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#MayIAskew | What’s a fair deal for your first advance?

The Golden Hare Books Agony Aunt answers YOUR reading and writing questions…

‘Lady Write-a-Lot’ asks:

“I’ve just found a publisher for my first novel and they’ve offered me a two book deal!!! Wahoo!!! But when it comes to the cold hard cash: what’s a fair amount to earn? And how do I know if I’m being paid fairly?”

Okay, Lady W, I’m going to try and answer this question without just being completely maddening… because the short answer is, there really is no yardstick for book advances.  They’re not like payment for services rendered, where the person paying you ought to recognise industry standard rates of pay and ensure you’re compensated fairly.  Advances are payments against a product (your book, and what a publisher is able to spend on it) rather than your time, so it’s hard to talk about whether they’re “fair” or not.

But there’s also a long answer, you’ll be happy to hear.

First up, you should think about getting someone who knows what they’re doing to look at the deal you’ve been offered.  This person, for many writers, is their agent.  I could – and most likely will – do a whole column on what agents are for and why they’re a good thing to have, but for now let’s just move forward with the idea that some writers have agents, and others don’t.  If you do, then it’s likely that your agent negotiated your deal for you.  That means you’re probably getting the best deal you can, because agents are there to ensure that this happens.  Book deals are complex things: the publisher might not just be buying the right to publish your book in the format that you wrote it.  They might also be buying foreign language rights, audio rights, rights to previous works of yours, all sorts of things.  Your agent will ensure that the price looks right for each of the things your publisher is buying in the deal.

If you’re not agented, don’t worry: there are still ways to make sure a publishing industry person casts an eye over the deal you’ve been offered.  If you’re in the UK, you can become a member of the Society of Authors, and receive (as well as many other benefits) an in-depth contract check-over by a dedicated industry-savvy person.  If you’re elsewhere in the world, you can look around to see if your country has a Society of Authors equivalent, or you can look around for a tame industry freelancer who provides a contract-checking service.  Some authors, agents, editors and even lawyers will provide this same service for you, though you’ll need to be prepared to pay them a fee.  (If you’re not sure what fees are fair, get quotes from a few freelancers and compare what they offer before you commit.)  A good advisor will break down your contract into layman’s terms and make sure you understand what the publisher is asking of you, so you can make a judgement call on whether the deal being presented to you is fair.  You can then act accordingly – either by signing on the dotted line, or going back to the publisher and asking for clarification or amendments.  Don’t be frightened to do this: contracts are often subject to modification before they’re signed.  Just stay polite and patient.  Remember, it’s a negotiating table, not you holding your book for ransom until the publisher pays up!

I also have some general money-related tips for you that should help:

  • If an agent or agency says they’re going to charge you an up-front ‘reading fee’ – or any other sort of fee, for that matter – run away as fast as you possibly can.  Agents shouldn’t get paid until you get paid, and they’ll take an industry standard cut of 15% from the advance your publisher gives you.  Some newer agents will take 12.5%, but 15% is the standard.  Any agent asking for a bigger share than that should be avoided.
  • Similarly, if a publisher asks you to pay for the costs or part of the costs of publishing your book, run away.  This is what’s called vanity publishing, and you don’t want any part of it.  A publisher should want to publish your book enough that they foot the bill for all the costs – and hopefully pay you an advance into the bargain! 
  • Keep a wary eye out for agents or publishers who tell you that they’ll take a cut of any prize-money your writing earns, any appearance fees you receive, and so on.  If you’re unsure if what you’re being asked for is okay, find someone who’s familiar with the industry and ask, ‘does this sound legit to you?’

A final word on advances.  We’ve all read stories about that author who came out of nowhere, got a six-figure advance for their first ever book, sold the film rights in a huge auction and then retired to float forever in a heart-shaped swimming pool.  I hope I don’t need to tell you that those stories are the exception to the rule… we just hear a lot more about it when an author gets that sort of hype, because the media likes to make the rest of us miserable, or something.  Advances can be as high as six figures, but they can also be as low as three.  Most writers don’t get to stop their day job when they get an advance, let alone put in a swimming pool.  I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, here – I just want to make sure you’re not mega-disappointed when you look at your deal (or left making finance payments on a Ferrari for the rest of your life).  My advice – and I know this is hard to hear, but bear with me – is: don’t just look for the book deal that will land you the biggest advance or make you the most money.  Go with the deal that will produce the very best version of your book that there can be.  Rather than looking for a rich publishing house to approach, look for an editor you think will get you, get your vision for the book, and work with you to make it amazing.  Look for people who’ll really care about the story you’re telling, and who’ll work hard to present it in the best possible way, so it finds the audience it was written for and deserves.

