This Is How Traditional Publishing Dies

3 Mar

A couple of days ago, this link popped up on my Facebook page.

PRH scoops book deal with Obamas

My first thought was that’s absurd. My second thought was no one could be so stupid – this has to be fake news. My third thought, following the lines of one of the other commenters, was if I owned shares in Penguin, I’d be demanding a stockholders meeting and the immediate sacking of whoever came up with this idea.

I don’t pretend to be an expert in traditional publishing. But I do know something of how it works. A traditional publisher will meet all up-front costs (the author’s advance, editing, printing, cover design, publicity, etc) before the book actually hits the shelves. In exchange, the author forgoes all royalties until the first investment is paid off. For example, if My Super Novel is picked up by a publisher at an advance of $1000 and an investment of $3000, I won’t see another cent until that $4000 is recovered. If the book does not happen to bring in $4000, things will get sticky. The publisher probably won’t take a chance on another book by me.

This is why I didn’t believe the post at first. An advance of $60 million dollars is beyond comprehension. All the chatter about John Scalzi getting a $3.4 million book deal suddenly seems a little paltry, doesn’t it? (And Scalzi is an established author with a large fan base.) It is never easy to know just how the money is being spent – traditional publishers are experts at concealing just what pays for what – but we do know one detail from Obama’s deal – there will be a $60 million advance.

Let’s put this into some perspective. This isn’t going to be the only cost Penguin is going to assume. They’ll have to pay for printing the books, for publicity (to be fair, most people know who Obama is), for everything else. And they’ll invest lots of money into this because they will desperately need big sales. Why?

Pretend that the total costs to Penguin are $65 million. Pretend that each copy of this book costs $20 (George W. Bush’s autobiography was originally listed at $35). They will have to sell 3.25 million copies just to break even. Is this even possible? It’s going to be embarrassing to Penguin if they have to go back to Obama in 2018 and request that he repays some of his advance, assuming that’s legally possible. This book deal could break Penguin.

Back when Hillary Clinton brought out Hard Choices, I thought her rumoured $14 million dollar advance was nothing more than a disguised campaign contribution. I doubt Hard Choices broke even, despite the massive investment. A campaign contribution was the only reason I could think of why heads weren’t rolling. This is serious money. An investment on such a scale that flops is a major disaster.

What, perhaps, is Obama running for?

And then another article appeared, yesterday.

This one gives a little more detail. There will be two books (at a joint $65 million dollar advance): one from Obama himself and one from his wife. Apparently, “Obama’s book will be a straightforward memoir about his presidency, while Michelle Obama plans to write an inspirational work for young people that will draw upon her life story.” And apparently most of the colossal advance will be donated to charity.

Call me a cynic, but wouldn’t it be cheaper to simply send the money directly to charity? I suspect there is a market for Obama’s book – if not one big enough to repay a $35 million dollar advance – but will Michelle’s book sell as well?

Will Penguin ever be able to recoup its investment?

The people who will pay for this are not Barrack and Michelle Obama. Nor, perhaps, are they the senior publishers who made this call. No, it is the writers who will be frozen out because all the funds were devoted to this immensely costly project. $65 million is more than enough to publish over two hundred books in all fields, most of which might well repay their (considerably smaller) advances. How does this publishing coup make economic sense?

Back in 1995 – depending on which version of events you believe (I’ve heard several) – a fairly major publishing house made a deal with a household name. This politician’s name would headline a series of books, for which he would be paid a considerable advance. Unfortunately, the politician’s career took a major downswing just as the book came out – he refused to discuss it, sales plummeted, costs had to be recouped somehow (several other authors had to be talked into forgoing some of their royalties, which meant that a number of them walked away) … and the entire publishing house nearly collapsed completely. It took years for the damage to be repaired …

… And that was with a much smaller publishing house.

Is Penguin going to go the same way?

Maybe I’m wrong – I hope I am wrong – but I’m glad I don’t own shares in Penguin.


43 Responses to “This Is How Traditional Publishing Dies”

  1. Jay Kominek March 3, 2017 at 8:45 pm #

    Hmm, looking up the ownership of Penguin is sort of interesting. They’re part of Penguin Random House, which is owned 53% by Bertelsmann, a private German company, and 47% by Pearson Publishing, which is a publicly traded company.

