Okay, I'm Back

on April 10, 2008

Sorry about the lack of a post earlier today. Brennan #2 did great at the speech meet. Her speed, however, knocked her out of the running for blue ribbons, LOL. She normally talks fast (Hmmm, wonder where she gets that from?) but when she’s nervous, she talks in double-time. Still, she read a complex and challenging section of her book and still did very well. I’m very proud of her for standing up in front of a room full of strangers and speaking.

Now, if you haven’t read Deb’s post below . . . read it! It dovetails on Jen’s post on Monday. The HarperCollins no advance imprint has been discussed at length in the published author circles, and I have comments many times in various places. But there is something that bares repeating:

An advance is an investment.

When a publisher pays an advance, they are investing in not only that book, but the author. An advance isn’t payment per se for the book–we’re not contracted to write a book for, say, $25,000. We’re given, instead, an advance against future royalties. This means that if our advance is $25,000, the publisher expects to sell approximately 44,000 books. (Based on a standard $6.99 mass market @ 8% royalty.) When we sell MORE than 44,000 books, we start earning additional royalties.

An advance is an investment.

Taking this proposed HarperCollins model (where they’ve already backtracked on the “no returns” policy), they propose to be partners with the author and the author would share in the profits. First, this opens up a huge can of worms–are we talking gross profits or net? What about marketing costs–are those to be included into the cost of producing the book? And speaking of marketing, the first article I read about this, HC said: no co-op. Well, we can argue about co-op from here to eternity, but co-op exists, it’s part of the bookseller plan, and it’s not going away anytime soon. Co-op is not unique to publishing, BTW. Ever heard of slotting fees? That’s co-op–for grocery stores.

So take away prime shelf space, and how are these books going to sell? Reviews? How many average readers buy books based on reviews? Are people going to go online and order them? They can do that with any book, why are they going to pick THAT book to do it? Because of an ad they saw in the newspaper? Hmm, ads are hugely expensive. More expensive than co-op.

So my question is, what benefit is profit-sharing when the books aren’t going to be widely available for purchase? I’d rather take 8% on a well-distributed book, than 25% (or whatever) on a book that not only is not widely available, but where I’m expected to market it–with my OWN money.

The system may be struggling, but there are a lot of better and innovative ways to fix it that don’t involve authors giving up an advance-paying structure.