Many people in the publishing industry regularly read an email newsletter called Publishers Lunch, written by Michael Cader. It comes in two versions, one full of general industry news, and the other specifically covering book deals. The deals are categorized in the following way:
"nice deal" $1 - $49,000
"very nice deal" $50,000 - $99,000
"good deal" $100,000 - $250,000
"significant deal" $251,000 - $499,000
"major deal" $500,000 and up
One of the things about publishing that can be frustrating, for those who work in publishing houses, is that sometimes authors, or their agents, demand such high advances that a book can seem doomed to be unprofitable even if it sells quite well. On the other hand, I'm sure a lot of writers out there think it sucks to get a tiny advance on a book and then not have their publisher spend much money on marketing it-- most of those books are probably unprofitable too. Actually I'm not sure how this business makes any money at all... but in the meantime, I thought it would be interesting to see how many of each level of deal was reported in recent editions of Publishers Lunch. For about the past month, here's the breakdown:
This is, of course, a totally unscientific way to look at what's going on in the book industry. A lot of deals were reported without any estimated dollar level at all, and some of the deals were for 2 or 3 books. And I'm not sure what the criteria are for deals being reported to Publishers Lunch in the first place. You'd think people would be more likely to toot their horn about a "major" deal than a merely "nice" one, but "nice" ones are surely more common.
In any case, reading all the deal news has given me some good ideas for future book projects that I think would be slam dunks for major deals, not to mention a long-term presence on the New York Times bestseller lists:
Mötley and Me: A former heavy-metal guitarist describes how the life and death of his beloved dog taught him heart-warming lessons about how to live green, stay thin, and be competitive in today's global marketplace.
The Starstalkers of Pradablahnik: A mythical fantasy adventure in which a tribe of vampire private-school girls are guided by the spirit of their dead dog as they undertake a ritual quest to steal a magic handbag from within the stronghold of a celebrity's towering penthouse. (Volume 1 of a trilogy.)
Cafés "They" Don't Want You To Know About: After using insiders' secrets to profitably cash out of her real estate investments even in a buyers' market, a white, upper-middle class American endures the trials and tribulations of moving to a picturesque village in southern France, where she bludgeons her quirky new neighbors into accepting her friendship by using The Secret. Along the way, she discovers that the community is still haunted by the shadowy legacy of a forbidden wartime romance between a handsome Nazi soldier and a beautiful French woman who learned to stay slender despite eating pastries and chocolate by following the inspiring example of her naughty yet adorable dog, which later died under mysterious circumstances.
Step right up, agents and editors! You know you want these!