I really hope your two book deal brings you all of that, and more, Lady W.  Good luck! 

Claire Askew is on Twitter; click here for more industry insight and her trademark rapier wit!

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Bibliophile Book Club #1: Little by Edward Carey

Bibliophile has grown! Our bookish babble can no longer be contained within the confines of a single audio file! Welcome to the first Bibliophile Book Club, where we talk exclusively about a single book!

In this episode, we’re talking exclusively about the novel Little by Edward Carey and published by Gallic Books. Why does David like it so much? Why didn’t Julie finish the novel? And why is this podcast somehow about the battle for JT’s love?

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When Hares become Dragons: Helping Currie Community High School students set up shop!

One of the fantastic themed bookshops set up by Currie Community High students.

Getting children more engaged with reading is often considered a daunting task. However, that’s not what the students and staff at Currie Community High School think, and they’ve gone all out to show how crucial reading can be, both inside and outside the walls of a bookshop.

Golden Hare was lucky enough to team up with the school recently, where Maggie Grieve, John Schmidt and headteacher Doreen MacKinnon had set up a Dragon’s Den-style event for their students, while encouraging several outside organisations to supply Dragons for their industry expertise, including yours truly!

The aim of the task? To split up into groups of six, create an idea for a bookstore that had a unique feel and aesthetic, and to put together a plan to make it a practical reality. Students were given a free hand to be as creative as they could be (as I’ll soon describe, some of them really shot for the stars!), and were encouraged to think about what books would reflect their store’s ethos, as well as how much money they would need to make it an effective business.

However, the crucial element for getting that money on Dragon’s Den are the Dragons and it was the same formula here! In our role as Dragons, we were given money (of the Monopoly variety) to invest in any proposal from the students that piqued our interest. If they caught our imagination, and showed how they could implement it, we’d put up the cash!

A team of Dragons worked with hundreds of students over the course of the three day event.

Some of the ideas that the students had were absolutely stunning, from a horror-themed bookshop (complete with cobwebs, spooky lighting and thematically sinister book selection) to a bookshop that also housed an aquarium to look after mistreated fish. We had comfy cafe bookshops, natural world bookshops filled with trees, fantasy bookshops that dazzled the eye and many more wonderfully innovative ideas.

The solutions and thinking for all of the proposed bookshops was never less than fabulous. Students proposed completely original, often stunning answers to the questions put forward by the Dragons, consistently impressing us with how methodically thought out their plans could be. As fierce as we Dragons can be, we couldn’t help but invest when they had shown such thorough thoughtfulness and creativity.

None of this would have been possible without the incredible hard work, both on the day and before it, of the staff at Currie Community High. With over three hundred students taking part across three days, the event had to be organised superbly, which it proved to be. Maggie and John deserve special praise; they maximised the enjoyment and engagement for the students, while creating an environment where the industry Dragons could help the students develop their bookshop plans to their fullest.

Golden Hare had been lucky enough to have one group of students visit us in store before this event, where they seemed to find a lot of inspiration, as well as grilling the staff for tidbits of information about how a bookshop actually works. Having the students engaged and interested in all the aspects of books, whether intellectual, emotional or commercial, was a joy and they fed back what they had learned at Golden Hare into their bookshop plans.

Overall, it was really exciting for us as a bookshop to see how we can help out in our local community and how profound an impact a well organised idea can have on young minds. Thank you to all the staff and students at Currie Community High; we’re looking forward to being fearsome Dragons again in the future!

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Bibliophile Episode 11: “Classic Arch-Enemy Banter”

In this episode, David Bloomfield, Julie Danskin and Jonathan (JT) Taylor talk about the best Westerns in the first of a new ‘Genre Breakdown’ series. How much does JT know about Bitcoin? Can the gang finish recording in time for David to fetch his moving van? Will Julie ever finish another book again? And from now on, there will be two Bibliophile episodes each month! All this and so much more in the latest episode…

Continue reading Bibliophile Episode 11: “Classic Arch-Enemy Banter”
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Golden Hare nominated for Nibbie’s Independent Bookshop of the Year!

The British Book Awards, or Nibbies, has revealed the regional shortlists for the 2019 Independent Bookshop of the Year, sponsored by
Gardners Books. But we need your help!


P.S. Thanks for the prosecco and sweeties, Canongate.
You know how to show a bookseller a good time!

Golden Hare Books is proud to announce that we have been nominated for this prestigious honour, along with all the other fabulous bookshops nominated. However, we need YOUR help to see if we can become Scotland’s favourite bookshop for 2019!