    I expect they’ll make a fair bit of their money back, and Obama probably appears to have enough juice left that they think it’ll work out well for them in the long run. If Obama ever does get his hands on some more political power in the future, it could make a huge difference to Pearson’s textbook publishing business.

  2. Jas P March 3, 2017 at 9:19 pm #

    Obama’s book will sell, at least initially with the hype, it will be interesting to see the price point on it and the marketing surrounding it. $60mil seems utterly ridiculous considering the ramifications to other authors down the track, but I guess those in power didn’t care about that, they just see potential dollar signs.
    The interesting part of this equation will be Michelle Obama’s book, she has a huge female following, and depending on how she writes it and the audience, as well as marketing campaigns through things like ‘Ellen’, there is a massive potential for sales. Again, the price point will be a curious factor, but in her case, I don’t think it will make a difference as long as it’s $50 or under.
    Regardless, it is just a ridiculous sum, and shows a real disregard for the lower end of our society, as in that part that is struggling to survive on a daily basis, including a bunch of authors who might now never get a go.

  3. Ray B March 3, 2017 at 9:42 pm #

    And what about all those struggling writers with their first book or two under the masthead of Penguin Group? All those funds that should be used to support editing, marketing, sales and reprints — thinned down to a trickle if something goes wrong.
    I donated twelves years serving on the Governing Board of a large Church publishing house. In that time we struggled mightily with trying to be fair to all the writers, both big-name and fledgling. We ended up saying “No Thanks” to a couple of high-end authors who you would recognize. We had to protect our “bread and butter” writers as well as bringing new people on-board.
    The high-enders found another house, and one of them had a moral fall which almost bankrupted his chosen house because of the front-end loading (and Church houses are on a much tighter budget than most secular houses of the same size!) . We ended up with about a dozen authors who fled to us in desperation. Fortunately we were able to buy out their contracts from the other house. They were glad to take them off their hands. And we did well with them. One is still pumping out one or two a year since mid 2000’s!

  4. French Reader March 3, 2017 at 10:49 pm #

    I am french, so sorry in advance for my grammar.
    God, but your view of the Obamas are so tainted with your pro-trump thinking. Sure a 65 million deal seems too much but lets not forget that he was the first black US president who left office with good rating. Therefore just for that, their books will sell.
    Like Ray B and Jas P, i think that much money should be invested in new authors but why are you still talking about US politics or political people ?! For my parts i will be muchz more interested in yours views of what is happening in your country, the United Kingdom.

    • PuffinMuffin March 3, 2017 at 11:46 pm #

      I think the point being made is that huge advances are being put forward on the basis of whose name is on the front of the book rather than what is written inside. Would that it could be the other way around.

      • Ray B March 3, 2017 at 11:51 pm #

        Amen Brother…Preach it!

      • jh March 7, 2017 at 2:57 am #

        true. However, this is a business decision. Whatever your political ideologies, the people who made the decision probably weren’t swayed by liking former President Obama or his wife.

        Consider it this way – we could have dozens of movies created every year if we got rid of the summer blockbuster. And yet, despite numerous failures, the studio execs still produce summer blockbusters that cost millions.

        Chris may have a problem because he can’t separate his dislike of former President Obama and his identification with the bread and butter writers. But at the end of the day, it is about the numbers and making a calculated bet.

        We would need to see the contract to see whether Penguin was foolish or not. Speculating that two books written by two highly popular figures couldn’t possibly be worth 60 mil despite

        1, It being bid to that point by Penguin (an expert in the field of publishing)
        2. Other publishing houses (other experts in the field of publishing) offering similar price points
        3. Run by business people rather than romantic english teachers
        4. Probably accountants and other business experts who ran the numbers to calculate a bid
        5. A nostalgia for a competent president and a relatively scandal free administration as opposed to the hillbilly circus with their alternative facts and their reckless policies that led to US deaths in Yemen and the new crap that seems to spew out with greater regularity than old faithful in yellowstone. Look at their Q score. Look at the popularity polls. Even if that goes down by half, that’s still a substantial number of coffee table books.

        hmmm… this speaks more about the political inclinations of Chris than it does of Penguin.

        sure it’s unfair to the writers who need their paycheck. But this is the way of the world. I would expect Prince Harry to get a better book deal than Average Jane even if Average Jane is a better storyteller. The same way that I expect any president, even if he cannot articulate a cohesive and logical 5 minute speech grounded in evidence and containing substance, to get a great book deal. It’s the same way that people of color are routinely ignored when seeking financing for their stories and their movies while the latest crap that is headlined by a white actor, written by white screen writers, with a story about white people is green lit with millions.

