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concept to publication

Month: May 2010

Friday roundup

“Every separation is a link.” — Simone Weil

How to figure an advance against book royalties

This will be a little basic for many but maybe helpful to others. Authors often wonder whether the advance a publisher is offering is a fair one. There is a simple formula that can help you to judge.

Advances are, in theory, a prepayment against expected royalties. Authors are often concerned about whether their books “earn out” their advances — that is, whether royalties from actual book sales are equal to or greater than their advance against royalties. The advance represents a kind of benchmark for expectations of a title, and when actual royalties fall short of that number authors feel their titles have underperformed. There is a degree of truth to this, but it’s not the whole story. There are many factors behind the size of advances, and a book that doesn’t earn out can still be a success — the advance excess is in effect the equivalent of a slightly higher royalty percentage.

Still, authors have to do their best with the information they have, so we will assume the advance is logical relative to expected royalties. This being the case, the best way to judge the advance is to get a sense of the publisher’s sales expectations. To do this, try to find out about how many copies will be printed and about what the retail price is likely to be. Those figures will give you a sense of how the publisher is thinking about the title in terms of sales.

As an example let’s use nice round numbers for ease of calculation. Say the publisher plans to print 10,000 copies and sell them at $20 each and is offering the author a royalty of 10 percent off the full retail price. Now, many of the copies that are being printed will not be sold: copies are needed for reviewers and other purposes (among them the inefficiencies of book distribution), but we are only trying to get a ballpark figure, so we’ll ignore that level of refinement.

With that caveat, sales of 10,000 books would equal a total retail value of $200,000, of which 10 percent would be $20,000. Consequently, a logical advance for this title would be somewhere around $20,000. ¬†Woohoo, you’re rich!

Google font API

google font api - example typefaces

Google has quietly introduced an API (application programming interface) for web fonts. This could potentially result in better — and also worse — web typography — depending on the skill and knowledge of the people who implement it. Unfortunately only a small minority of font users these day take the time to educate themselves about the print tradition.

Google’s font system involves referencing fonts stored at fonts.googleapis.com. The open source license¬†fonts are then served up by the Google servers and should appear on your web pages without your needing to upload or embed them. There are instructions here.

Only a small number of fonts are available at present but no doubt the list will grow. I wonder what the type designer community will think about this.

Friday roundup

“Every separation is a link.” — Simone Weil

Amazon gets into the translation business

They’ve announced a venture called AmazonCrossing. Amazon has the sales data from their international customers to identify promising titles, which they will have translated and publish — probably mainly for the Kindle, since that’s what they think of as their sweet spot. According to Jeff Belle, their Vice President of Books:

The goal of our publishing programs is to introduce readers to terrific authors they might not otherwise have the chance to know. Our international customers have made us aware of exciting established and emerging voices from other cultures and countries that have not been translated for English-language readers. These great voices and great books deserve a wider audience, and that’s why we created AmazonCrossing.

You wonder if they know how to do this right, and whether they will low-ball their translators (duh), but considering the paucity of works in translation in the US market I suppose any new translation initiative is positive.

The web is a wide and mysterious place

Some people take offense when you give them links. I sent an e-mail out this morning that went something like this.

Dear blogger:

Since you objected to my referencing your item I have removed that post from my site.

I was if anything excessive in giving acknowledgment to you. I linked to your post twice in mine. I quoted a few sentences from your piece as a direct quote, signaled with quotation marks, attribution, and a link.

To make sure this doesn’t happen again (I guess because you don’t wish to be bothered by traffic to your site) I have removed your site from my feeds. You can rest easy.

How the internet works

internet memes


Via Daily Wh.at


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