A $575,000.00 contract?
For an unwritten book?
Titled “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter?”
From the man who penned “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” which was subtagged with “The Classic Regency Romance – Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!” The authors listed were, of course, Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith.
Okay, the subgenre of mash-up novels has been fun, if intellectually devoid, but now it’s just getting stupid. And stupider still to throw more than half a million bucks at it. The publishing industry already is barely surviving. Burning that kind of money at a project that I suspect will not earn out ain’t as bright as it could be.
Rather than flush more than $500,000 on one book that will be a fluke and quickly forgotten, why not publish ten books at $50,000 that are actual novels? Or twenty at $25,000? Why not deepen the product line with novels that actually have a chance to earn their advance because a) they are not the latest flavor of the month trend and b) the advance is smaller, therefore the chances of earning it back are greater?
I’m all for writers making good coin, I really am. I’d like to make good coin, but if someone offered me $575,000, I’d be hard pressed to take it. Look, if the book ended up earning $750,000, then I’m good. The computers will show I’ve made them money and they’ll publish the next book.
But if it only sells $475,000 worth, then I’ve lost $100,000 and there ain’t no publisher worth a warm turd who’ll print the next book because, according to the computers, I’ve lost money.
So if I take a $100,000 advance on that same $475,000 in sales, then, according to the computers, I’ve made quite a bit of profit for the company and – hopefully – they’ll happily publish the next one (though that’s not even really a certainty).
And no, publishers don’t do anything for the love of the book anymore, so that’s not an argument. Once upon a time, it might have happened that way, though even in Stienbeck’s diary of the writing of ‘The Grapes of Wrath,’ his publisher is harping on him about money so maybe the good ol’ days weren’t so friggin’ great.
Now the mantra is: make money or get the hell out.
So why strike a match to $575,000 for a trend that’ll be gone in less than a year?
No wonder publishers are in trouble.