Essay - About That Book Advance ... - NYTimes.com: "The numbers can sound much bigger than they are. 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 novelist Walter Kirn agrees. “A low-six-figure advance has allowed me to work at less than minimum wage for three years,” he told me. “Perhaps that’s for the best; a large advance might create a disinclination to do anything other than play blackjack in Las Vegas. When I hear these large, publicized advances, it feels like watching the casino play around me.” (Weep not for Kirn, however; he phoned me from the set of the film adaptation of his novel “Up in the Air,” starring George Clooney.)"