Today marks the release of Matthew Thomas’s 640-page debut novel We Are Not Ourselves, a sprawling Irish-American family epic that has been garnering major buzz because of its big price tag: according to Page Six the book “got more than a $1 million advance in North America, and closed a six-figure UK deal at the London Book Fair.” Not too shabby, Matthew Thomas! But the question is: do big advances always herald big books? Here’s a look at a few debut novels that earned huge advances — and how they fared once they made it out into the real world.
Destiny, Sally Beauman, 1987 ($1 million advance)
Surprise, surprise: sex sells. Beauman’s first novel, a steamy romance that includes diamonds worn in interesting places, broke the record for biggest advance for a debut when it was snapped up by Bantam in 1985 — the book only half finished at the time. Well, they knew what they were doing: the book debuted at #6 on the bestseller list a week before its publication and also went on to become an international bestseller.