Friday, September 21, 2007

Have you wondered how the book publishing industry works?

Susan Wise Bauer is one of our favorite authors. We first read her book The Well Trained Mind. We bought all four books in the Story of the World series. Our daughters like to listen to the audio tapes of Story of the World books.

On her blog, The History of the (Whole) World, she wrote about how authors are paid. It was fascinating to find out how long it takes for authors to get paid.

If you have wondered how the book publishing industry pays authors, check out her post.

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Wendy said...

Publishing is not an easy way to riches for publishers either. You pay tens of thousands for a print run, send your books off to stores and wholesalers who you bill, on 90 day terms, for 40-60% of the list price. The big chains, especially, have a system where, just prior to the 90 days, they take all the unsold inventory, send it back to the publisher (with coffee stains and cookie crumbs, since folks have been thumbing through it at the bookstore cafe), pay for the books that sold, then re-order to stock the shelves again, starting their 90 day billing cycle at 0. Eventually, you run out of fresh stock in a particular title and need a reprint, but up to 50% of your original print run is still out there doing the ship and return cycle with the bookstores. Which means, doing a big print run (thereby reducing cost per copy) is risky, since you could get a big whack of returns to write off should you overestimate demand.)

The whole book industry is completely insane. Authors (especially of non-fiction) would be crazy not to take advantages of the Internet and all the potential non-royalty revenues it can bring.

Henry Cate said...

Good point.

I've heard that the publishing industry is a hard place to make money.

Chris said...

I too found Susan's entry fascinating. It's always interesting to see "behind the curtain" in other industries.

I do think the future of internet-based sales with "just-in-time" printing of the books is a huge wave of the future. The technology is already there; it's just the inertia of the industry that is slowing us down.

I always enjoy your posts. Thanks for all you do.

Henry Cate said...

The internet, computers, and software are driving a number of changes in the book industry. My wife recently created a short book over the internet on our cruise. The book was shipped to us this week It looks good. I think the book was 24 pages and cost around $20.

It is much easier for people to produce products targeted at smaller market segments. This is what Chris Anderson writes about in "The Long Tail."

There is still something to be said for large volume sales of popular books.

All of this means that consumers will have more choices.

Dana said...

Interesting article. It is such a gamble for the publishing company as well, though. They can lose a lot of money on the publication of a book.

You can see why so many people try to go with self-publishing, but it is rare for them to really make that much.

That may be changing with the availability of things online, but there is also just a certain level of trust associated with larger publishing companies, I think.

I order books online, but usually only after having seen them in stores (or a friend's bookshelf!) Buying a book is like buying clothes for me. I have to try it on first. : )

Henry Cate said...

One of the other interesting points Chris Anderson makes in "The Long Tail" is many people who are producing at the low volume side of a market aren't always in it for the money.

For example most of us bloggers are making little money. There are a few, like Glenn Reynolds, who make a living at it, but there are many bloggers who do it for other reasons.

Writing a book has a similar situation. There are professional writers who make money, but there also many who write books for a variety of other reasons.