Like many academic writers, I make hardly any money on my books and write them mainly for the intellectual satisfaction they give me. The world of huge advances that are paid for books by politicians and celebrities occupy a totally different publishing world and is something that I have no knowledge of. I have long been curious as to what purpose such advances serve. What happens to people who get huge advances? Are the author’s royalties kept by the publisher until they have reached the amount of the advance? What happens if the book does not sell enough copies to justify the advance?
These questions came to my mind when I read this story about New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s book.
In all, Cuomo has made $783,000 from HarperCollins for his book. The book sold 3,200 copies since it was published in the fall of 2014, according to tracking company NPD BookScan.
That works out to royalty payments to Cuomo of $245 per book.
Asked about the timing of the payments to Cuomo, a HarperCollins spokeswoman said the company does not comment on financial matters involving its book deals.
Cuomo’s government spokesman declined to say how many copies of the book have been sold.
“This payment was contractual and per the agreement with the publisher,’’ Richard Azzopardi, a Cuomo spokesman, said of the book income in 2015.
The Wall Street Journal, which like HarperCollins is owned by News Corp., in 2014 – under the headline “Betting Big on Cuomo’s Memoir” – first reported that the publisher was having an initial print run of 200,000 copies of the Cuomo book.
Usually royalties run to about 10% of the sale price. So how did Cuomo get such a huge royalty check when he sold so few books? The whole thing is shrouded in secrecy.
There is something hugely fishy about these big book deals, especially those to politicians for their memoirs, since I cannot imagine that the market for them is that large. This article hints that book royalties are part of some kind of way to bribe politicians.
A spokesperson from HarperCollins said the publisher does not “comment on financial matters relating to our books.” News Corp. did not respond to IBT requests for comment.
News Corp., in the meantime, was registered as a lobbying client as recently as December 2016, according to the New York State government lobbying database. The mass media company, created and headed by Executive Chairman and former CEO Rupert Murdoch, has a long history of lobbying Cuomo’s office for the passage of bills beneficial to its businesses, as previously reported by IBT.