For years, books have made money for publishers, agents, and even writers. Now it’s only a slight exaggeration to say there remains money only for publishers and a bevy of writing stars. The following very short course in the new economics of book publishing will bear out this claim. The numbers contained here have important implications for the health of the writing arts. So stick with me.
In the past, when a publisher brought out a $30 hardcover book, it could expect to receive on average no less than $15 a copy from its sale to bookstores, wholesalers, and others. The editing, design, typesetting, printing, storage, and shipping of the book consumed a little more than $4. If the publisher believed the book had promise, then another $1 might be spent on marketing. The royalty paid to the author accounted for somewhere between $3 and $4.50. At the end of the day, the publisher was left with between $5.50 and $7 to pay for its overhead and to reward its stockholders.