Home / General / The economic death of the author

The economic death of the author

/
/
/
1173 Views

Substacker Elle Griffin plowed through the transcripts of the Penguin Random House/Simon & Schuster projected merger antitrust trial, which somebody published in book form (ironic), and extracted a lot of stats.

Here’s the general picture:

(1) The overwhelming majority of books published by major publishing houses generate little or no money for anyone, and in particular their authors.

(2) Relatedly, books that sell more than [incredibly depressing number] copies are very rare. The DOJ collected data on more than 58,000 titles published in a year, and found that 90% sold less than 2,000 copies, and that the median number of sales was . . . twelve.

(3) The overwhelming bulk of book sales come from three classes of writers (or “writers”): celebrities, franchise authors (Stephen King, John Grisham, Colleen Hoover etc.,) and the backlist, that is, The Lord of the Rings, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, the Bible, etc. If you’re not an author who is already in one of these three categories, your chances of making a living by publishing books are infinitesimal.

(4) The big publishing houses now spend almost all their money on a tiny number of gigantic advances. Even authors who get these get almost no money spent on publicity efforts by their publishers, because the giant advances go to people with a million TikTok followers (see point #3).

(5) The Obamas sell so many books that they had to be taken out of the data analysis as distorting outliers.

(6) If/when book publishing goes to a Netflix/Spotify subscription model, where you pay $10 a month to read as many books as you want, traditional publishing will be destroyed, since 20% of book buyers spend 80% of the money spent on books (this is the ratio for basically everything in the universe, as I believe Pareto or some other annoying economist pointed out).

(7) It’s not unusual for a celebrity author to get a million dollar advance and then put their name on a book that doesn’t sell any copies. Big publishing is a boom or bust/lottery ticket/VC investment model, which is increasingly untenable. (Funny not like a clown side note: Marie Kondo published a book on how to keep your office tidy. In March 2020).

Parallels with the contemporary music industry are obvious and dire.

. . . several commenters have linked to this post, pointing out that Griffin’s purported stats are questionable in various ways. It does appear her general observations remain largely correct, but a lot of the specific support for them seems flawed/exaggerated.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Linkedin
This div height required for enabling the sticky sidebar
Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views :