Edward Wyatt has an interesting article in the New York Times that not only details a mammoth book deal, but reveals some economic facts of publishing. In Greenspan’s Book Deal Is Said to Be Among the Richest, Wyatt reports on the $8.5 million advance that will be paid to Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve. That dollar amount places the book at the second highest advance ever paid to a nonfiction author.
Bill Clinton’s 2004 memoir My Life (has anybody gone back and fact-checked that book in light of the James Frey scandal and the increased scrutiny of memoirs?) earned an advance of more than $10 million. Pope John Paul II earned $8.5 million for his 1994 book Crossing the Threshold of Hope.
Look at those figures and you’ll get an idea of how our society ranks power & sex, money, and religion.
Wyatt’s article is also notable for its explanation of what the publisher, Penguin Press, will have to do to earn their money back. “Assuming a cover price of about $30, the publisher — which receives about half the price of each book sold — would have to sell nearly 600,000 copies of the book to recover the cost of the advance, and Mr. Greenspan would not receive any additional royalties until the book sells nearly 1.9 million copies,” Wyatt writes.
Although many observers have questioned how a dry financial book could ever sell that many copies without a cameo appearance from Paris Hilton, Greenspan’s agent said readers would be surprised. “The person that we watched testifying and speaking ‘Fed-speak’ is not Alan Greenspan,” attorney Robert B. Barnett said. “Alan Greenspan is articulate, insightful and also funny. The proposal that he circulated reflected that, and the publishers he met with saw that. This book will be a highly readable piece of work.”