Yesterday, I got an email from my agent telling me that The Powder Mage Trilogy had earned out it's advance. This is fantastic. This is like, holy crap freaking awesome, and I'll tell you why. Warning: I'll be patting myself on the back a bit here.
TL;DR: I'm awesome, my fans are awesome, my publisher is awesome. Everyone is awesome. Except you. You know who you are. Oh, and money.
So, why is earning out my advance a big deal? It basically means that I'm no longer living on "fronted" money. An advance is just that; an advance against royalties. Authors don't see any money beyond their advance check until they've earned enough via their royalties (I broke down how much money an author actually makes off each sale here) to "pay back" the publisher their advance money (in quotes because if you don't earn out you won't actually have to pay that money back, unlike the music industry). The rule of thumb thrown around the publishing industry is that only about 20% of books earn out.
The Powder Mage Trilogy is, for accounting purposes, viewed as a single book. So I wouldn't earn any extra money from it until all three books, together, have made enough money to cover the whole advance (as opposed to counting each book against a third of the advance). It also sold for six figures, which in itself is pretty rare for a debut series.
Now, the series is earning out on the royalty statement for the first half of 2015. As far as I can tell from my own spreadsheets, it earned out about three weeks after The Autumn Republic hit shelves, which was just a little less than two years after Promise of Blood. The powder mage books are not bestsellers by any means, but to have this happen means they've sold at a solid, consistent pace for those two years.
There are too many people to thank for making this happen - from my publisher, editor, and agent on the business side, down to the readers who recommend my stuff to their friends and family. However a handful of people, including my old writing professor Brandon Sanderson, fellow fantasy authors Brent Weeks and Peter V. Brett, and my favorite online webcomic Howard Tayler, have been particularly loud about their support of me and my books, lending their immense platforms to help get the word out, and for that I'll be forever in their debt.
Earning out on the trilogy means that I'm now, in my own small part, helping pay the bills at Orbit, which is a point of pride for me. It also means that from now on, I'll get a check every six month, hopefully for the rest of my life. Each check will be a little smaller, dwindling over the years, but for now it's enough to let me keep writing full time.
Which is a good thing, because I have no other useful talents.
Thanks guys. You're all great. Keep reading.