Hanson, who bewitches him with her long legs and wild passion. Kelsey’s about as far from his ideal as a woman can get, but try telling that to his body. Or his heart…

Falling for Mr. Wrong…

When Kelsey agreed to fill in as a temporary nanny for her best friend’s agency, she had no idea she’d be working for drop-dead sexy Ross Bencher, a man she can’t seem to keep her hands off. Kelsey knows if she wants to bring herself—and her father—back alive from the Himalayan Mountains, she can’t afford second-guessing or attachments. But Ross’s blue eyes and strong hands leave her gasping…and questioning everything she’s ever known about love…

Halloween Excerpt from A Sleep So Dark…

Small spooky woods

For Halloween, I thought it would be fun to post a little excerpt from A Sleep So Dark. In this scene, Cade has just been pulled into Tandy’s dream. Normally when this happens, he is invisible to the dreamer, but with Tandy, everything is different…


When he became lucid in the dream, he was in a forest, dark and thick with trees. It was not a Colorado forest. There were no evergreens rising straight and tall against the sky, no carpet of needles to cushion their feet. This was a forest of naked, curving branches. The trees had thick, gnarled trunks and a faint air of menace. Moonlight drifted through the canopy of leafless limbs.

He scanned the area quickly, trying not to panic when he didn’t see her.

He ran a few yards ahead on a narrow path that meandered through the trees. When he came around a sharp corner he saw the pale, silvery glow of a person moving through the colorless forest.

“Tandy?” he called.

The body came closer. Took form. The shape was familiar—small enough to fit in the crook of his arm but strong and graceful, long hair reflecting the moon. She assumed a crouch, tense and ready to run. “Who’s there?

He waved. “Over here. It’s me. Cade.”

“Cade?” She stopped, oddly unsurprised to find him there. “Are you coming with me?”

She could see him. His pulse began to race. They were in a dream together, and she could see him and hear him. Anything could happen now.

They met on the path. He slid his hand down her arm. He felt the firm, sculpted muscles of her shoulder, the soft skin on the back of her wrist, and the calluses on her palm. It didn’t matter anymore, he thought giddily, if he touched her. They were already intertwined. He could take her in his arms and pick up where they left off before they fell asleep. They could lose all control and no one would ever know…

What scares you? (A Sleep So Dark giveaway!)

photoI’m not a usually fan of scary movies. Nor am I a fan of scary books. Cause here’s the thing: THEY’RE SCARY. And I don’t like the feeling of being scared. So it’s a little odd that I actually sat down and thought to myself, “Hey, wouldn’t it be fun to write a scary, suspenseful, young adult thriller?”

But I’m like that. Unpredictable. Perhaps even a little crazy. ;-) And at the time, I thought I’d be writing the book for teens, and would be able keep the scary to a minimum and really focus on the characters and romance.

But as I was writing that book, which became A Sleep So Dark, the need to make it more suspenseful–and more scary–grew. And as the book got more and more scary, I started to freak myself out.


A Sleep So Dark is about dreams. Nightmares, to be precise. And becoming lucid in dreams and nightmares so you can control their outcome. This is a real therapy technique they are using with veterans and other people suffering from PTSD. Teach them to become lucid in their dreams, so instead of it suffering from nightmares, they can turn their dreams into something positive.

Sounds good, right? Unfortunately, all the research I did on becoming lucid in dreams just freaked me out more. I started to get scared to fall asleep, because I worried that I would become lucid but not be able to wake up. And what could be more awful than being trapped in a lucid dream?

Suffice to say, this book was tough to write. But it was incredibly fun to write something totally different than I ever have before. And in doing so, I discovered that I do enjoy scaring myself–I just happen to do it by sending myself headlong into new projects, pushing my boundaries, and forcing myself to grow as an artist. And this was definitely a book that did all of those things.

(And, to be honest, I threw in some romance, a hot guy, and kissing. Because those are my favorite parts.)

So here’s the really amazing thing. I assumed no one would actually be scared by my book. But according to the reviews, A Sleep So Dark is “weird but wonderful…full of chills, thrills, and suspense…” And “a scary nightmare of a story with murder, mayhem, and a unique element of the supernatural…”

Which makes me glow with pride–I did it! I managed to not only get over my fear of writing about scary stuff, I managed to create something new and suspenseful along the way! Whee!

To celebrate this accomplishment, and with Halloween just a few days away, I’m giving away a signed printed copy of A Sleep So Dark. All you have to do is leave a comment telling me what scares you!

UPDATE: We have a winner! Ruthi Kight, congratulations!You’ll be hearing from me via email. :-) Thanks so much to everyone for sharing your darkest fears with me. I hope you all had a happy Halloween!

A Sleep So Dark is coming…

In five days, A Sleep So Dark goes live!! I’ve been posting pictures and snippets of it on my Facebook fan page, but here’s a longer excerpt to get you in the mood for the book that early reviewers are calling a “perfect read for Halloween“!

They spooned together, Tandy’s back pressed into Cade’s chest. His legs scooped under hers, surrounding her with the heat from his body. He held her tightly, as if he planned to never let her go.

“I don’t want to fall asleep,” she whispered, a fresh wave of fear bringing tears to her eyes. “I don’t want to dream. I don’t want to die.”

