RARA-AVIS: Re: Noir then, Noir now

From: davezeltserman (davezelt@rcn.com)
Date: 27 Jun 2009

  • Next message: Kevin Burton Smith: "RARA-AVIS: Re: Noir Then, Noir Now"

    --- In rara-avis-l@yahoogroups.com, "hardcasecrime" <editor@...> wrote:

    > Nobody needs a long, boring lecture from me on the economics of
    > publishing. But a short, boring one never hurts. The up-front costs of
    > putting out a mystery novel, even if you pay a paltry advance, don't pay
    > generously for cover art, etc., are about $10,000. (You can get that
    > down if you don't pay any advance, of course, and use clip art or just
    > text for the cover -- but that's not the way professional publishing
    > works.) Even if you print cheaply, figure on $1 per copy; most books
    > cost more. And if you get distribution into stores (as opposed to
    > selling one copy at a time through your website, or something like
    > that), you have to be prepared to print two or three copies for every
    > one you sell. And figure on only pocketing maybe $4 for each copy you
    > sell (you can keep more if you have a higher cover price, but that'll
    > only be for formats such as trade pb or hardcover that also cost more to
    > print). So, let's imagine you print 10,000 copies and sell 4,000 (a
    > better result than Al's very realistic numbers in an earlier post): Your
    > costs are in the ballpark of $20,000 up front and your revenue is maybe
    > $16,000. Let's say you double your cover price and your printing costs
    > -- now your costs are $30,000 and your revenues are $32,000. Okay,
    > you've broken even at the "gross profit" level. But you haven't paid
    > your salespeople for getting the book into stores, you haven't paid the
    > rent or phone bill or electricity for your office, you haven't paid for
    > the advance copies you printed and mailed to 100 reviewers across the
    > country, we haven't talked about warehousing or freight...and I haven't
    > mentioned that it takes 60 or 90 or 120 days to get the revenue out of
    > the stores' hands and into your bank account, but you've got to pay your
    > author and artist and typesetter and proofreader and printer well before
    > that.
    > So: Can you make money selling a moderate number of copies of a lot of
    > books? Well, it depends on what "moderate" means, of course. But
    > having a lot of titles that sell 4,000 copies and none that sell 40,000
    > (forget about 400,000 or 4 million) is a good way to go out of business.
    > And very, very, VERY few of the books we love to discuss on this list
    > sell anywhere near 40,000 copies. Even 4,000 is a stretch for some of
    > them.

    Charles, it's not quite as bleak as that, at least not for all publishers and all deals. Of course not all contracts/deals are going to be the same, but publishers can still make money selling foreign rights, audio rights, mass paperback rights, etc., which can allow them to make a profit even on those books where they're selling under 10,000 copies.


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