I guess it's official now: Tor signs new Charles Stross trilogy.
(No, I can't tell you the titles, except that my working project folder is called "Merchant Princes: The Next Generation" and the opening sentence for accuracy reasons should, but for literary reasons should not, be "fifteen years later". Oh, and this is what all the work in 2012 towards re-drafting and re-releasing the first series was leading up to.)
Note: a trilogy is, in my view, a big-ass story that splits into three pieces, each of which is just about readable as a separate book, but which work best when read in sequence. It's going to run to about a third of a million words, or, in the unit of authorial bloat, about a thousand milli-Hamiltons. That's a lot of work, so it's unlikely to show up in print until 2015. Meanwhile, you get to chew on a new space opera and a new Laundry novel (both written).
There's been a lot of excited buzz about the size of the advance, so let me take this opportunity to puncture the bubble:
Publishers always like to big things up.
Consider what a "6 digit advance" really means:
1. It's in dollars, not sterling.
2. 15% of it goes to my agent.
3. "six digits" can be as low as $100,000.
4. So the author's cut could be as low as $85,000, or about £55,000.
5. For a trilogy.
6. That's less than £20,000 per book.
7. I normally write one to 1.5 books/year.
8. So that "major six digit deal" could be equivalent to "author is paid £30,000 a year for two years, or £20,000 a year for three years".
9. (Or it might be $999,999, in which case, author is eating fewer lentils and flying everywhere in business class.)
Now, the modifier "major" is a clue: I'm getting rather more than $100,000 for 2 years' work (phew!) ... but I'll give you another clue for free: I'm getting a lot less than half a million bucks. Or even a third of a million. In actual fact, I'm getting about the same level of income from this project that I've been getting from my other publishers for the past few years.
I have not suddenly struck it rich. It's a bit like a teacher getting hired by a school on a five year contract and the school putting out a publicity release announcing their third of a million dollar hire.
Here's another perspective:
You may remember a couple of years ago Gollancz made front-page news in the UK by handing a certain hard SF writer (not me) a —1M advance.
It sounds great, but when you break it down and look at the small print, it was £1M for ten books, delivered at a rate of one a year. Minus a 15% cut for his agent. With joint accounting and world English language rights (at least) thrown in. And payable in small pieces. Upshot: a £85,000 a year salary for ten years (and you can be damned sure Gollancz inserted some termination clauses in the contract in case things didn't go according to plan).
I'd be the last person to say that a £85,000 salary is undesirable — but we're talking the sort of salary a GP or senior professor or airline training captain might make, not a CEO or a business mogul. It's salaried senior-middle-class-professional comfortable, not millionaire territory.
But Gollancz sure bought a lot of free newspaper exposure by framing that ten year employment contract as a million pound deal, didn't they?