    • chrishanger March 4, 2017 at 9:03 am #

      Trump has nothing to do with this, at least not directly. (His performance in office may affect sales, but that’s not easy to predict.)

      The problem here is that Penguin is paying out a vast sum of money which they may not be able to recoup. If they can’t, they’ll have a major shortfall … which will cost them dearly, further down the line.


  5. Mike March 4, 2017 at 12:04 am #


    I don’t think traditional publishing works quite like that. An “advance” us just that, an advance against future royalties and it is “earned” as the books are sold, so it does not matter to the author what other costs the publisher incurs for the book. Of course all the normal tricks apply so the author’s royalty account will show a reserve against returns (even for e-books and even years after publication of the paper book) and the royalty rate will turn out to be negligible when the book is sold at “deep discount”.

    Mind you, the Obama’s will have negotiated better terms than the Big 5s normal “screw the author” contracts. For a start they will have had an IP lawyer as well as or instead of a normal agent and anyway, the advance will probably not be earned out so it won’t matter what appears on their royalty statements as the money never has to be returned.

    A $65m advance does sound crazy but Obama is a already a best selling author – even though one who may be past his sell by date before his latest is published. To my surprise I have read that the Clintons – who got advance that totally about $26m – both sold enough books to earn out their advances so there may be hope that the publisher will cover their costs even if all the profit margin goes to the authors. And all the profit margin going to the authors is not an undesirable result, even if you do not like their politics.

    Anyway, the conglomerate to which PRH belongs is big enough to easily take a hit. I read that the deal also involves them donating a million books – presumably not Obama’s efforts – to charity, though this could be dirt cheap if they are titles returned by booksellers.

    My initial reaction to the news was pretty much the same as yours but after looking at the history and playing with some numbers I’m not sure that PRH are actually irrational in this case. However, I think the whole system of big advances to politicians and celebrities stinks; the money could be much better used in giving decent advances to a large number of mid list authors who’ve seen their income drastically cut back over recent years. This would definitely hit PRH’s bottom line given falling mid list sales so I can’t see them being generous.

    • chrishanger March 4, 2017 at 9:09 am #

      Speaking from my (limited) experience, a standard advance is paid:

      -50% upon signing, 50% submission of the final manuscript.

      -100% upon signing.

      -100% upon submission of the final manuscript.

      In this case, I’d guess the first one.

      Advances are not clawed back unless there’s a clear case to be made that the author didn’t uphold his share of the agreement. If the book doesn’t sell enough to become profitable, the author will not have to pay back the advance – he just won’t get any more money.

      Unless there’s something very odd about the contract Obama and his wife signed, they’d get the advance whatever happened. If the book succeeds, well and good; if the book flops, Penguin is left holding the bag.

      The problem here, which is what triggered my BS meter in the first place, is that ‘success’ is set at an incredibly high level. The book may do very well, by any reasonable standards, yet Penguin may still be in trouble.


  6. MishaBurnett March 4, 2017 at 12:34 am #

    When calculating how an advance is earned back, the price at which they are sold to distributors less the unit cost is generally used. This means that a book which lists at, say $25 retail counts at much less than $25 for determining royalties. Like, maybe a tenth of list.

    To earn back the advance, the Obamas would have to sell probably more than 30 million copies. To put that in perspective, his first two books “Dreams Of My Father” and “The Audacity Of Hope” sold around 4.5 million copies combined. Mr. Obama’s advance for the two books was about $100,000 combined, so it is likely that the advance was earned back on those.

    However, the odds of any political memoirs earning back a $60 million advance are basically zero.

  7. JJ Reuter March 4, 2017 at 12:46 am #

    Reblogged this on jjreuter.

  8. Ian M March 4, 2017 at 1:44 am #

    Wikipedia (pack of lies, etc) claims that Bill Clinton’s autobiography has sold 2.25M copies,, and that George W. Bush’s had over 2M. Given that, 3M copies of of the two Obama books combined isn’t a totally implausible as a sales target.

