Book Business

Actually, It Is About Money

It is well-documented, Jesus spoke about money more than any other subject, as recorded in Scripture. He knew it was part of everyone’s life and used it often to teach a myriad of lessons.

Still, money can be a polarizing topic.

One of my favorite sports books is Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis. It is the story of Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A’s professional baseball team who dramatically altered the landscape of running a team, involving reliance on data and money-based decisions rather than intuition and personal contact. To maintain his complete objectivity, Beane rarely watches his team play. Instead he relies on data, wins and losses.

The cold hard facts of data and money are an ever-present element in book publishing as well, traditional or self-published, broader or Christian markets.

We would all like to think there is something more to the publishing process, especially in the Christian market where there’s something important and meaningful at stake. And there is of course.

But “moneybook” is always just beneath the surface.

Every publisher must pay attention to money. Even non-profit ministry publishers need to pay attention to it. Companies specializing in self-publishing need to make a profit or they are out of business, along with their authors.

Amazon, a key financial piece of every traditional publisher and a substantial majority of sales for the self-published author is a publicly traded company under tremendous pressure to improve their financials on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis. This, from a company employing over one-third of a million people, with 2016 revenues of over $135 billion and a market cap close to a half-trillion US dollars. But in the mind of Amazon and their stockholders, the company is not nearly big enough.

Like it or not, every author consistently makes life and work decisions involving an element of money. An author who “doesn’t care about the money” usually has another means of earning a living, but at some point, money enters into the equation, even for them.

Writing anything is never devoid of expense. The simplest computer with text software costs something. A cheap computer, which crashes and loses your work, could end up being very expensive. Your time is worth something. Computers need electricity, printers need ink and paper, even old manual typewriters needed ribbon…and Whiteout.

Agents consider monetary issues when deciding who to represent. Agents are paid when an author gets paid. This is why we evaluate books based on their money making potential.

To be honest, an author attempting to exhibit virtuous traits by telling an agent, “I don’t care if I make a dime on this,” will get a response from an agent along the lines of, “Well, I wish you would!”

Many agent-rejections are simply versions of, “I don’t believe I can sell and make money on this.”

But just as a non-profit needs to get over the hesitancy of asking for financial support, every church should be transparent to their members regarding their finances, and every small local store needs to make money to survive, every Christian author should recognize the recipe of their literary work is a combination of inspiration and perspiration, plus literary and fiduciary ingredients.

Writing something for others to purchase and read always contains a significant element of emotion, either positive or negative. Once you balance these emotions with the practical financial aspect, the path forward will be less emotionally treacherous, infused with an element of realism.


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