What do you want?

As I was preparing for today’s post, I cam across a couple of things I thought I’d share. The first is a perfect example of one of the problems facing traditional publishing today. The second is a post about why it’s a great time — sort of — to go indie. Both are, in my opinion, things we need to think about.

Last week, the Buffalo News posted an article about Gov. Andrew Cuomo. No, it wasn’t about his politics. Instead, it was about his book and how much he’s made — and how many copies the book has sold. But before we get into the finance aspect, a little background. Cuomo was elected governor of New York in 2010 and took office January 1, 2011. His book, All Things Possible: Setbacks and Success in Politics and Life, was published by HarperCollins on October 4, 2014. Even assuming HarperCollins pushed to get the book out as quickly as it could, I doubt they had the book for less than a year before publishing it. So, at most, Cuomo had been in the governor’s mansion for two years when the book came out. And this is where things get interesting.

Now to the money. According to the Buffalo News, Cuomo has made, to date, $783,000 for writing his book. The publisher is reported to have laid down a first run printing of 200,000 copies of the book. Now, based on all that, you’d think the book sold well, possibly going into second and third printings, right?


The book has sold approximately 3,200 copies since publication. As of the time I’m writing this post, the hard cover price is $8.45, more than a buck less than the e-book price (which is still set by the publisher at $9.99. More on that in a moment).

It is more than fair to say the book tanked. HarperCollins basically through Cuomo under the bus for the poor performance of the book back in 2015. It seems Cuomo didn’t tour to promote the book and turned down media appearances. They were surprised, I tell you, surprised. They thought he would do at least some promotion. That, it seems, is one of the main reasons the book didn’t sell as expected.

Riiiiight. Putting on my cynic’s hat, I could say HarperCollins never really expected the book to sell. They paid all that money to Cuomo as a legal bribe. But that’s the cynic and I have no proof of it. However, I’m not the only one that thought came to. Google the book and its poor performance and you will see a number of others who have thought the same and have made no bones about it.

Taking off my cynic’s hat, this poor performance is indicative of some of the problems in traditional publishing. HarperCollins didn’t consider the fact Cuomo isn’t all that popular outside of New York. Considering the low sales numbers, I wonder if he is all that popular outside of NYC. They made the mistake of paying on inflated and unrealistic expectations just as they did with the initial print run. As for the promo claim — or should I say no promo? — pardon me while I laugh. I’m sure if you asked Cuomo, he would say HarperCollins didn’t promote the book that way he thought they would. They expected Cuomo to do the promotion. Welcome to the world of publishing. Publishers, at least some of them, promise to promote a book and their idea of promotion is not the same as the author’s.

The long and short of the story is, however, a simple one and it is a cautionary tale. Publishing cannot continue to pay huge advances and guaranteed payouts to political darlings and Hollywood-types, giving them outrageous initial print runs without doing at least a simple market review first. How much money has been lost by traditional publishing houses like this? More importantly from a writer’s point of view, how many mid-list writers, those who have pretty much guaranteed sales of a certain figure book after book, have been dropped because publishers feel they can’t afford to keep them and how often has this happened AFTER a book has bombed by someone like Cuomo?

Next up is this post about why it’s a great time to be a writer, sort of.  I’ll leave you to read the post but the short version is simple. If you want to go traditional, not much has changed. You can keep slogging for months and years, trying to get your work picked up by an agent and then on an editor’s desk where you can hope to get a contract. While there is nothing wrong with this, the length of time it takes to break in this way is a negative, as is the declining number of bookstores.

Then there’s indie publishing. That’s the great part. If you have the drive and you have a book finished, you can publish it now. There’s no waiting to shop the book around, looking for an agent and then a contract. You make it the best book you can, slap a cover on it and push the publish button.

Of course, there’s a but. There’s always a but and that’s where the “sort of” comes in. To be successful as an indie, you have to work at it. You have to take on much of what the traditional publisher does. You have to make sure your book has a great cover, is well formatted and edited. You have to market it. You have to do the accounting and pay the taxes. In other words, you have to remember that this is a business. It’s a lot of work and there is no guarantee that you’ll be a “success”. However, there is an advantage in that you aren’t at the whim of a traditional publisher, held to releasing a book only according to their schedule.

