Ever since I first started learning about publishing I’ve been hearing that the majority of the books published by legitimate publishing house don’t earn out. But I’ve never seen any concrete evidence to back this claim up. Since I started learning about children’s & young adult publishing I’ve been hearing that the majority of their books do earn out. I’ve heard the same about the romance genre.
As far as I know no publisher releases what percentage of their books earn out. All we have to go on is anecdotal evidence.
I’m starting to wonder whether this oft quoted stat—sometimes it’s 7 out of 10 don’t earn out; other times it’s 9 out of 10—is solely about adult publishing. Because the same people who’ve told me (at several diff imprints and publishing houses) that the majority of their kids books earn out, look at the adult half of their businesses and roll their eyes. “I don’t know how that’s sustainable,” they’ll say.
Does this mean that it’s the majority of adult trade publishing that fails to earn out and not the majority of all books?
I would love to hear from people in the publishing industry. Do the majority of the books you publish earn out? If they don’t are the majority of them profitable for you even though they aren’t for the authors? And what about agents? What percentage of the books you sell earn out?
I totally encourage anonymity.
Update: For those asking what “earn out” means: Typically when a publisher buys a book they pay the author what’s called an “advance.” Say, the author is paid $1,000. They will not get any further money from the publisher until the earnings of the book are greater than $1,000. For each book the author gets a percentage of the book’s sale price usually somewhere between 6-15% (depending on what format and some other factors). So at 10% of a $20 cover price the author has to sell 500 copies to earn $1000. For every book sold after those first 500 you’re earning $2 a book. Hope that makes sense.