Let’s Run Some Numbers Here . . . Cuz I think I’m PO’d

I read this article from the Wall Street Journal about Authors Feel Pinch in Age of eBooks. A few things jumped out at me.

  1. A debut literary fiction author could not find a home for her book except at an independent publisher offering an advance of $3,500. Supposedly the book is really really good.
  2. This advance is called “a small pittance” of the usual advance to which I said, wha? True, that’s a small advance if it were at one of the majors, but a pittance? Really? A small fraction? Really? Not for the average commercial author, let me tell you, says this commercial author with a day job.
  3. There’s some blah blah blah which I will counter with, honey, publishers are buying fewer books across the board and paying less across the board and lowering print runs for everyone, too. Everyone.
  4. more blah blah blah — writers need day jobs these days blah blah blah. me: And when has this not been true?
  5. blah blah blah In the past publishers paid $50-100,000 advances to authors of literary fiction. Me: Holy shit! I am writing the wrong books!
  6. Some bad math, missing facts about eBook costs and how authors are being paid ripped off by the current print publisher royalty model for eBooks.
  7. “. . . debut fiction writers and those with less commercial potential, who might have print runs of 10,000 copies or less.” Me: Now wait a cotton pickin’ mintute!!!!

At which point Carolyn’s head explodes and she comes here to rant about the sheer idiocy of giving an author at $50-100,000 advance and a print run of 10,000.
sputtering noises, flailing of arms

Excuse me? You’ve been paying these people HUGE money for books that don’t come anywhere near selling out their print run? Giving them a print run that, in fact, has no hope of making back that advance? Everyone tells us crass commercial fiction authors that this is a business and we just can’t be paid more than the minimum advance (which is missing a zero from the above numbers) because publishing is a business and the P&L statement just doesn’t justify more. We make money for the publishers but it’s OK for us to be working day jobs. Gee, too bad. Maybe you’ll break out. And, no there’s no marketing for you because we’re spending the profit we make off you on the literary fiction authors.

I’m expecting to get a big fat enormous and heartfelt THANK YOU from the literary fiction authors because I’m working two jobs to support your genius. Even though, if you look back, a whole hell of a lot of the geniuses of the past wrote commercial fiction.

I wonder how long I’ll wait.

Hand to ear . . . . . . . What’s that?

Right. I suck. I forgot.

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6 Responses to “Let’s Run Some Numbers Here . . . Cuz I think I’m PO’d”

  1. Wow, we’ve always known that the popularity of “commercial” fiction makes it possible for publishers to publish literary fiction, but when you see it in numbers … Oh my gosh, that is sickening! $50-100,000 advance for a print run of 10,000?!?!?! You must be joking! (At this point, Sandy’s head exploded, too.)

  2. Susan in AZ says:

    And which “genius” claims that “literary” (i.e. unreadable) fiction sells better than romance? Not in my universe, buddy!

  3. cjewel says:

    It’s not that I think literary fiction is unworthy or anything. I’m all in favor of supporting the Arts, but that’s why we have the NEA and other private foundations. If publishers are going to use the bad economy as a justification for lower advances and print runs, it seems to me they could start with running a P&L and sticking to it for all their acquisitions.

    To my knowledge, for-profit corporations aren’t over-paying painters or musicians or any other artist whose work they buy.

    And that assumes, of course, that the article was accurate. From what I’ve heard, yes.

  4. angie says:

    you don’t suck, milday.
    but that is depressing news.

  5. angie says:

    that was supposed to read:

    you don’t suck, milady.
    sorry. i was VERY tired yesterday.

  6. AMEN! You rock, Carolyn! Yeah!