The decision as to what is best for you is, of course, up to you.

Now, since I’m an indie, here’s a bit of promo.

Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2)

Plots form, betrayals are planned and war nears.

Cait Hawkener has come to accept she might never remember her life before that terrible morning almost two years ago when she woke in the slavers’ camp. That life is now behind her, thanks to Fallon Mevarel and the Order of Arelion. Now a member of the Order, Cait has pledged her life to making sure no one else falls victim as she did.

But danger once more grows, not only for Cait but to those she calls friends. Evil no longer hides in the shadows and conspirators grow bold as they move against the Order and those who look to it for protection. When Cait accepts the call to go to the aid of one of the Order’s allies, she does not know she is walking into the middle of conspiracy and betrayal, the roots of which might help answer some of the questions about her own past.


    1. Do you think I know something you don’t know
      What do you want from me
      If I don’t promise you the answers would you go
      What do you want from me
      Should I stand out in the rain
      Do you want me to make a daisy chain for you
      I’m not the one you need
      What do you want from me

  1. Ok but seriously… sounds like his book sold as well as Hillary’s… wonder what ‘favor’ HarperCollins needed from the governor…

  2. “How much money has been lost by traditional publishing houses like this?”

    I would suspect -none-, but only because of “other” sources of income to pay for the losses on the book. It simply reeks of political buddies getting together and paying off another buddy. One would have to dig deep into the financials to prove it, and even then it would probably be “legal” under a variety of fig leaves. There’s lots of big money in NYC that needs state government support to get bigger, obviously they’ll find a way to get it done.

    But speaking of publishing, Politico has a -very- interesting article today on the publishing bubble.


    Their thesis is that the move to internet news has eliminated most of the regional newspapers and concentrated publishing in the Clinton Archipelago. That would be those deep blue counties along the coasts where Hillary did well. Ethnocentrism is the reason for all the news looking all the same all the time, the journalists all drink in the same bars in Manhattan.

    It has previously been pointed out that the Big Five are all within blocks of each other in NYC, and again, the Big Kahunas all go to the same parties and come from the same schools. Meaning, as we know to our collective cost, that if you want to get published and get an award in SF/F, you have to kiss the ring. It also means that if you as an author are not even peripherally connected to the NYC social scene, didn’t go to the right schools and etc, your manuscript is going to the circular file unread. You are going to have to be -spectacular- to even get their attention.

    I am not much of a one for ring-kissing. I’m much more inclined to bite the hand that feeds me, and my prose seems to follow in that mold. Heroes are heroic, good men RESIST temptation, and bad guys suffer for their deeds. Very not NYC sophisticated.

    That tells me I’d have to be crazy to pursue the NYC publishing route. There’s no way in Hell they’ll bother. Which means that rejection letters from Big Five related agents and editors don’t even carry a negative signal. They don’t mean anything, because the people who would like my stories are already ignoring their NYC-style books.

    1. That thesis would be wrong. Local papers were dying quite thoroughly in the 1980s due to things like USA Today, CNN and the uptake in production pace of local TV news. Sorry, you can’t blame the internet for newspapers that died in the 1980s and early 90s- before most people had internet.

      In fact, far far more local newspapers seem to have died in the 1920s than in the 2000s, judging from the list of dead newspapers on wikipedia.

      1. One problem I had with the article was them giving Liberals a pass on the corruption front. The authors are trying to pretend this is all about economics and ‘innocent’ ethnocentrism, when we know it isn’t. Big Media is most def in the tank for the DemocRats, there is no question about it. They are -also- ethnocentric NYC dwellers.

        The employment numbers are rather compelling though, I have to say. Sheer number of people employed and where they are, the picture it paints is a strong one.

