Book Marketing, Author Publicity, Branding

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Think a Major Book Deal Guarantees Sales? Think Again.

Every once in awhile, I receive an email from an author that goes something like this:

"I think for my next book I'll try to get a deal with a big-name publishing company.  Then my book will be in every bookstore and I'll have more sales.  I'll definitely make more money." 

This may be true of some celebrity authors, but as I have pointed out in the past, celebrity authors didn't start that way.  They had to work, often for several years, before they got to that point.  Besides, signing with a "big-name publishing company" isn't necessarily a guarantee of success, either. 

Case in point, Tom Llewellyn, author of the soon-to-be published book "Letter Off Dead."  Tom signed a deal with a "big-name publishing company"...Random House.  In the publishing industry, they don't get much more big-name than that.  Tom recently blogged about his publishing contract

Basically, it looks something like this (in Tom's words):
If the book sells well enough to go into second printings, then I get royalty checks a couple of times a year, based on sales. Fee breakdowns are as follows:
Paperbacks: 12%
Audiobooks: 10%
E-books 25%
And then, if someone pays a bazillion dollars for the movie rights, I get 70% and the publisher gets 30%

Now, let's assume (since we don't yet know) that the hardcover edition of "Letter Off Dead" will retail for $20.  The distributor will get a 55 percent discount, so the price Random House receives would be in the neighborhood of $9.00 per copy.  Of that, Tom will get 15 percent, or $1.35 for each hardcover copy that sells.  If the second printing of the book is in the range of 5,000 copies AND they all sell, Tom stands to earn about $6,750 from the second printing of his book.  Of course, we are assuming the retail price here, but you get the idea.  It's hardly the multi-million dollar deal many authors envision. 

Tom states it himself in his blog: 
"How much money does a guy like me make on a book like this? Not much. It works out to be about a buck a book – in hardbacks. So if I sell 10 million copies, I’m rich.
But if I sell, 10,000 copies, the whole thing works out to be about 50 cents an hour. Paperbacks pay less, because they sell for less."

Writers don't write strictly for the money, of course.  They write because they love it, and as I've stated here before, few writers can live on royalties alone.   Of course, Tom does have other projects, such as his other title The Tilting House.   

So what's the bottom line?  Having a connected publisher helps, but does not guarantee the success of any book, and those multi-million dollar publisher contracts are few and far between.  All authors need to work to promote and sell their books, no matter who is publishing their book. 


Frances Seymour said...

Wow Terry! Thank you so much for this encouraging information. I enjoy reading your blogs because they're fun and informative. Have a super weekend!!!

Janice F Baca said...

Thanks Terry. It's good going in with the facts - even if it hurts at times.

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