It's not just Pippa Middleton: how on earth did they get that huge book advance?

Big fees don't always mean big book sales, so why do publishers keep paying them? Tim Walker finds out

Pippa Middleton begins the introduction to Celebrate, her new collection of home entertaining tips, by saying that she is "by nature an optimist". Which ought to come in useful, given the book has only sold around 2,000 copies in its first week on the shelves, and was at No 180 in the Amazon bestseller list at the time of writing. This comes in spite of a 50 per cent discount on the cover price, and a considerable publicity campaign by Penguin, which paid a reported £400,000 advance to publish Pippa's poorly-received tome. So far, that's about £200 per copy sold.

As a celebrity publishing flop, Middleton is in illustrious company. Julian Assange was supposedly paid £500,000 for his memoirs, which sold just 644 copies in its first weekend. Arnold Schwarzenneger's stellar career and scandalous personal life could shift no more than 27,000 copies of his autobiography Total Recall in the month after its publication. He reportedly received a seven-figure advance from his US publishers. In 2006, Wayne Rooney agreed to write five books over 12 years for HarperCollins. His advance was £5m. The second book sold just 6,000 copies in six weeks.

If she never earns any further royalties on the book, Middleton can still comfort herself with that £400,000 advance. The picture is less pretty for Penguin. Depending on formats and discounts, a publisher that spends half a million pounds on a book might have to sell three times that many copies to justify its magnanimity. Editors at major publishing houses have the budget and power to make offers of up to six figures. But a six-figure advance such as Middleton's would likely be signed off by the head of the Penguin division responsible. Anything larger than that – Tom Wolfe's $7m (£4.4m) for his new novel, Back to Blood; Keith Richards' $7m for his memoir, Life; the estimated $3.5m advance for the forthcoming Not That Kind of Girl: Advice by Lena Dunham – would go straight to the very top.

"There's a lot of pressure on editors to buy celebrity titles for autumn to corner the Christmas market," Tom Tivnan, features editor of The Bookseller, explains. "You often see some panic buying of B- and C-list celebrity memoirs. A lot don't make their money back. " Many such books are hostages to fortune: a handful of England players earned payouts from publishers prior to the 2006 World Cup, but when the team failed to perform, so did the books. Still, says Tivnan, without big advances, celebrity books might never be written at all: "Celebrities are being asked to do something for well beneath their usual salary. If you offer to pay Wayne Rooney £250,000 for a book, that's his weekly take-home [pay]."

Not every big advance ends in a Christmas turkey. Richards, for instance, sold well over a million copies of Life worldwide. Dawn French was paid £1.5m for her autobiography Dear Fatty; According to Nielsen Bookscan, it's now the UK's 67th bestselling book of all time.

What an advance gets you in sales:

* Dawn French: 800,000 copies for a £1.5m advance: £1.87 per book

* Keith Richards: 1m copies for £4.4m: £4.40 per book

* Wayne Rooney: 6,000 copies (after two months) for a £1m: £166 per book

* Pippa Middleton: 2,000 copies (after a week) for a £400k: £200 per book

Arts and Entertainment
Emo rockers Fall Out Boy

music

Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat

Arts and Entertainment

film

Arts and Entertainment
A sketch of Van Gogh has been discovered in the archives of Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
    Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

    The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

    Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
    Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

    A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
    How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

    How books can defeat Isis

    Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
    The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

    The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

    The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
    Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

    Young carers to make dance debut

    What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
    Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

    Design Council's 70th anniversary

    Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
    Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

    Dame Harriet Walter interview

    The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

    Bill Granger's winter salads

    Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
    England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

    George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

    No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
    Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links