        1. I see the media employment being fixed on the population centers… the reason the LA Times is two inches thick and the Richmond Times Dispatch ia a half in thick is because there is twenty times more people, and yes that means considerably more people working at those papers, too…

        2. There was a study on mid-major markets done about 18-20 years ago, and what it discovered is that people who work in media cover about a 2% slice of the population, simply because of the job itself. For instance, people who work in media are going to either be single or not the breadwinners because “stable employment” has nothing to do with media jobs, and they tend to be renters and urban for the same reason. Mobile, yes, because you can be employed on Friday and find out you’ve been axed on Monday because they decided to change the station format; knowing all the best bars because that’s the only places open after you finish the late news. And so on.

  3. One might suspect that there would be money for a publishing house or chain of news outlets centered in, say, Texas. Cheap land, sloshable money, not so many liberal types. And the local bar serves bacon jalapeno beer, maximum legal proof.

    1. People have been remarking the last few years on the number of authors from Utah. That could be the real-world response to the pressures being described. There is a point at which movement all in one direction is an opportunity for people who want to go in the other direction. Particularly considering the -customers- have not moved, just the publishers.

      1. Look at how many of the MGC regulars, or Huns and Hoydens, are from TX, UT, and other relatively independent states.

        1. What kills me is that I have no chance at all of ever being published in Canada. None. If NYC is a closed shop, at least the odd leaker gets through now and again. Canada? You need to be married to somebody important.

  4. With a major trad pub deal unless you’re a “name” we’re talking something in the range of $2-5k advance. In exchange for than munificence you surrender all control, they slap on a cover, and you have a pathway into brick and mortar bookstores. Oh, and they keep the lion’s share of profits, every penny until you earn out the advance.
    With indie you have additional prep work of course, format for whatever size print you wish, pay for the cover art you want or do it yourself, upload to Createspace or Ingram Spark and pass their hoops and wickets, then let it be known that the book is available as POD. A typical trade paper will run you as author about seven bucks per copy with a normal cover price of $20. I know some authors make back their entire initial investment just on sales of their books at cons. Then you have Amazon and Barnes and Nobel e-books. Format your manuscript for .mobi and .epub, upload along with the front cover, and away you go. Price it at $4.99 and every one sold returns you roughly $3.50. And at least with Amazon you get true sales numbers and payments the next month instead of some sketchy publisher’s statement and a check six months later.

  5. Cuomo? Corruption? Why, next you’ll be telling me he had something to do with the upstate nanotech boondoggle some of his besties have been indicted in.

    (Yeah, I’m in Utica. And I feel like a giant idiot for not seeing that for what it was the whole time. (I got convinced it was real after talking to some construction guys in a bar.) In fairness, I’m not *from* here…)

  6. I don’t know anything about Cuomo’s particular book deal, but politicians have been known to use their books for campaign purposes, some not quite ethical (like getting around limits on donations and speaker’s fees). The New Yorker had an article about it a few years ago. I remember it being said at the time that one reason why Jim Wright fell from grace was that a lot of reporters had written books themselves or otherwise had experience in the publishing business, and they could smell the rat in Wright’s set-up.

    1. Ah yes, back in the days when (R) got caught with their hands in the till and (D) got caught with their trousers down. I’ve gotten several “free” books from various regional politicos during election years. Most don’t read all that well.

        1. When Bill Clinton’s book came out in the early 2000s, I was working at a bookstore. One of my (liberal) coworkers came up and said, OMG listen to this! and proceeded to read the torturous first paragraph. It was widely mocked. Ah, for the days when your view of politics did not determine your view of literary merit…

  7. I hadn’t thought of the utility of Indie for sports news. That’s really interesting. Mind you, with PJ Media and Watts up with That, and Instapundit linking to hundreds of things . . . silly of me to be surprised. It’s a small step from a site with revenue from ads to e-published and sold online.

  8. Vaguely related: There’s a lot of weird stuff on Amazon. Reading about the Russian spy boat hitting a Turkish freighter reminded me of the How to Avoid Big Ships book (yes, the hysterical reviews are still going strong). The “related” links were even stranger: How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack, Raising Unicorns – A Practical Guide, Etc…

    It might be worth writing something outrageous like that just to get the exposure.

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