  9. philippeO March 4, 2017 at 2:55 am #

    like Ian M and French Reader, i think you overlook possibility this could be massive profit for Penguin.

    First, household name do sold disproportionately much larger number of books, Obama Audacity of Hope is very successful, Penguin might hope they could repeat that success.

    Second, my suspicion is that this book would be ‘coffee table books’, Books that people own not to read but to show guest as sign of their affiliation and sophistication.

    Piketty book, for example, owned by lots of people who want to show their political leaning not to read. If your hostess own Piketty and the Spirit Levels you could assume he is in favor of redistribution of wealth.

    A lot of biography books serve this function, if your hostess had lots of biography of General, you could generally assume he is pro-military.

    Third, this is kind of books that could be used as giveaway prizes on many political convention / gathering.

    • chrishanger March 4, 2017 at 9:10 am #

      Possibly. But it is one hell of a gamble.


      • Thomas Tomiczek March 5, 2017 at 5:47 pm #

        Definitely. And one can – as you rightly did – question whether this makes sense. I would not call it “dying” and typical, though – particularly not knowing the ownsers of Penguin. Pertelsman is hugh – can pretty much pay that out of their postal budget, IIRC. They may be willing to take a bet here, possibly even willing to take a loss for tactical reasons – which seriously are not typical for the publishing industry. Definitely not on that size.

  10. thundercloud47 March 4, 2017 at 5:40 am #

    Maybe I’m being a bit paranoid here but it sounds like a campaign contribution. Michelle will run for a senate seat win it, then run for the presidency. Anyone who runs against her will be called Racist, sexist, misogynistic, and a host of other names.

  11. Johnz March 4, 2017 at 9:15 am #

    According to wikipedia Hillary sold 340 000 books of Hard Choices until November 2015. And this data is from before height of election campaign. And we know that Hillary got at least $5 million in royalties from the book.

    65 Million is a huge stretch. But there are many different forms of deals. Some state that you get an advance and the royalties can get up to certain number. In that case condition of highest payout for royalties at 65 million makes sense.

    I highly doubt that this is real, without the look at the contract. It could be publicity stunt and fake news, to get the sell numbers higher.

  12. Ray B March 4, 2017 at 2:56 pm #

    As a former “insider” on publishing, you all have a piece of the overall picture. Chris is right about the Advance payout. The final part of 65M will likely go out upon receipt of the final manuscript. The cash is gone.
    Yes, it is likely that some of (if not most) of the top honchos at Penguin Group are in the Obama camp and this is a political payout. BUT Obama is an Ex-President with dreams of resolving his Legacy even further now he lost (sorry..Hillary lost) the election.
    Yes, it will probably be one of the biggest selling coffee-table books for at least 80% of the book-buyers with a political left lean. So I figure Penguin will in fact make back at least the Advance. As to how much more they make is TBD. And that is the problem for the other writers in the Penguin stable. If they make a profit it will keep Penguin going. If not, then they will be the ones to suffer–not the top honchos in the front office. They will walk away with their bonuses for having netted an Obama book.
    Coming from the NPO side of publishing, the for-profit part of the business is indecently gluttonous for the top-end cash. Publishing for the sake of a “Good Book” is left to the editors and agents. The gate-keepers above them are the ones looking for the cash from the Big Authors.
    That is why self-publishing is killing the for-profit publishing for 80% of all writers looking to be read as a “good Book”. The other 20% want to be a Big Author. Of course we’d all like to make it big…(maybe). How about decently published with a long list of back titles? That kind of wuthor is the ones hurt by this kind of publishing.

    Stepping down from soapbox now…

    • Ray B March 4, 2017 at 2:59 pm #

      Where is my editor? Sorry about the splelling! (grin)

  13. Richard Parks March 4, 2017 at 4:15 pm #

    I agree with you Ray P. 110% !!! It is a payoff !!!

