Sobering words from Daniel Menaker , former head of Random House, about what it takes to succeed in publishing and how hard it is to turn a profit on a trade book (i.e., a book that real people want to read, as opposed to a book from an academic press). One of many cold showers in the piece:
Most trade books do not succeed, financially. Three out of four fail to earn back their advances. Or four out of five or six out of seven, depending on what source you consult. And depending on what kind of accounting shell game is being played in the back office. A medium-strong batting average in baseball - let's say .305 - is Hall of Fame-worthy in publishing. Many books that do show a profit show a profit so small that it only minimally darkens a company's red ink.
Will the digital age of e-books turn this around? Oh, how nice it would be to think so.