Writing, Community & Government

Getting Published

Roxane Gay

Lesson time 07:58 min

Learn the specifics of getting a book published and why becoming familiar with the business side of things will put you in a position to get the most out of publishing your work.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Selling a Book · Self-Publishing · Be Your Own Advocate


[MUSIC PLAYING] - When it comes to selling a book, you are going to have your agent negotiating quite a few things for you. They're going to be negotiating the amount of the advance, how that advance is paid out over time, what the royalty percentage is going to be, and what that royalty structure is. They're also going to be negotiating either for North American rights or world rights. And so you want to familiarize yourself with all of these terms and concepts, because they matter. An advance is money that the publisher is going to pay you up front for your book. And then, you have to earn that advance back for them before you start to earn any more money on that book. Most advances for first-time writers are going to be somewhere between $15,000 and $200,000 to $300,000. I always sell only North American rights. And what that means is that the publisher can only publish your work in the United States and Canada. And that leaves your agent free to sell foreign rights. And so they can sell to Mexico, Spain, France, China, Iceland, anywhere. And you will get that money directly minus the Foreign Agents commission and your agent's commission. When you sell world rights, the publisher is going to not only publish your work in the United States, they are going to sell your work to international publishers. And you'll still get a percentage. But not as much of a percentage of the advance. When you get an advance, you're not going to get it all at once. You're going to get a percentage of that advance upon the signing of the contract. And contracts can take up to six to eight months to develop. So you're never going to get money right away for writing a book. And that's why you need a day job. The second part of the advance will generally be paid when you turn in the manuscript. The third part of the advance will be paid when the book is published. And sometimes, the fourth part of the advance or more will be published when the paperback is released, a year after the hardback is released. And so you have to decide what you can afford and how you would like that paid out and consult with your agent. But your agent is going to have instincts and ideas about how this should be. But in general, you should expect three to four payments for that advance. Publishers will often ask for first right of refusal, which means the next time you have a book project, they get to see it first. You may not come to terms with them on that second book. And then you can take it elsewhere. But they get to see it and make an offer on it first, or say you know what, we're actually not interested. You're welcome to shop that book elsewhere. Royalties are a percentage of the purchase price that gets paid back to you. And royalties can be really great. But a very high percentage of books actually never earn out. So again, if you have a day job, you don't have to actually worry about that. But when your book doesn't earn out...

About the Instructor

Bestselling author, professor, and New York Times columnist Roxane Gay has connected to readers around the world with her unyielding truth-telling and highly personal feminism. In her MasterClass, she teaches you how to own your identity, hone your voice, write about trauma with care and courage, and navigate the publishing industry. Learn how to document and narrate the world as you see it—and then demand change.

Featured MasterClass Instructor

Roxane Gay

Bestselling author and cultural critic Roxane Gay teaches writing for social change and arms you with the skills needed to make an impact.

Explore the Class
Sign Up