  14. Big Ben March 5, 2017 at 12:42 am #

    It’s every bit as political – money, influence peddling, brown-nosing, etc – as foreign dignitaries staying at Trump Hotel for four figures per night or lobbyists paying six figures for memberships at various Trump resorts. It always comes down to money buying access and influence, no matter how minor and regardless of party.
    It may take them a decade or more, but the publisher will likely make their money back, either through direct sales or ancillary benefits down the road … especially if Michelle goes into politics. After all, people are still buying books written by presidents and other famous people long dead.
    And at an abstract level, Penguin has already reaped some considerable benefit – you’re saying their name, on an internationally read blog no less. I’ve heard about this book deal on multiple major national media sources, all prominently mentioning Penguin’s name. And when the books come out it’ll blow up all over again. “Look, here’s Barack and Michelle’s thirty million dollar books!” Sometimes you can’t buy publicity like that. Oh, wait, you can … it costs $65 million.
    It’s like Christie’s auction house … you may think it’s absolutely asinine to spend eighty million dollars on a painting, but if you’re in market for that kind of thing – either buying or selling – you know where to go.
    As an interesting aside, I wonder if Trump will publish a memoir after he leaves office and if so, what he’ll be offered as an advance.
    Also, I’m curious as to how future movie and other media rights may be included in such big deals. TV miniseries, anyone?

  15. kilowog77 March 5, 2017 at 1:55 am #

    Your political posts always seem a bit spiteful and gloaty, I understand that you are worried this payout will have trickle down effects on the rest of penguin but that isn’t any of your concern, if penguin is willing to risk the money then so be it. In someone else’s reply you called it a gamble, which is exactly what it is, if it works great if it doesn’t too bad, your whining about it only informs us only of your own prejudice (political not racial).

    • chrishanger March 5, 2017 at 8:49 am #

      Speaking as a writer, if Penguin does collapse – or have a sharp downturn because they’ve paid out so much money without return – it is going to have a major effect on the rest of the industry. Even if it is a huge success and Penguin reaps vast profits – which it might – it is still going to cause problems in the short term.
      Yes, it is a gamble. And I don’t know if Penguin can afford to lose.

  16. Bruno March 5, 2017 at 3:24 am #

    “Pretend that the total costs to Penguin are $65 million. Pretend that each copy of this book costs $20 (George W. Bush’s autobiography was originally listed at $35). They will have to sell 3.25 million copies just to break even. Is this even possible?”

    Well, considering that Audacity of Hope (2006) and Dreams From My Father (1995) have sold in total 4,650,000 copies just by 2010, then not only will they certainly break even but almost certainly make a massive profit instead.

    And the massive amount of free publicity this has generated for them will probably offset the costs even if the books inexplicably bombs (which won’t be the case because just the international sales alone will pretty much guarantee an easy 2-3 million copies).

    And revenue at Penguin Random House was 3.7 *billion* euros in 2015 (557 million euros profit), so stating that this 65 million dollar advance will somehow “shut out” other writers is ridiculous.

    Bottom line? The 65 million advance is a *bargain* for Penguin books…

    • chrishanger March 5, 2017 at 8:50 am #

      I sincerely hope so.


      • Bruno March 5, 2017 at 4:23 pm #

        With all due respect Chris – why do you care? Why should you care?

        I’m a writer as well and one that hopes to one day sign a deal with a big publisher. Nevertheless, this bit of news from Penguin does nothing more for me than a raised eyebrow while I sip my morning coffee. Penguin Books no doubt has an entire building full of accountants who do nothing all day except run analysis on whether this deal or that deal is worth the money. Obviously they’re banking on this succeeding. Maybe it will. Maybe it won’t. Maybe it will bomb. Maybe Obama’s book will end up being used a textbook for college courses for the next ten years. Maybe it’ll end up in a landfill two months after it comes out.

        I don’t know and I don’t care.

        But I see nothing here that warrants a thousand word long blog post and certainly nothing that warrants ‘This is how publishing dies’ title.

        Your obvious hatred of Obama is colouring your objectivity over an article that – at best – warrants a ‘Wow–that’s a crapload of money. Hey, anyone see the game last night?’ post.

      • chrishanger March 5, 2017 at 5:03 pm #

        It’s a valid question.

        I don’t begrudge anyone the chance to write and sell their work. I don’t particularly like watching someone famous get the opportunities that most authors dream of, but publishing is a business and trying to capitalise on someone with a ready-made fan base or high name recognition makes business sense. Andy Murray, Pippa Middleton, Kim Kardashian, Barrack Obama – even Rachel Dolezal – the publisher doesn’t have to spend quite so much effort on promoting them because people already know who they are.

