May 26, 2015

Scalzi signs 13 $261K deals at once


torJohn Scalzi, sci-fi author and blogger, made headlines yesterday for his $3.4 million dollar deal. The deal is not for one, but thirteen books, with Tor that will play out over the course of ten years.

Though any sum in the millions blows most of our minds, this isn’t exactly a windfall. This is more like a steady salary.

Scalzi reminded readers yesterday that the advance for his first novel, Old Man’s War, was $6,500. (If you’re not familiar with his blog, the author has been unusually candid with his publishing experience.)

According to Scalzi, his deal includes:

* A sequel to Lock In, the title of which I shall now reveal exclusively here — Yes! I am giving myself an exclusive! — as: Head On;

* A new epic space opera series (two books planned at the moment, let’s see where it goes from there) in an entirely new universe;

* Another book in the Old Man’s War series (this one might be a few years, though, so be patient);

* Several standalones (or least, intended as standalones, but then OMW was intended as a standalone, too);

* Three Young Adult books.

But he’s “not going to be doing a Scrooge McDuck-like dive into a pool of coins.” A portion of that advance will go his way now. He’ll earn the rest as he writes. He and Tor are formally establishing their publishing relationship on a very long-term basis.

Asked whether it’s awkward to have others know so much about his finances, Scalzi adds:

Not exactly but it has interesting social echoes. I used to talk about how much I made as a writer because I think it’s important that writers do talk about money — silence about money only works to the advantage of those who are paying writers (or not paying them, or paying them insultingly little, as the case may be). But after a certain point I stopped talking about my earnings publicly because Krissy wasn’t comfortable with it, and because after a certain point it stops being useful to other writers and starts looking like bragging. I don’t want to be that asshole.

At this point, there’s no reason to be overly coy about it, so I’ll note that I’ve been making mid-six figures a year for a while now, much (indeed most) from book sales. The deal is a reflection of that track record; please don’t be under the impression I would have gotten the deal if Tor didn’t think it could make that money back and then some. It also means I’m an outlier when it comes to book sales/income and I know it.

I’m comfortable with people having some idea what I make, but outside very specific circumstances (like, uh, this one), you probably won’t see me talk about it other than very generally.

He thanked his family, Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Tom Doherty at Tor, as well as his agent Ethan Ellenberg, for their support.


Kirsten Reach is an editor at Melville House.