Hawley's Bhutan book sets size record

J. Andrew Rogers andrew at ceruleansystems.com
Sat Dec 27 12:03:45 PST 2003

On 12/19/03 12:06 PM, "Meltsner, Kenneth" <Kenneth.Meltsner at ca.com> wrote:
> Publishing companies, like movie studios, lose money on almost
> everything they do, and yet stay in business year after year.  I'm not
> sure whether it's creative accounting or the occassional blockbuster
> that keeps publishers going; with Hollywood, creative accounting is more
> important.

It depends on the kind of book.  For many kinds of book, so-called "library
sales" are sufficient to pay for the cost of publishing.  There are many
organizations that purchase a copy of everything published by a particular
publisher.  Sales to Joe Public on these books are gravy.

For Scientific/Technical/Medical ("STM") publishing and similar, the profit
center is actually the journals, not the books.  These books usually break
even due to library sales, but they are used to drive journal sales which
are highly profitable.  This publishing field is actually a multi-billion
dollar industry that is largely recession-proof.  The profits are actually
quite good typically.

Authors make very little money; very few people write books for a living
directly.  For most types of book, 10,000 copies sold is an A-list title and
well into the black.  The cost expended on flops is sufficiently small for a
typical editor that it doesn't take many A-list titles in the stable to
amortize the cost of the flops, and "A-list" is a relatively low bar.
Publishing follows a junk bond business model in many respects.

Paperback fiction actually does operate like Hollywood to a great extent.

J. Andrew Rogers (andrew at ceruleansystems.com)

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