Mark Terry

Thursday, September 14, 2006

New Math

September 14, 2006
My cable (and hence Internet connection) has been down for about 18 hours, so instead of blogging I should be working, but I'm going to take a few minutes here. First, I recommend J.A. Konrath's recent post on Ingram numbers. I admit that although I am not obsessed with Ingram numbers--or my Amazon ranking, for that matter--I did call and see what they had to say about THE DEVIL'S PITCHFORK. I suppose I should write them down and check again after the book is actually released, but it's sort of heartening to note that the book is already in some warehouses and there have been a couple sales.

I was thinking about numbers because I had lunch with a friend of mine today, Mike Ball, and I gave him a copy of John Ramsey Miller's latest novel, TOO FAR GONE. Mike and John (and Harlen Coben) and a few others were on a panel together at last year's Magna cum Murder, and that's how I found out about Miller, who's a fine writer. He's also a bestselling author. So I wanted to do some math, for my sake as much as anybody else's, to think about how much a "bestselling" author might actually make on their book.

JRM's books are mass market paperback originals. So, his books sell for about $7.99. The typical royalty for mass market paperback, I believe is about 8%. (Always shocking to people who think authors are rolling in bucks). So, let's call it $.64 per copy.

Let's be generous. I have absolutely no idea how many copies John's books sells, so let's go with an even 1,000,000. That's a lot of books, but hey, bestsellers sell lots of books. So many Sam's Clubs, so little time.

If his publisher thought he was going to sell 1,000,000 copies, the advance would have been $640,000.

Well, that's nothing to sneeze at, certainly. I'd be more than happy with that much. (Hell, I'd be wildly, deliriously ecstatic, dancing naked in the streets and shouting Eureka!)

Agent gets 15%.

Now John gets: $544,000. (Agent gets $96,000. Which reminds me of something I just read by Burt Reynolds, where he said his son commented that: "I've noticed that actors have photographs of other actors and themselves on their walls. Producers have Monets and Picassos on their walls. I think I'll be a producer.")

Hey, $544,000 is a significant chunk of change. Of course, let's say the state and federal government have their fingers in John's pocket to the tune of, at least 35%.

So John gets: $353,600. (And pays $190,400 in taxes. You'd think he'd have a town in Iraq named after him or something for that kind of tax contribution).

Well, hey, $353,600 is nothing to sneeze at. I'm sure I could SOMEHOW manage to make that last for a year, you know, by scrimping and savings, cutting coupons and eating a lot of macaroni & cheese...

What's my point, besides John Ramsey Miller is doing a lot better financially than I am?

The point is that the public thinks all bestsellers are millionaires. But it's not true. And although it was noted that George Pelecanos latest book contract was for $1.5 million, it was a 3-book contract, so he gets to make that last over 3 years or so.


Hey, no so. Just doing some math.



Anonymous Ron Estrada said...

Syndey's braces: $3000
Jennifer's tax advance: $900
Paid parking in Oxford: $5
Middle school sports: $349,695.01

I'd better get another job.

1:43 PM  
Anonymous Ron Estrada said...

Make that Sydney's braces. I don't curse my children with weird name spellings.

1:44 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Ah yes. Ian's got braces, too. That monthly payment of $169 a month for two years, or three, and don't forget, he might need surgery... and then the youngest one will be due...

2:23 PM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

Man, $500,000. That's hardly over the major league baseball minimum. Where's my old fielder's glove? (and my steroids. And my youth. not to mention any athletic talent.)

4:18 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

I was thinking that a surgeon makes more and a pathologist (MD, regular hours), makes about $200,000 (US average), but can go higher.

ANd a freelance writer makes...

Uh, less.

4:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm unpublished but agented. When my friends start talking about how I'm going to be a "rich author" someday, I smile and explain that a paperback book earns the author about 60 cents. I love to watch the shocked look on their faces.

2:54 PM  
Anonymous John Ramsey Miller said...

I read you blog and was flattered that you had such nice things to say about my work. Appreciated the comments. The numbers were off, but I manage to make a living. I have beeen at this since 1991, and had 161 rejections and have written more books than I've published. I am just finished my fifth book and have one more on a three book contract, then who knows. There is no security in this business and the money comes in chunks. But I am not really qualified to do anything else. Thanks again.
John Ramsey Miller

3:56 PM  
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