Friday, October 12, 2007
Rebel Base Approaching in ... Four Days
Been kind of fun to watch the pre-pub sales numbers on Amazon.com for the upcoming Star Wars: Death Star, by my collaborator Reaves and Yours Truly. Month or two back, book was in the high ten-thousands, saleswise. Now it's nearing the top five hundred. We won't be rattling Stephen Colbert's cage, but with any luck, we'll sneak into the New York Times Bestseller List, which is always fun.
Were we getting a full royalty, that would be worth a nice piece of change. At our percentage, divided among us and our literary agent, we might make enough in the next couple of years to have dinner in an okay restaurant -- as long as we didn't leave the waitress too big a tip ...
Not griping here -- I don't get to do too much of that, I know people who'd kill their granny to trade places with me -- but noting that big sales number don't translate into big bucks when you work in somebody else's universe.
Once upon a time, it could. Back when nobody knew how to slice the royalty pie on tie-in books, the first Star Wars hardback novel made the writer a millionaire. Couple reasons for this: First, it was the only game in town -- so they sold a lot more copies of one title than they do today, with Star Wars books coming out each month to compete for reader dollars.
That one was #1 on the NYT List, too. The difference between the #1 book and the #2 or #3 is sometimes vast. Could be five or ten times as many copies laid down.
Second, back in the heyday, the writer got a much bigger slice of the profit. (Standard royalty on a hardback novel might be from a low of 10% to 12% up to maybe 15% of the cover price -- if you have an agent with clout. That has to be divided when the book is in a shared universe. The owner always gets a bigger chunk than the writer. Back then, the share was still in the owner's favor, but the writer did get more. As the process got rolling, the writer's number halved, then halved again, and in some universes, turned into a flat-fee, with no participation in the profit at all.)
When you get a book you came up with all on your own into the top five of the bestseller lists, you can live high on the hog. If it is a media tie-in somebody else's universe, you don't make enough to retire. I've been there with a dozen books, some of which even had my name on the cover, and alas, I am not rich, nor famous.
There is one nice perk: You do get to change your first name. After my first Star Wars novel was published, I was no longer "Steve," but "New York Times Bestselling Author Steve ... "
Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick ...