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How Advances Worked in 1984

In The Atlantic, PublicAffairs Books founder Peter Osnos wrote an essay about working as a young nonfiction editor 1984–shedding light on how advances used to work.

The article spotlighted bestselling Random House authors Dr. Seuss and James Michener: “Neither author took advances. Their revenues were so large and steady that they had a permanent drawing account and relied on the publisher and their financial advisers to see that the money was properly invested.”

When former-vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro auctioned her manuscript, it sold for $1 million; prior to auction, Osnos was told to offer $50,000. One year later, Osnos paid $1 million to publish politician Tip O’Neill’s memoir Man of the House. Now politicians and celebrities enjoy much larger advances. (via Jose Alfonso Furtado)

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