I want to preface this post with a general statement: I love the authors I work with and think they deserve the advances and royalties they earn.
In a misguided argument in favor of electronic publishing someone argued: that printing is the most costly part of publishing. It’s not, author advances are the most costly part of publishing. Readers don’t understand the inner-workings of publishing, nor is that necessary (but understanding is always encouraged). Before authors find a publisher they typically find an agent.
The agent helps craft the best sample the author can write and then he or she auctions that work to the highest bidding editor. Now, if you’ve ever been to an auction or seen an auction some of that applies to a book auction, but not the fast talking, paddle raising, or packed auction room. The excitment of an auction is palpable in book auctions, but all the talking takes place over the phone on a specified day.
Editors are prone to something we call auction fever. In a fit of excitment an editor can get unrealistic expectations of the potential sales of a book he or she has fallen in love with. So a book that sold at auction for a lot of money could very well not make that money back. Thus, the most expensive part of publishing is the authors’ advances.
please stay tuned for “The Most Expensive Part of Publishing Part II”