Still, the typical chain – and the typical cut for each player – looks something like this:
- Author: 10% (less their agent’s fee, which is typically 15% of that 10%. Bestselling authors get a slightly higher percentage)
- Publisher: 30% (which has to cover editorial work, graphic design and marketing)
- Printers: 10%
- Distributors: 10%
- Retailers: 40% (which seems like a lot until you factor in bookshop rent and salaries)
Traditional publishers don’t necessarily deal directly with booksellers, or certainly not with every bookseller in the country – they use distributors. At Text Publishing, I guess through some sort of contractual arrangement, they use the distributors of the big multi-national firm, Penguin Random House.
Yesterday I visited the Melbourne office of Penguin Random House, to pitch my book to the distributors. Two other Text authors were there too (keep an eye out next May for Robbie Arnott’s novel Flames and Jessie Cole’s memoir Staying) as were Text Publisher Michael Heyward and an enthusiastic group of Text publicists.
It was kind of fun. There were probably about a dozen or more people squeezed into a small meeting room and each author was wheeled in, then out again, one at a time. Michael Heyward made some flattering introductory remarks and then I had about 10 minutes to talk about my book, and why I’d written it. Apparently having some insights into the story and its author helps the distributors sell the book to retailers.
It was something of a leap of faith for Text, who had never heard me speak and didn’t know what I was going to say. But the distributors were a friendly crowd, who helped by nodding and smiling and asking easy questions at the end. I think it went OK.
And if you’re the least bit worried about the state of international publishing houses, relax a little.
The picture above is of Penguin Random House’s Melbourne office (707 Collins St, Docklands). The office is enormous and gorgeous. To the left and right of the internal courtyards (there is definitely more than one) are tier after tier of open plan cubicles. I presume there are offices too – I wasn’t able to explore!
Text Publishing’s offices are far more modest, but still take up the whole top floor of a lovely art deco building in Melbourne, called Swann House (see photo at right).
By coincidence, my day-job company – always only a very small firm – had offices in Swann House during the 1990s. And to stretch credulity further, my day-job company subsequently moved from Swann House to a terrace house in Drummond Street, Carlton (which is where they were when I joined – we’ve since moved yet again). That house at 203 Drummond Street was the former premises of legendary publishers McPhee-Gribble. You wouldn’t read about it!