Book Royalties (was: win32all-141 for Python 2.2)

Bruce Eckel Bruce at
Sun Dec 30 12:19:08 EST 2001

You can get a rough estimate with these numbers:

A computer book author typically gets between 10-15% royalties.
Let's be positive and say it's 15%. But that's 15% of what the
publisher gets, which is roughly half of what the bookseller
charges (retail, in general, doubles their cost, which sounds like
a lot but retail is still a very difficult business). My copy of
Mark's book says $35 on the back, although this is often
discounted. So let's say the publisher gets $17.50, then Mark gets
about $2.00 per book. 

It looks like the publisher gets an inordinate share here, but less
than 10% of books that most publishers put out make back their
investment -- that is, break even. About 1% are actually
successful. The successful books must pay for all the publisher's
mistakes, thus the low royalty rate. I believe that most publishers
look at this and say "to be successful, we must pump out lots of
books to increase the number that the 1% represents." Maybe they
don't say this explicitly, but there is pressure in that direction.
I think O'Reilly has been successful because it has said "instead
of always hunting for the blockbusters, let's try to make every
book something that people will want." An excellent business model,
it would seem, but one that I suspect will only work in a
privately-held company, as the constant-growth imperative of the
publicly-held corporation pressures everyone to abandon quality for

Just my 2%.


*********** REPLY SEPARATOR  ***********

On 12/29/01 at 6:43 PM Peter Hansen wrote:

>Ron Stephens wrote:
>> Thanks, Mark. I really appreciate your efforts. I also suggest
>> *anyone* and everyone* using Python and Windows rush out and buy
>> book, Python Programming on Win32. Do you have any other book
projects in
>> mind?
>From what I understand of how book publishing works,
>Mark probably makes about 10 cents on each sale.  ;-)
>It would be better to just send him a cheque!
>Peter Hansen, P.Eng.
>peter at

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