“But how can I help, as a humble Golden Hare patron?”

Why, simply by clicking this link and voting for us as your favourite Scottish bookshop. Feel free to leave a longer comment about us if you can, detailing the positive experiences you have had in our lovely bookshop!

We really appreciate you taking the time to vote for us and we’re very excited to see what feedback you all have for us. Thank you for helping to make Golden Hare Books the space that it is; we couldn’t have done it without you!

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The Reading Habit: The Best Books for Bedtime Reading

I can’t read personal development books before bed.

I get too excited to implement their ideas, so they keep me up at night.

As Golden Hare’s Blogger in Residence, I’ve taken up a monthly challenge in becoming acquainted with myself as A Reader. February’s focus was to identify what types of books are best for me to read at what time of day.

I used to be a staunch believer of reading only one book at a time, but lately I’ve had two on the go – one in the morning, and one at night.  


In the morning, seek books worth waking up for.

This is my favourite time slot for the page turners in my pile. Mine tend to be business, lifestyle, and personal growth books. Reading them gets me excited to take action on their suggestions. Besides, it seems sensible to read fashion books just before getting dressed.

Like a nutritious breakfast, books packed with positive energy set the inspirational tone for the day.

Or, Start the Day in Another World

Another way to start the morning is to read fiction. When my mind is empty, there’s something special about waking up in the world of another, and letting that world drift through my day as I explore my own.

Brainy Books for Bedtime

At night, there’s a delicate balance between reading something that is enjoyable enough to get into when I’m tired, but challenging enough to lull me off to sleep.

Ever since Julie introduced me to reading cookbooks for fun during my LitFix appointment, I’ve found that they slot nicely into this evening session. Wrapping my head around Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat tires out my mind, and as I sleep, the lessons organise themselves into my memory.

I also wind down through the puzzle of poetry, or any other text that makes me think.

What do you read before bed? Let us know on Instagram.

Xandra Robinson-Burns is a personal development author and founder of HeroineTraining.com. She is spending a year getting to know herself as a reader.

For assistance in selecting the books perfectly suited for your schedule, ask a bookseller in person, or book a LitFix appointment.


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Sometimes I Disappear Review

An unmissable exhibition showcasing the work of four artists who use self-portraiture to confront, and evade, the viewer’s gaze.

Oana Stanciu !EU (!ME) – Part I

Francesca Woodman [1958-1981] plays the ghost in her small, exquisitely crafted photographs of abandoned interiors; half there, half absent, presaging her own tragic disappearance at the age of 23; a short life to give birth to such hauntingly beautiful work.

The current Ingleby Gallery exhibition would be worth seeing for Woodman alone, but alongside her are Zanele Muholi [b 1972] a black South African whose strong, confrontational self portraits dominate and entrance the viewer with their steely glare, Oana Stanciu in stances at once unsettlingly provisional and wryly timeless, and presiding over them all Cindy Sherman [b1954] grand master of the posed self-portrait as mirror to our weird world. All self-absorbed, but in ways that reach well beyond the self to touch us all.

Not to be missed.

Reviewed by Mark Jones

Sometimes I Disappear is at the Ingleby Gallery until the 13th April 2019.

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Bibliophile Episode 10: “That’s a good name for a taxidermist”

In this first podcast of 2019, Julie Danskin, David Bloomfield and Jonathan “JT” Taylor discuss their most recent book picks, and in lieu of discussing a book group book talk how to track your reading. Lastly, they discuss reading resolutions for 2019!

Continue reading Bibliophile Episode 10: “That’s a good name for a taxidermist”
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Matty Matheson Signing Cancelled

Golden Hare is sad to announce that, due to an unforeseen family emergency, our upcoming signing event with Matty Matheson at 5pm on Monday 21st January has been cancelled. 

As we’ve heard from Matty on Instagram, this is something that he deeply regrets but is unfortunately unavoidable. He has publicly stated that he may be able to return and fulfil his events schedule in March but also that he can’t yet guarantee his availability.

For those of you who have pre-ordered and paid for a copy of the book, we will be in touch to ask whether you would like to pick up your copy, or alternatively a full refund will be issued. This was an unticketed, free event so hopefully this won’t cause too much inconvenience.

Obviously, we’re disappointed that we won’t be able to put on a fabulous event with Matty quite yet but we hope that in the near future another opportunity will present itself. We wish Matty and his family our very best wishes and hope that all is well back in Ontario. 

Thank you for your understanding,

The Golden Hare Team