“Whatever happens, you have to trust me,” he whispered into her ear, his face resting in the curve of her neck. “Watch for me in your dream. I’ll be there for you.”

Impossible as it seemed, his words didn’t shock or alarm her. Sleep was coming for her, dragging down her lashes and filling her brain. She fought to keep her eyes open and watch the flickering shapes on the ceiling, but Cade’s embrace slipped around her like a cocoon. His body poured over her fear and doubt and enveloped her in a honeyed warmth.

She didn’t know how long she could last. She fought to remain conscious.

The darkness was coming.

A Sleep So Dark


I know many of you found me from my latest books (Rules of Negotiation, The Boss’s Fake Fiancee), which are adult romances, but I actually started publishing with a little young adult series called The Talents (a.k.a. Delcroix Academy, but we won’t get into all that…). I love writing both adult and young adult, but my schedule over the past couple of years forced me to focus on one, which means that I haven’t released a YA for over a year.

Well, young adult fans, I have great news! In October, just two months from now, I will be releasing a new young adult novel! It’s a paranormal YA thriller, called A Sleep So Dark. It’s a new style for me, and I’m incredibly excited about sharing it with you. Here’s the blurb:


After watching her mother die in a car accident, sixteen year-old Tandy McIntyre is plagued by violent dreams. Terrified to sleep and losing her grip on reality, she agrees to attend an experimental group retreat with Dr. Robert Gillman, an expert in lucid dreaming.


In the bitter cold of a Colorado winter, Tandy follows Dr. Gillman and his enigmatic son Cade as they lead a group of troubled teens into the wilderness. There, Dr. Gillman claims he will teach them to control their unconscious minds and master their dreams. But when the dreaming and the waking collide, will Tandy ever be safe again?

Don’t Fall Asleep…


Over the next few weeks, I’ll be announcing spots for a review team (yay for free books!), blog tour, and cover reveal. If you know you want to get in on the fun, just email me at inara.scott@gmail.com, or stay tuned for the announcements!

What Were They Thinking?

This is a fun thing to say while shaking your head at the rampant stupidity of…well…someone else. One likes to think that you will never have the occasion to say, “What was I thinking?” with such mystification (though anyone who was a teenager in the 80s likely says that when perusing their high school yearbook). But today, I’m wondering if this is what everyone will be saying, some day in the future, about romance writers circa 2013.

I say this after hearing and reading about the dominant theme at the 2013 RWA National Conference, which seems to be, “write more, publish more, and then when you’re done with that, write another one.” One month is the optimal time to wait between new releases. Two months, max. Keep the machine pumping. Publish everywhere you can. If you can’t crank out a novel every month, publish a novella. Can’t produce five books a year? Wait to publish until you have a big backlist, then push them out every couple of months (where you go from there, I’m not sure, unless you’ve been writing a solid decade and have enough titles to last you for a few years).

Now I’ve been a romance reader for almost thirty years. I’ve read and loved a lot of books. But even just a few years ago, no one expected their favorite author to give them something new every two months. You got a book a year from your favorite author, and you were a happy camper. Today, expectations have changed. We get one book in a series and we want the next. Immediately. We tweet/Facebook/email our favorite authors and tell them we want more. Authors feel the pressure from fans, editors, and peers to publish more more more. Classes in “fast drafting” are everywhere. Check Twitter at any given moment and I guarantee there’s an author out there cranking out 1,000 words an hour on a 1k1hr challenge.

Seriously, people, what the hell are we thinking?

I know. You’re feeding your family. You’re pleasing the fans. You’re struggling to make a living. This is what the audience wants. This is what readers demand. It’s exciting. You love to write. I get that. I do.

But really? I mean, really? Can we step back and take a little gut check here? Does anyone really believe that the quality of a book written in a month is anything comparable to the book written over six months? Does any author really think they can push out ten books a year FOR TEN YEARS and keep each one of them creative, fresh, and different?

I’m not saying I’m not falling prey to this epic “quantity is everything” push. I wrote a book in the month of July, and honestly, it was fun. I enjoyed forcing my brain to work all day long and going with the flow of the story instead of endlessly rethinking and revising as I went. And I’m not sure that story completely sucks, either (at least, my darling critique partner says it doesn’t, and that’s good enough for me). But I’m lucky enough to have a day job to go back to in the fall that will exercise another part of my brain and give the romantic trope/sex scene/plot point/witty dialog/big black moment/happily ever after part of my brain a rest. I can’t imagine doing that every month, or every two months, for the rest of my writing career.

I know some Harlequin authors have been working like this for many years. But as an industry trend, I think this five-books-a-year thing is new. And I think in ten years, when we look back on the books we’ve been churning out like magazine articles, we’re going to regret it. I just don’t believe quality is going to keep pace with quantity, and even worse, I think as authors we are going to burn ourselves out at a record pace.

I see this as a sort of grand experiment. How many books can a romance author write in a year before she is plum out of new words? Before she uses the exact same phrase to describe an orgasm that she’s used in five previous books? Before she realizes that this hero is saying/doing/thinking the same things the last hero did?

I hope we don’t get there. I hope we realize how crazy this is before we’ve exhausted ourselves and our creative juices.

Before we end up disappointing our readers by giving them less than what they deserve.