Thursday, June 26, 2008

Did I Miss the US Sale?

Publishers Lunch's weekly round-up of deals had the following squib this evening:
NYT bestselling author Terry Goodkind's A DIFFERENT KIND OF HUMAN and THE HINGES OF HELL, to Maya Mavjee and Kristin Cochrane at Doubleday Canada, for publication in 2009 and 2010, by Danny Baror at Baror International, on behalf of Russell Galen at Scovil Chichak Galen Literary Agency.
Did I miss the US announcement, or is that deal still hanging fire? It's odd to see a major author -- who isn't himself Canadian, as far as I remember -- with a solo deal for Canadian rights, instead of having them rolled up with either the US or UK.

Update, 6/21: With the (utterly unsubstantiated, but what the hell) rumors posted by the second Anonymous, below, we can work out some of the expected parameters of this deal.

Goodkind has been reportedly unhappy with being a fantasy author, and wants to be seen as a "mainstream" writer (which somewhat explains the quote ascribed to HC UK; they're desperately trying to keep him happy when he's already jumped ship from his US publisher -- the one who discovered him and made him a bestseller).

And "two major powerhouses" -- who could they be? Tor is explicitly out of the running. Given Goodkind's interests and history, I would expect that general trade powerhouses are meant -- and the biggies there are Random House, Penguin USA, Hachette, and HarperCollins. Since it's not necessarily the SF imprints in the mix, I couldn't even guess as to which two of those it is (or which imprints or editors).

I'm intrigued by the "so low in the double digit millions" comment -- for a two book deal, that means the expectation is well north of $5m per book, probably at least $10m for purely US rights.

Let's run some numbers based on that, shall we?

We'll assume a $29.95 hardcover and a subsequent $9.99 mass-market paperback -- both on the high end, but it'll do for these purposes -- and royalty rates of 20% for the hardcover and 12% for the paperback -- similarly high, at the edges of the plausible.

And let's assume that these two books sell just as well as the hardcover of Confessor (the last book of "Sword of Truth") and the paperback of Phantom (the penultimate book of that series). This is an unreasonable assumption, but it's one I expect the agent will be making, and insisting on.

Confessor has sold, according the the standard industry-reporting vehicle that I have access to, on the order of 175,000 copies to date. Let's be generous and say that's only about 60% of Confessor's total final hardcover sales -- it's still selling now, for one thing -- and take the total up to a round 300,000. At a 20% royalty and $29.95 list, that's about $1.8 million earned royalty.

On the paperback side, Phantom has reportedly sold somewhat north of a hundred thousand copies. Again, let's be generous and say the total sale will be two hundred thousand. Assume, again, a $9.99 list and 12% royalty, and each of the new books will earn about $240,000 in paperback.

Add those together, generously assume some revenue from audio sales and other domestic subsidiary rights (but no book club sales -- Goodkind hates bookclubs), and you come out with roughly $2.5 million earned for each book, under quite generous assumptions.

If Anonymous #2 is correct, Tor offered at least twice this figure and was laughed out of the auction.

Since agents love round numbers, I suspect the figure desired in this case is $10 million per book. And, to even get the publisher's revenues to that level, A Different Kind of Human and Hinges of Hell would need to sell over half a million copies in hardcover, each, with a similarly blockbuster paperback sale.

As we know from Publishers Weekly's annual round-up of hardcover sales, only about twenty fiction books hit that level at all in any given year. Goodkind's books have not previously been among them.

To earn out at that level, these Goodkind books would have to sell five or ten times as well as his previous books have -- to be blunt, they'd need to sell to the vast general female audience for romances and thrillers. They would need to sell at a level that -- of the vast range of writers ever connected with the SFF field -- only Stephen King has done consistently, and only a few others (Dean Koontz, John Jakes, etc.) have ever done.

I have not kept up with "Sword of Truth," so I may be working for an outdated image of his work, but...I don't believe Goodkind is the kind of writer whom that mainstream female audience is going to take to heart. He does have a large, devoted fan-base -- mostly of fantasy readers, despite his protestations -- and that audience could always get somewhat bigger. But if A Different Kind of Human sold even one million copies in hardcover, I'd be astonished.

It will be very interesting to see who, if anyone, walks away with US rights for these books, and how much they are reported to have paid for those rights. (And what is included in those rights -- at $10m per book, I know I'd demand film rights be thrown in.)

