re: President Obama’s Book Contract v. Mine . . . Any Similarities?

posted 9/14/12

Dear Editor…

Business Insider just ran the article “How Barack Obama Made His Fortune” by Walter Hickey that included details of President Obama’s book deal for The Audacity of Hope. Obviously I’d never get a $1.9 million advance, but how about the rest of the percentages? Would my book contract look like that?

Thanks,
Anonymous

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Dear Anonymous…

It’d be more similar than you’d think. Mr. Hickey’s article says the President’s book contract grants 15% of the list price for hardcover copies (10-15% is common), 7% for trade paperback (you might get 8%), 8% for the first 150,000 copies sold of the mass market paperback with 10% thereafter (6% and 8% are common), and 10% for audio recording (standard). The big difference is that 150,000 escalator. If your publisher predicted sales like that, you just might quality for that $1.9 mil! Most of us cross our fingers for more modest numbers, say in the early double-digits, at least in the first year or so, and our advances and escalators reflect that. We’re talking more like 12.5% at 10,000 copies with 15% at 15,000 and thereafter. You may have to ask for an escalator, which ups your cut when sales are strong. Most publishers prefer that to raising advances because an escalator is payment on actual sales, not on predictions.

Happy writing!
The Editor

P.S. For more on this topic, read Contracts, Publishing Biz
posted by: The Editor
under: Contracts, Publishing Biz
Comments to "re: President Obama’s Book Contract v. Mine . . . Any Similarities?" | Add a Comment
    1. Kathy Higgs-Coulthard wrote (on 09/14/12 at 3:32 pm) :

      Great info! I had no idea there was such a thing as escalators–except at the mall 🙂

      [Reply]

    2. Bobbi Katz wrote (on 09/14/12 at 3:56 pm) :

      I think that the Editor has done a fine job of responding to the note from Anonymous. I was an editor at Random House during the Reagan years, and I was dumbfounded by the advances that Nancy ((or was it President Reagan?) received. I am sure that President Obama’s publisher is very pleased with the sale of his titles. I can’t imagine how many books by other politicians end up on remainder tables.
      Even a small potato author like me can ask for an escalating percentage. That doesn’t mean that I do!
      Bobbi Katz

      Surely Obama

      [Reply]

    3. The Editor wrote (on 09/14/12 at 4:47 pm) :

      I should probably add that Mr. Obama made this book deal after giving the keynote address at the 2004 convention as a candidate for Senate. As Mr. Hickey points out, “The speech, “The Audacity of Hope,” was a slam-dunk that propelled Obama’s popularity upwards in the years before his presidential campaign — Obama inked a number of book deals with Random House.”

      [Reply]

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