Wouldn’t it be cool?

Oh, it totally would be cool to have Random House distributing my book. I just found this  2012 Random House video fervently explaining why it’s great to have a major publisher back you as a writer of any sort. 

I totally agree. They seemingly do everything for you – they provide you with an in with the major media networks, they have relationships with book bloggers, they gather audiences to book readings and create viral promotions. They even help you edit your book!

I’m really not being snarky there (well, maybe a little). The things that Random House and the other major publishing houses do is truly awesome. Those groups give your work quite a boost. Some say (although I do not trust these wily rumors) that some publishers will actually pay you to write a book before you have written it.

Now that’s awesome. I wish I could go to work and get paid in advance for my Motivational Technologist gig. Alas, my salary gets paid to me a week or so after I deliver the Motivation or the Technology.

Oh well.

Let’s apply some Motivational Technologist know how and common sense to Random House’s claims.

First, let’s examine the concept that major publishers provide good editorial support for most authors. Random House, according to Yahoo Finance, has over 200 publishing arms. Despite their large size and global reach, they only did $2.2 Billion in revenue in 2011.

That’s revenues, not profit. Much of that gets paid back to authors, who are de-facto contract-employees, but not noted as such. Fortunately, they don’t have to pay most of those authors benefits. By comparison, Costco, a much less sexy operation, but a favorite investment of mine, did $87 Billion in revenues that year (and pays benefits).

Costco? Why compare them? You are right to ask. Well… They employ 170,000 employees. And they’re profitable. They help millions of customers and thousands of manufacturers the world over. If you’ve visited a Costco, you know that it’s fairly hard to get help from one of those diligent employees, simply because of the number of transactions they do. They even sell some Random House books on the side.

Random House reportedly has 5,343 employees. This is prior to them taking over Penguin, though. Still. These employees range from printers to editors. Not all of them are editors. Each editor’s time is restricted. They have to eat and sleep, right? Need time with their mistresses and time to go clubbing in Manhattan, right?

How many books can these editors cook in a year? According to their website, 11,000.

Interesting. How many books came out last year? I’m not really sure, and quick searches yielded zilch (let me know if you know), but I can tell you this. There are, at the time of this writing, 1.8 Million books available on Amazon Kindle.

Here’s a little math for you. 11,000/1,800,000 = 0.6%

Now, I will admit, Kindle does have some older books. I mean, it’s not like Amazon just started selling ebooks a few years ago and not all of the old ones have converted to digital…

Oh. Yeah. They did. Still, some of these books are older. So, what’s current?

Well, in the last 90 days, new releases totaled 170,000. If that is a fairly constant rate, we can multiply by 4 to estimate total new releases for a year. That’s about 680,000 publications. Not precise, but it’ll do for a comparison.

Let’s see… 11,000/680,000 = 2%

So. I guess we all know where the 2% get their editorial services.

Please don’t take this the wrong way all you awesome editors, printers, and publicists out there. You have great taste, great resources, and can be a huge help to any author in polishing a product and marketing it. The thing is, you simply don’t have the time to be a help to every author.

You can and do help about 2%. I’m not one. That’s ok. And in a way, I respect that you want to share with authors and readers more about your business. We all want to be understood.

I hope you will also respect that the other 98% of us also want to be read and heard, and you’re not standing in our way anymore. And I, for one, believe that’s a good thing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s