Update, 6/26: The US sale, as reported today by Publishers Weekly, was for three untitled books. If that's the deal Anonymous #2 was talking about below, the financials become quite different -- obviously, the sales projections from three books will be about 50% higher than for two books. So, assuming this deal was in the low double-digit millions, Putnam Berkley can make money on these books -- as long as they sell at least as well as Goodkind's previous work.

Now, the thing to do is to wait and see -- the first of these books will be published in fall 2009, and, since Putnam is trying to reposition Goodkind, I'd expect a major galley push to booksellers, reviewers, and bloggers (but probably not many fantasy bloggers, if any) in the late spring to early summer. (It'll probably also be a big BEA galley.)


Anonymous said...

Nope, you didn't miss it -- no US sale yet. Methinks something is afoot...

Anonymous said...

Not sold as of yet... It seems to be winding down from 4 major publishers to a battle between two major powerhouses (Tor’s offer was so low in the double digit millions, they were simply dismissed).

Rumor has it that His UK (HC)publisher doubled their offer from his last book. Swooning over the 15Chapter treatise for "A different Kind of Human" and "Hinges of Hell" that is being passed around.

"Stunningly brilliant, just what we need from a main stream powerhouse like Goodkind", was what I read in a written statement from HC Last month.

But we shall see

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the publisher is also taking movie rights as part of the deal. Epic fantasy novels rarely get turned into movies, but mainstream thrillers do all the time.

Anonymous said...

Here is the early press release.

Thanx to Stephen for bringing this to my attention...I lack the desire of going through all the sign up crapola... I just can't bring myself to do it....I do know that this is only the US book rights. The audio, the movie etc were not part of the deal.

I also have some information anon #2 posted/alluded to, but I don't know that you would be interested or not as its hearsay on my part.
I'm not into spreading about unsubstantiated claims.

Andrew, I sent you an e-mail. if you would like to chat with regards to this. I can also point you in the right info seeking direction.


Anonymous said...

Could have been as "low" as $15-18 million for three books, if Tor's offer was "so low in the double digit millions" as to mean $10-12 million. (Note: I have absolutely no inside knowledge of this deal from any side.)

Ran said...

That may be true, but if Goodkind's primary interest was breaking into mainstream, Putnam may conceivably have offered more in the way of opportunity such that a similar $10-12 million offer would have been okay.

That's my reading of the gist of what Andrew is speculating on -- that the money wasn't quite so important as getting a more mainstream publisher.

I'll also add that it seems to me that Putnam is taking a gamble, but I suppose that's how it always i in publishing.

RobB said...

Good, now he can go from writing "Not Fantasy" to "Not Thriller."

Andrew Wheeler said...

Balerion: Since Goodkind's agent Russ Galen specifically mentioned Putnam's "presentation" in the PW article, the impression I get is that this wasn't primarily a money decision.

That probably means all of the offers were in the same ballpark, but Putnam had a package with a marketing plan that Goodkind's team was happiest with.

(Of course, we still don't know what that ballpark was, and may never know.)

And this certainly is a gamble -- it always is when a big author wants to try something new, or just steps away from an established series. Anything Goodkind did right after "Sword of Truth" would be a gamble, but making a clean break to do something very different is potentially a better bet that leaping into another similar epic fantasy series.

I'll reserve judgment at least until we learn more about these books: "thriller set in an American city" covers a lot of ground, and could describe everything from Richard Price to John Grisham to Laurell Hamilton to Janet Evanovich.

Anonymous said...

I love Janet Evanovich!
Stephanie and Lula never cease to put a grin on my face.

At any rate, think more along the lines of a Koontz style. Not to long ago Goodkind read several chapters to a group of fans (late 07), from all over the world. It was well received and critiqued. The publishers and editors form various publishing houses however were so impressed they began laying the groundwork to woo Goodkind over to their house[s].
"Ivan Held said: “We are very excited with Terry’s new book and are thrilled to be given the opportunity to share these novels with an even wider market", is a clear enough response that they were very excited about what they read, enough so that they did put a truly great deal together.

Lets face it, the guy sells a massive amount of books! Now, Goodkind isn't everyone’s cup of tea…..and then some, but you have to give the man his due where and when it comes to his market sales. If “some people” would get their bias out of the line of site, they would see the strong factors that make Goodkind's books do so well and an ideal addition to a publishing house.

We also cannot over look the fact that Susan Petersen Kennedy (who brokered the deal), who runs as tight a ship as she does isn't about taking chances...especially in these markets! Editor Susan Allison is an excellent choice for Goodkind as well. She and Ivan have had some wonderful things to say about Goodkind and his works.

Personally, I'd say give the guy a chance. You may not be disappointed.

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