Lauren Bacon and Emira Mears Present

The Boss of You

It's a book. It's a blog. It's a guide to running a business your way.

Book Deals, Business, and Money, Oh My!

January 22nd, 2007 by Lauren · 1 Comment

As Emira alluded to a couple of posts back, we’ve had some exciting forward movement on the book — namely, an offer. Our agent is in discussions with the publisher now, and we don’t want to mess things up by talking too much about it yet, but I feel like I want to record some of the things we are going through now, for posterity as well as for the sake of any of you who may have thoughts of publishing a book sometime in the future.

dream the impossible dream,
originally uploaded by gliff.

One of the things that’s been interesting is that in some ways, the road to publishing this book has been similar to starting our business. It has involved being a novice again (i.e. lots of help from friends, and new learnings at every turn), being ready to take financial risks in the hope of long-term payoff, and of course an enormous amount of hard work.

The other day, in preparation for our SXSW panel (woo!), I listened to the podcast of a great panel discussion held at the BlogHer Conference 2006: “Is the Next Martha Stewart a Blogger?” The panel was moderated by Maggie Mason, and at one point she guided the discussion to the topic of book publishing. She mentioned that before inking a deal for her book, she had been told that a typical advance for a non-fiction book by a first-time author would run between $15,000 and — oh, I forget the upper limit, but let’s say it was $30,000. She also mentioned that because she signed with a smaller publisher, her advance was substantially lower than that, but that her royalties were higher.

I was happy to hear her talk about this, because our experiences so far parallel hers; we are interested in working with a smaller publisher for a variety of reasons, and the simple fact is that money is awfully tight in the publishing world. Unless you’re publishing national or international bestsellers, you’re unlikely to make a living wage writing books, let alone earn your fortune.

(I know I sound like some old codger trying to dissuade you from following your dreams… bear with me, please. It gets more optimistic soon.)

Let’s do the math. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, we held out for a major publisher and a $15,000 advance. First, the agent takes between 15 and 25 percent off the top; let’s call it 20%, so $3,000. Then, because we’re co-authoring the book, we split it 50/50. We now have $6,000 apiece. Then we pay our taxes, which come to around 25%. Now we’re at $4,500. If we were to divide that by the hundreds of hours that we have and will put into writing, combined with the time we will spend later marketing and promoting the book, we’ll be lucky if our hourly earnings are above minimum wage.

Now, there is always the chance we could earn out our advance quickly*, and if so, we will obviously make more money, so that’s the upside.

All of this to say that we now find ourselves in the position of needing to plan our schedules for the next few months with an eye to striking the right balance between running Raised Eyebrow and working on the book — and one factor among many will be finances. We need to keep the money flowing to the business in order to keep afloat, but we are also on a short timeline with the book manuscript — currently it’s due mid-July — and as the perfectionists we are, there will be a ton of work to be done between now and then.

However, it’s all such exciting and rewarding work that we’re eager to jump in. And of course, there are some things in life (many, in fact) that one does for love, not money. This is one of those. It’s just interesting to analyze it from a business perspective, since it’s a business-themed book.

(*For those who don’t know, a book advance is essentially a kind of loan against the projected earnings of your book. If you get a $10,000 advance and your royalties are $1 a book — which is fairly typical — you will start collecting royalties on your 10,001st book sale.)

Tags: The Boss of You: The Book

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 limelite // Jan 25, 2007 at 4:23 pm

    Great to hear that the book deal is moving forward! Congratulations. One thing I recommend to anyone who is dealing with a distributor or third party who will directly influence how much you will earn off your hard work, before you sign that final contract, talk to them about how they are going to PROMOTE & PUBLICIZE your ‘baby’ and if possible, get it in writing. Small distributors are great but not if they don’t have the money to put into promotion and get those end sales. Getting your book into stores (or films into theatres, or videos into the right hands) is only one part of the equation. And if they don’t have very much money to promote it then consider hiring a publicist yourself. This goes for anyone who is creating a project, business, etc.