Suddenly the fact that Eisler is turning down a $500,000 doesn’t seem so dramatic, does it? Particularly when you figure he’s earning $30,000 on a self-published $2.99 short story. Imagine what he’ll get from a higher-priced novel that his fans have been waiting for.
Think of it this way: he’s going to start earning money that he will be able to keep even if something goes wrong rather than receiving an interest-free loan that he would have to pay back if something went wrong in the business relationship with his publisher.
Earned money versus a loan. Which would you take? Especially when he’s already earning $30,000 on a $2.99 short story. Okay, for the sake of speculation, let’s say he prices the new John Rain novel at $6.99 and the novel sells the exact same number of copies that the short story sold (it won’t; novels sell better than short stories, even short stories by bestsellers). That means he would earn $90,000 in the first year of publication, only $51,000 short of what he would have gotten as a loan from St Martins Press.
The difference here, however, isn’t the short term money, the loan versus the actual earned income. It’s about the long haul. Eisler wants the book to earn over its entire life. Traditional publishing wants to earn back its investment plus a 4% minimum profit within the first six months of the book’s life. (I call that the produce model—traditional publishing acts as if books can spoil on a bookstore shelf, and those books must be moved aside for the next big thing.)
Eisler is going to invest less than $1000 to earn a minimum of $90,000 within a year. All by walking away from a loan that he isn’t sure of keeping.
1) Amazon changed their cut, which made a big difference
2) Eisler already has a large audience
You can’t, however, argue with math.
But be aware of fashion.
The Flavor of the Month becomes something to avoid.
Careers do not all go up, up, up.
Update: Eisler explains here.