The changing economics of books

The Wall St. Journal has an article about how fast the economics of books are changing, spurred on by things like Borders closing and the rise of ebooks.

"..."The Art of Fielding," which sold for an estimated advance of $675,000, a handsome sum. Given the costs, Little, Brown might struggle to make a profit. If all 30,000 hardcovers in print are sold, it will generate about $390,000 for the publisher, based on a retail price of $25.99. If, as some other debut fiction novels did this year, it sells 42% of total sales in e-book format, that will add $197,500 of revenue for the publisher, based on a retail price of $12.99. That brings the total to $587,500, although paperbacks and audiobooks will also generate revenue."

Wow, that is an amazing sum for the advance, given a first printing of just 30,000. I have had books that sold more than 30,000 hardcovers, but never a one-book advance like that. I wonder if Little, Brown is happy with that?

And as commenter N. Werlin says (I'm guessing Nancy Werlin): "The example given seems to imply that all the publisher has to accomplish with sales is to recoup the $675,000 advance given to the author and then it will be in the black. Not so! The publisher must also cover all its own costs: editorial, book production, marketing and PR, shipping, etc. These are not small."

Read more here.

And back in 2006, WSJ took a look at The Interpretation of Murder, which sold for $800K (N. American rights only) and sold less than 13,000 copies in 19 days, according to Bookscan. Read more here.




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A lot of authors would be more than happy with one-tenth the advance.

It hasn't really hit YAs yet that I've seen, but adult hardcover sales are down something like 25 percent this year. Most of it has gone to ebooks, which offer less royalties to the author.