March 30, 2009

The Price of Paper Books

Posted in Publishing tagged , , at 12:48 pm by The Word Jar

The April 2009 issue of Money has an interesting breakdown of where the money goes when someone buys an old-fashioned hardcover or paperback book. They used John Grisham’s The Associate, which retails for $27.95, as their sample. The breakdown:

$12.58–Retailer [Whether the publisher gets the book into the bookstore through direct sales or through a wholesaler, the bookseller usually receives anywhere from a 45 to 55 percent discount. This is why it is more profitable for smaller publishers to sell their books directly to the consumer.]

$4.19–Author royalties [At almost 15 percent, this is not an accurate representation of the average author’s cut.]

$3.55–Pre-production [Money describes this as the salary for everyone who works on the book for the publisher–editors, designers, etc. As a fellow editor, I can only hope that this is decent money for the always hardworking editors and designers. Oh, to work for a company that appreciates your talent and pays you accordingly.]

$2.83–Printing [When your initial run tops a million, that will bring the printing costs down…per book, anyway.]

$2.80–Wholesaler [The publishing middleman.]

$2.00–Marketing [Again, I think this may be high for average authors. Mr. Grisham may get ads in trade and consumer magazines, as well as a book tour. If Mr. Grisham were Mr. Patterson, he’d also get commercials on TV. Average authors should be so lucky.]

It was interesting to see a dollar-by-dollar breakdown for an individual book. I know general percentages for a breakdown such as this, and I’ve seen publishing budgets for whole print runs, but I’ve never contemplated what those numbers boil down to when you are talking about one single copy.

So, the next time you are at the bookstore (hopefully your local independent), you’ll have a general idea of what you are paying for besides a good read.


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