$500,000 vs. $2,000,000

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Wow … what a week so far. Let’s recap the 2 major news I want to a adress in this post.

1) Barry Eisler, an NYT bestselling author turns down a $500,000 deal from St. Martin’s Press in order to self publish his next novel.

2) Amanda Hocking, the ebook-self-publishing shooting star of the past few month signs a $2,000,000 deal with … wait for it … St. Martin’s Press.

So basically St. Martin’s went “We don’t care about you leaving Barry … we’ll just give your money and way more to Amanda Hocking. Take that!”

Until a couple of weeks ago, when he announced on JA Konrath’ blog that he’d be publishing a short story on Kindle, I never heard of Barry Eisler, let alone that he was an NYT bestselling author. But this news still made me go ‘wow’ … (mostly because I could never imagine myself turning down half a million dollars).

There has been a lot of talk in a lot of places over the past few days, ranging from calling him crazy to total support. Eisler explains his reasons here and Kristine Kathryn Rusch also goes into some details of the deal in this blog post. Reading both of it and thinking a little about all of this … it’s not as crazy as it sounds at first. Sure, no new or aspiring writer would turn down half a million dollars in advance. I know I would probably have signed the deal before they announced the last zero of the advance sum … but neither me nor any other newbie writer will get offered that kind of deal. And Barry Eisler is far from a novice writer. Despite me never having heard of him before, he has published 6 novels before which sold enough to warrant the half-a-million offer from St. Martin’s. So he has an established fanbase, an established brand. That, combined with the structure of the deal and the payments, make it kinda easy to see why he turned it down and can expect to make more in publishing on his own and electronically.

Amanda Hocking goes the other way. She sold a reported 1,000,000 ebooks since starting self publishing her paranormal romance novels a year ago, with the bulk of the sales coming in the past 3-4 month. There has of course been a lot of chatter about her deal with St. Martin’s as well … Some think she is making a mistake and will lose money in the long term, some see this as a big sign that traditional publishing isn’t all that bad as it was made out to be in the recent past.

As for her making a mistake signing that deal … I don’t think so, at least I don’t think it is that big a mistake. Sure, the reasons she gave until now were that she did want to have more time to write again. And I guess that might be an illusion, as the massive publicity and the demand on her person that comes with it still won’t give her enough time to write (Dean Wesley Smith touches on this here). But leaving that reason aside for a moment, that same massive publicity will also earn her a ton of money. Her ebooks are still for sale and won’t be affected by the deal, as in they won’t just disappear. She made herself a millionaire without any help, creating all the buzz herself. Now imagine what the news and subsequent interest in her person and her previously published work will generate in sales … By the time the first book comes out in fall of 2012, she probably will have already pocketed that advance money a few times over.  I don’t know if she’ll be able to publish anything between now and fall 2012 – both because of the stress that deal will add to her life and because of possible contract clauses preventing her from publishing anything new in the meantime. But the stuff that is already out there will skyrocket even more (provided she can somehow keep that momentum going til fall 2012).

Another reason I can’t fault her for taking the deal … it is $2,000,000 for  someone who is totally new to the scene. That is very hard to turn down. There is a point where the money is just too big to turn down.

I for one will follow all of this as closely as the past few weeks. I just want to know where publishing goes from here. Will there be more trad pubbed authors going into self pubbing? How will traditional publishing react?

Stay tuned …

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