book contract

President Obama’s Book Contract v. Mine . . . Any Similarities?


Dear Editor…

Business Insider just ran the article “How Barack Obama Made His Fortune” by Walter Hickey that included details of President Obama’s book deal for The Audacity of Hope. Obviously I’d never get a $1.9 million advance, but how about the rest of the percentages? Would my book contract look like that?


Dear Anonymous…

It’d be more similar than you’d think. Mr. Hickey’s article says the President’s book contract grants 15% of the list price for hardcover copies (10-15% is common), 7% for trade paperback (you might get 8%), 8% for the first 150,000 copies sold of the mass market paperback with 10% thereafter (6% and 8% are common), and 10% for audio recording (standard). The big difference is that 150,000 escalator. If your publisher predicted sales like that, you just might quality for that $1.9 mil! Most of us cross our fingers for more modest numbers, say in the early double-digits, at least in the first year or so, and our advances and escalators reflect that. We’re talking more like 12.5% at 10,000 copies with 15% at 15,000 and thereafter. You may have to ask for an escalator, which ups your cut when sales are strong. Most publishers prefer that to raising advances because an escalator is payment on actual sales, not on predictions.

Happy writing!
The Editor