Saw this today, thought people might be interested:

Realities of a Bestseller.

"If I published only one book a year, and it did as well as this one, my net would be only around $2500.00 over the income level considered to be the US poverty threshhold."

The article has plenty of details.

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Thanks. This is interesting. A number of observations: what plays into this depressing accounting is the fact that mmpbs make the author only an insignificant amount per book sold. Also, returns are always shockingly large numbers on royalty statements (on mine also). This author is happy that booksellers kept her books on the shelves for a while to sell more. Mine are frequently returned within the first couple of months. That is why I am against the generous return policies publishers allow book stores. Third, the reserves the publisher holds on to (and I hear, for an inconscionably long time) are to cover future returns. All in all, the author's income is dependent on advance plus subsidiary rights sales. But these two aspects of the contract may well be what makes his books unprofitable to the publisher if he retains them or his agent gets him a decent advance. Ideally, publishers would like us to write for nothing. It has accurred to me that I would not ask for an advance but charge them $ 5000,00 per book to do revisions, and to proof-read the copy-edited ms. and galleys. All of these are very time-consuming and are not separately paid for.
It seems that publishers use the same sales model for every book. But with the 3rd or 4th book in a series certainly there could be a more accurate first printing and then additional copies sent out quickly if needed.

But publishers still only have one method - when a book is first published get as many copies into stores as possible. The only change is that if the author's previous book sold a lot then even more copies are pushed into bookstores. Still, it's very, very rare that there be no returns - even on the biggest bestseller because publishers just print even more copies.
That simply isn't the way we do it, John. It would be insane. For every book, of whatever size, we collect the orders and print to the orders, with an additional margin for review copies and so we don't run out of stock. Then, whenever we sense movement, we immediately go back to press for a reprint. That's the way every publisher I know does it. I don't know where you got that idea about our "method."
I guess from the "collect the orders," part. I realize it's an art and not a science and no one can predict the future but when the sales reps go to the bookstores and collect the orders it's all on spec.

I was in a bookstore a couple days ago (picked up a great book called The Carnivore by Mark Sinnett) and there had to be a thousand copies of the new Margaret Atwood novel piled up in the store. There must have been orders for that many, based on previous sales from that author, but it sure looks like there's going to be a lot of returns.

Of course there's no real way to accurrately predict how many of the collected orders will turn into actual sales and it still seems like the best way to sell a book is to have an awful lot of copies in the store.
It makes sense to have an awful lot of copies in the stores if you think you're going to SELL an awful lot of copies. But every book has its level. If you have a 7,500-copy level hc novel, you're not going to pile them up, you're going to ship in the right number.

And, yes, the stores order on spec, but they usually have a pretty good idea, based on their bookselling experience (and an even better idea if the author has a track), of what they should start with. They don't just pick a number out of a hat. And these days, with the economic downturn, the accounts have been ordering very close to the bone, and then coming back very quickly when they have movement.
Hi, Neil, it's always good to have your two cents on discussions like this.

Not to be argumentative, I came across this blog post a few months ago that, to me, contradicts your statements above. Comments?
Okay, I read this, and it's an insane way to do business. Somewhere at the tailend is a loss (a loss which, no doubt, is bigger than the original cost of the books), and that loss has to be covered by another oversale. It's time the publishers started doing business differently.
That's why I like Amazon. It doesn't play that game and it gives my books the same exposure as everybody else's.
Yeah, I saw that when it ran, and i was tempted to tell him that he had his head up his, um, editorial ass, but decided not to bother. It's just as I said above. If we're pushing hard for a bestseller, then, yes, we definitely want a strong presence in the stores. But most books aren't bestsellers, are they? And then we -- and the stores -- have to calibrate the level carefully.
In BAND OF BROTHERS, Lt. Spears tells someone the only war to get through a war psychologically intact is to assume you're dead going in; everything else is a bonus.

Without meaning to imply a direct correlation, writers need to understand they should play the lottery if they want to make money, and treat their writing as a calling. Any money made is a bonus; it can't be depended on for house payments or college tuition.
I can't agree with that Dana (though I can certainly understand it). Maybe the most telling thing in that article is how much the publisher is making off that book. LIke Hollywood, the publisher will claim that they spent even more to make that much back but they'll never really open the books.

No, I have to say if you're doing your part in a business deal you deserve your share.
"No, I have to say if you're doing your part in a business deal you deserve your share."

I agree completely. I'm just saying the publishers hold all the cards here, and they're not willingly going to change this aspect of their business model.

I read somewhere that no movie has ever "made money" by the time the accountants got through with it. That's why actors and directors always ask for points off the gross; there won't be any off the net. I suspect "overhead" will eat up vast sums of the publisher's revenues.
Right! And let's face it, there is no really reliable way to check those sales figures. Such a check is difficult and costly, and in the cases where authors have shown that they weren't paid for what sold, the publishers simply claimed accounting glitches.


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