        The problem here is nothing to do with Obama specifically. The problem is that Penguin is committing itself to $65 million for two books, money that will be paid out BEFORE the completed version hits the shelves. That doesn’t include the other costs Penguin will have to shoulder: the cover design, the editing, the vetting, salaries for employees, etc. The overall cost for these books may well wind up being considerably higher.

        I’ll go into more detail in another post, if anyone’s interested. However …

        I don’t have any insider information regarding Penguin’s current financial health. However, $65 million is NOT a small amount of money. The best case scenario is that Penguin will have less ready cash for a year or two, limiting the number of other authors they can sign and support. A number of authors (and editors) may jump ship – if their contract allow it. Even if the book does bring in enough money to cover the pre-publication expenditure within the first three months, which it might, the long-term effects will do real damage to Penguin.

        The worst case scenario is two-fold – either the book flops or there is a sudden unexpected expenditure while they are dangerously exposed. If the former, Penguin will probably be unable to claw back the advance (I doubt Obama’s lawyers will have left any weakness in the contract that allows it) and will take a serious loss. If the latter, Penguin may be unable to meet its obligations and default. The consequences are likely to be disastrous.

        Why do I care? Why should I care?

        This deal is likely to have an effect on the publishing industry. I know writers who are published by Penguin. What will happen to them if there is a significant cash shortfall? Or to the others? So yes … writers should care. For Obama, this is a great deal – for everyone else, maybe less so. I would have the same reaction if anyone else landed such a deal.

        . I could be completely wrong. And I hope I am wrong. Maybe I was a bit overdramatic with the title .

        But really, for Penguin, this is one hell of a gamble.

      • Bruno March 6, 2017 at 3:52 pm #

        “I don’t have any insider information regarding Penguin’s current financial health. However, $65 million is NOT a small amount of money.”

        For Penguin it *is* small change. You did read the part where they made 500+ million Euros PROFIT last year? And, once again, this book WILL sell millions of copies. This is guaranteed best seller. Two million copies sold worldwide is virtually assured. Penguin knows full well they’re sitting on a goldmine here. This is going to be the obligatory Coffee Table Book for liberals worldwide for years to come.

        And if it somehow tanks (it won’t), no writers will be shut out because even a 50 million dollar hit on their pocketbooks will be shrugged off. If it succeeds, they have extra money to bring in new writers. Win-win either way.

        You can dress up your Obama hatred all you want, it’s still shows true.

      • chrishanger March 6, 2017 at 9:50 pm #

        I hope you’re right.


      • Bruno March 10, 2017 at 5:59 pm #

        And once more – why do YOU care?

  17. Ray B March 5, 2017 at 11:16 am #

    I was trying to stay focused on the writers (like most here I am sure). But this morning I read the last few posts with a different viewpoint than I had yesterday.

    You see (or perhaps your don’t) that the Political environment is a-changing. Donald Trump is in the White House. Barack Obama and Hillary have “lost” the election. Both sides of the isle are shooting at each other with increased vitriol. Why is it different this morning?
    Last night I started reading a book by Tom Kratman “State of Disobedience”. I picked it off Baen for for free thinking it was a nice Sci-Fi Alternate Universe kind of book. It is more reality based than I thought! I couldn’t put it down, reading long after midnight. In fact, as I awoke early this morning (check my post time)

    Published in 2003 Kratman has detailed how the Second Civil War might get started. It hit home in a way that has me even more concerned than I already am about the present state of “Civil Disobedience” being exhibited by the Progressive Left (no-less) (And you thought the radical right wing-nuts were the only ones? Try your local college!).
    Why the Obama book-deal is a harbinger of a not-so-Audaciously Hopeful future: Our ex-President has highhandedly made it clear he has no intention of “…going gently into the night…” That he intends to “rage against the darkness” of the conservative ideals he patently hates.The Penguin book deal is the opening shot in the next phase of of the Second Civil War, which began, as Kratman so presciently writes, in the aftermath of 9/11. I am sure the Obama book will be a detailed manifesto outlining the marching orders for the left’s version of “Civil Disobedience.”

    My dear writer friends, no matter which side of the isle we sit on this is not a good thing. Our ability to live in a “free” society is predicated on the ability of all of us to live a sober deliberate and insightful life. That is why I love writing. That is why I do the things I do and try to choose wisely in how and why I spout off about things on a board like this.

