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Category Archives: World of Books

BookExpo America 2018 Highlights

Last week, a group of BenBella staff traveled from all over the country (Dallas, San Francisco, Boston, St. Paul, and Kansas City) to attend BookExpo America at the Javits Center in NYC.

BenBella is a remote company, so quality team-building time is rare and valuable. We spent the week catching up with each other on projects and goals, …

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Do You Want Your Book to Earn Out ?

Michael Shatzkin reveals an interesting statistic here – large publishers estimate that they spend between 36 to 42% of their revenues on royalties (including both advances and royalties). This shows that publishers, as a percentage of revenue, pay a lot more to authors that don’t earn out than those that do.

How much more? …

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Why you don’t want your book to earn out

I’ve always thought it unfair that the big name books, celebrity books in particular, get paid advances that are so high that even the publisher doesn’t expect them to earn out.  In effect, books that surprise the publisher by selling well subsidize the books that everyone assumes will sell well.

But Mike Shatzkin points out that it’s even worse than that:

Because books that publishers and agents know will be big in advance tend to have advances calculated to be too high to earn out, …

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BenBella’s Success Secret

“The Market for Lemons” is a classic economics paper by George Akerlof (I rarely get to use my graduate training in economics, so please forgive me). It deals with information asymmetry, the fact that sellers of used cars know more about the car’s defects than buyers. It concludes that owners of used good used cars will tend to avoid the used car market, …

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Can you pay authors more and still make money?

Let’s face it. Publishing is not a high margin business. In earlier posts, I mentioned that on profit-sharing deals, authors can make 50-100% more than traditional royalties. How is that possible?

These royalties don’t come at the cost of our margins (very nice, thank you) or our staff (we generally peg our salaries against New York standards, …

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Publishers Take Note

Increasingly, it’s clear that self-publishing is going to be highly disruptive to almost every sector of publishing, in a healthy way. A large but unknown portion of traditional publishing will shift to self-publishing (some say all – I doubt this for reasons I’ll get to in future posts). In the process publishers will be forced to reexamine their value proposition, …

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So Why Is Profit Sharing So Rare?

In my previous post I made the argument that profit-sharing is a better way to pay authors than traditional arrangements. Is so, why is it so rare?

In fact, two famous experiments in profit-sharing were notable failures.  Harper Studio, launched by the legendary Bob Miller, lasted two years before shuttering its doors.  More recently, …

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The Case for Profit Sharing

In all the debates over appropriate ebook rates, there is an answer that rarely comes up: profit-sharing. I’m talking about profit-sharing, not just for ebooks, but across the board.

While the majority of our deals are still traditional, we’ve been increasingly doing profit-sharing deals. I’ve become increasingly convinced that profit-sharing can be a much better way for authors and publishers to do business, …

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This Made My Day

Do yourself a favor and read this marvelous interview with Andrew Wylie. This is one of the funniest interviews I’ve ever read, and an important contrarian perspective on our industry. Enjoy!

The interview


Living in the (very healthy) present

Like most forward-thinking managers, I try to envision the future and manage the business with an eye towards where things are going.

But it’s possible to overdo this. There have been so many doom-crying predictions – print books are dead, publishers are obsolete, etc. – that it’s easy to forget what’s actually happening right now. …

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