In other words, promoting the book was up to the author. One thing he could do is make the rounds of bookstores at his own expense and pray that for whatever reason he might have an audience and some of them might buy the book. The last author I spoke to about this gave a reading to 22 people and 4 bought the book. That’s a very good ratio, and the truth is that the profit on his books did not pay for his gas to get to the book store.
Advances these days are not given out like bonuses. They are expected to stoke the fires of a professional PR person and a vigorous campaign to get the book noticed. How that happens is different for every author and we know how hard it is to stand out in a crowd that is also peopled by celebrities and scoundrels, who manage to hog the headlines.
Harper Collins is said to be experimenting with a line of books that have no advance. For some writers that represents opportunity because whatever happens these days the job of helping the book get some sales is on the shoulders of the writers no matter who publishes the book.