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The $20M Harry

I don’t know how other self-published authors felt when they saw this headline, but I felt immense relief!

In my self-publishing workshops, I talk about this very thing – the hidden conditions that sometimes come with that ‘dream book deal.’

Now, I’m not privy to every publisher’s contract agreements, but I have heard that book deals often catch 1st-time authors by surprise.

Let me break it down for you with figures provided by Lewis Pennock for, published 5 January 2023…

Penguin Random House paid $20M for a 4-book deal with Harry, including his debut novel ‘Spare.’ It is a 4-book deal, so ‘Spare’ will need to bring in ¼ of the returned income.

The ‘Spare’ e-book will retail for $17.99, Penguin gets 70% of that ($12.60), and the remainder will go to the host app store and Harry for his share of the book royalties, leaving a total profit of $8.10 to Penguin per e-book, or the equivalent of 617,284 copies.

The ‘Spare’ print book will retail for $36.00, Penguin gets 50% of that ($18.00), and the remainder will go to Harry for his share of the book royalties, leaving a total profit of $12.60 to Penguin per print book, or the equivalent of 396,825 copies.

The other important factor to consider with the ‘Spare’ deal is that Penguin may be pocketing some of the ‘profit,’ but they also manufactured the book, market and distribute it, and paid a ghostwriter a reported $1M to write the book, which equates to a significant expense, and not to Harry.

Admittedly, in a world where you’re not a celebrity like Harry, publishing houses like Penguin don’t take such big risks. They may agree to publish your book and offer you an advance of, say $30,000, but often it will need to be earnt back within 90 days. For a retail book with a wholesale value of $15.00, that’s 2000 copies in 90 days. 2000 books is a lot for a 1st-time author, let me tell you!

The important lesson here is that having a realistic budget for publishing a book is key. If you have the time and resources to earn money back and work with a publishing house, all power to you, I know many published authors whom both enjoy and see value in their relationship with their publisher.

I’m not a risk taker and certainly didn’t have a robust budget to lean on when I was ready to publish my first book. So, self-publishing was more suited to me. It allowed me to control the project and work to my set timeframes without outside pressures influencing how and when to do things.

It’s a case of making informed decisions at the right time.

If you’d like to gain more insight into the world of self-publishing with little insider tidbits like this, email me for my next self-publishing workshop., or stay updated on upcoming events on my website

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