The Economics of Publishing, Part 2

March 18, 2010 — Leave a comment

In a previous post, I wrote about a good New York Times article that discusses the economics of publishing, both physical and e-books. I also spoke a bit about my own experiences, in terms of the royalties received and what that means in actual take-home dollars. Coincidentally, I’ve just come across posts by two other writers: John Resig, who is better known as the creator of jQuery, and Peter Cooper, who has written a book on Ruby. Both writers post scans of their actual royalty statements, which you may find interesting, and share some of the intimate details about the economics of their books.

As a writer, I find this stuff to be interesting, because you’re always curious what other people are getting paid. The biggest factor, of course, is how well the book sells. A lot of considerations go into that, including how good the book is, the competing books, the potential market for that topic, and how the book is marketed by the publisher. Just writing a good book on a good subject is no guarantee of success. It’s also clear that different publishers pay different advances and royalties. Apress, the publisher for both of the above writers, seems to pay advances around $5000-$7500 and royalties from 10% going up to 20% (based upon sales). Conversely, I’ve personally received advances from $6000 up to $15000 but royalties capping at like 12% (or maybe 14%, I forget). Bill Pollack, from No Starch Press, commented that they pay up to a 15% royalty but with no advance or a 10% royalty with an $8000 advance.

Which leads me to add that if you’re interested in this topic, you should really read the comments posted to each thread. There are a few, casual comments, but lots of good input from other writers. More interestingly, you’ll see remarks from the publishers themselves, including the aforementioned Bill Pollack, the renowned Tim O’Reilly, and Dave Thomas at Pragmatic Publishers. Plus writers who used, and representatives of, self-publishing ventures.

In the process of reading all this stuff, I also came across Scott Meyers’s article on how to get published. Worth a read if that’s an avenue you want to pursue, even after seeing how little money is involved!

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