Not enough money to go around, sales down, tighter market, etc. etc. You'd like to get your novel published but the literary agents won't take you on because it's such a tough sell these days.
Even if you should be struck by literary lightening, you'd be lucky to get much of an advance. Sales are down, tighter market, publishing houses are scrambling for cash, etc, etc.
Unless you're a prominent politician, in which case you'll be given $2 million as an incentive to pen your memoirs.
Grand Central Publishing, a division of the Hachette Group, has reportedly given Senator Edward Kennedy an advance against potential royalties. In return, Mr. Kennedy is expected to compose his memoirs and turn them over to the publisher, and Grand Central will commit his words to paper and hope to earn back the advance.
In a tight market, it seems unlikely that Mr. Kennedy's memoirs would sell well enough to earn back that much money. Unless he comes clean on the incident at Chappaquidick, or confesses in detail some string of tawdry sexual affairs, it's even more unlikely that people will flock to the book shops.
A review that complains about a lack of new material or a lack of insight into key areas of interest can be enough to convince would-be buyers that the book isn't worth the price.
With the enormous and generous advance, Hachette is buying the prestige of counting a prominent gentleman among its clients. The rest of its authors, with their paltry advances and small royalties, will be the ones to pick up the slack. It's not that Senator Kennedy's book has to sell through. Hachette is banking on all their other successful authors to generate profits to cover the cost.