Readers Corner

Million Dollar Backlash

From MediaBistro’s Galleycat:

Some readers were not amused by the multi-million dollar bidding wars inspired by Sarah Silverman and Jerry Seinfeld’s respective book proposals this week.

Moonrat responded with a passionate post: “GalleyCat, you know I love you, but how dearly I hope your source was wrong about this. Huge advances like this will never earn out, ever.”

Silverman’s book landed at HarperCollins to the tune of $2.5 million, the NY Observer reports today. Seinfeld’s deal has not been sealed as of this writing.

Following these developments, children’s author Jane Yolen commented on how huge advances affect other non-celebrity authors: “I may have sold millions of copies of my books, but have never commanded even a 100th of the D List celebrity advances. Gotta find me some tassels and practice my singing/dancing chops. After I make it big on my Virgin Grandma tour, I might be able to get me a real advance on my next book.”

I suspect the inner workings of the publishing industry are as a big a mystery to the average person as is the Federal Reserve, but in short, the publishing industry is whining constantly about losing money. Yet, they operate under a ridiculous ‘consignment’ business model, which means that if bookstores can’t sell books, they can just return them to the publisher. No other industry operates under this model, and it’s the reason indie publishers are being crushed. (it’s also the reason you’ll find the latest Stephen King, James Patterson etc. in the clearance bin for $5.99. The retailers don’t have to ‘monitor’ how many copies they order because they can just turn around and return them to the publishers to fee up some capital)

The other insane issue are these ‘celebrity advances’. The publishing companies are heading toward a blockbuster mentality, which would be somewhat understandable except that everyone (and by ‘everyone’, I mean those who pay attention to the publishing industry) knows these multi-million dollar advances rarely, if ever, earn out. It’s as if the publishers get some sort of ego boost from having Celebrity X on their client roster instead of making a legitimate business decision.

So they lose money on these headline making deals. But instead of opting for a lower advance and a higher royalty rate for fake-boobed wonder’s latest tell-all, the publishers choose not to renew midlist authors or turn away new authors because “they’re too big of a risk”. Why fix a mistake when you can just make a new one instead?

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