At The Coachella Review, Steve Almond shares a lively exchange with an editor who received a $50,000 advance asking him to write for free, for good will—an entry for the book The Enlightened Bracketologist: The Final Four of Everything.
When Almond asks the editor in question, Mark Reiter, about the pay, the editor states:
You’re right, it is fun. Alas, there’s no money in it for contributors. Our fact-checker Matt is the only one making a net profit on this project. The best we can do is a plug for your book and promising you the (admittedly disputable) pleasure you get in putting your life’s passion to good use for a new cohort of readers.
Almond then asks the very reasonable question about who exactly is being paid for the project and Reiter states:
Yes, Richard Sandomir and I are sharing an advance of $50,000. That’s $25,000 each. Take away the 15% agency commission, it’s down to $21,250 each. I’m paying my assistant Emily Sklar an extra $5000 out of my pocket to handle the logistics (tracking down folks like you, for example). We’re delivering to Bloomsbury 100 brackets. We can’t pay some people and not others, but if we did offer payment-less than $500 would be pointless-to everyone, the math says we’d be in the red. Royalties in excess of the advance (should they materialize) go to Richard and me. That’s the economics of this project.
Almond counters with a reasonable suggestion for how everyone can walk away happy:
The only compromise I can live with is to ask that you pay me a small fee for “first-serial rights” to my bracket, which you’re then free to publish elsewhere. Or agree to pay me a tiny percentage of the royalties. This has no bearing on your other contributors. It would be an agreement written into my contract.