    The Penguin deal is one small piece of a larger future we are walking (or running) toward with little insight, forethought, and concern for our fellow human-kind. The fact that the now illiberal left are the ones who used to be the champions of “liberality toward all” is frightening to this ex-hippy who went to India, spent time in an ashram to find myself, and have peace and love toward others instead of going to Vietnam.

    If you find my post divisive or incorrect for this board, I apologize. I have the best at heart for all my fellow writers here. Thanks Chris for the board.

    (Stepping down from the soap box and kicking myself for getting up on it again…)

  18. Tarun Elankath March 5, 2017 at 8:04 pm # are GLOWING green with envy here. Lets face it – Obamas book will probably sell in the high millions – don’t be surprised if it sells 3-10 million copies all over the world. If offered digitally at a reasonably price, it could probably sell even more. I would definitely read his autobiography and I can comfortably say that nearly everyone in my circle of friends, colleagues and acquaintances will be interested in perusing it. My parents and most of my extended family would read it too.

    This is a sure shot sales win for any publisher.

  19. georgephillies March 5, 2017 at 11:11 pm #

    Let’s fix the math here. The book may sell for $30, but “They will have to sell 3.25 million copies just to break even. ” has a minor math issue. They have to print the book, advertise the book, and give the distributors and book stores their cuts of the proceeds. The store gets 30%, the distributor the same, so the publisher gets at a guess $10 per book. That $10 has to cover printing and advertising, not to mention all theother company costs, which are at least $4 per book, meaning that at a guess $6 per book can cover the royalties. You may make up your own numbers.

    That;s something like 10 million hardboack copies that need to be sold just to break even.

    • georgephillies March 6, 2017 at 2:51 am #

      Also, if you think this is an illegal corporate campaign contribution, given ownership it is perhaps an illegal foreign corporate campaign contribution, I’m not sure that’s true.

      • chrishanger March 6, 2017 at 9:49 pm #

        As I see it, Obama has been given (or will be given in the next year or so) an immense lump sum that cannot be clawed back whatever happens. I think that’s a little odd.


  20. Christopher M. Chupik March 6, 2017 at 2:58 am #

    “no one could be so stupid”

    The last few years stand testament to the fact that, yes, someone can.

  21. kell March 6, 2017 at 4:25 am #

    Oh this book will sell Chris. Around the world people recognize how bad Obama is but people in the us? Shoot a lot of people still love him

  22. georgephillies March 6, 2017 at 11:37 pm #

    “ are GLOWING green with envy here. ” Boy, speak of cheap throwaway lines.

  23. georgephillies March 6, 2017 at 11:38 pm #

    Would anything else this stupid happen? Note the 2016 Presidential nominees of the four major American political parties, Stein being slightly defensible.

  24. Don March 7, 2017 at 8:11 am #

    Chris I can’t understand your obsession with US politics when you are British. Especially when your country will be going through 2 years of uncertainty.

    Your political blog post show so much hate against Hillary and Obama. What did they do to you? I can understand Americans having strong feeling but British?

    For Obama, there will be lot of interest around the world and they will make money. If not then they will pay less tax and senior management will be taking large cheques either way so they don’t really care. Do you really think they really care about writers? If you do then you don’t live in reality.

  25. Big Ben March 7, 2017 at 4:30 pm #

    The real issue I have isn’t who got the advance, or politics or anything like that.
    I mentioned a painting that recently sold for something over $80 million. That set a bar, a new high end of “normal.” Now there’s this $60 million plus advance for two books, as I understand it. That’s the new high-end of “normal.”
    When I was a boy, I remember buying thick new paperbacks for $1.95. Big heavy hardcovers were $14.95. Now the norm is $7.99 and $25 to $30 respectively.
    I get inflation, etc. etc. But carrying such price increases to a somewhat logical end, by the time I’m an old geezer a paperback might sell for around $15 and a hardcover for $60 plus. For a format and a technology that’s been around for centuries.
    And it’s not like those stories will be any better that what was being published when I was buying them for $1.95.
    Thank goodness for indie authors, Amazon, B&N, I-books, etc.

  26. Les Barrie (Scottish borders) March 10, 2017 at 11:15 am #

    I’m sure they are a nice couple but BORING, iI cannot imagine either book being remotely revelationary,no doubt they will sell millions for coffee table decoration and Michelles will appeal to “feminists” but how many good young authors could have benefited from this obscene sum.

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