Book Beat: Author Earnings and the Value of Books

Hello all! Welcome back to Book Beat! The publishing world has been pretty quiet this past week, but we still have some author and movie successes to share as well as news about upcoming books with some unusual authors and subjects.

Remember George R. R. Martin’s vague update on his work on Winds of Winter? Well, it turns out that his fans aren’t the only one who have been waiting for any little word on his latest. GRRM recently visited his publisher’s building in NYC and joked that people on the street knew him, but not the security guard at the publisher’s! Meanwhile, The Mystery Knight graphic novel hardcover adapted by Ben Avery and illustrated by Mike S. Miller is now available! As The Mystery Knight is essentially a collection of the Dunk and Egg short stories that serve as prequels to Game of Thrones, it’s not exactly new content, but you know what they say about beggars and choosers. But don’t believe those GRRM/Neil Gaiman/Neil deGrasse Tyson video game rumors; they’re absolutely not true.

Despite his books, graphic novels, and upcoming Game of Thrones spin-off television series money, however, GRRM still has a long way to go before he can topple J. K. Rowling’s renewed status at the top of Forbes’ list of world’s richest authors. Unsurprisingly, the Harry Potter spin-off movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and sales of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child boosted Rowling to the top of the charts, but it’s doubtful that she will make the cut next year.

Speaking of movie adaptations of books, The Dark Tower, the movie based on the Stephen King series of the same name, managed to topple Christopher Nolan’s more highly-lauded Dunkirk at the box office this past weekend despite only earning an 18% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s now looking doubtful that The Dark Tower will be turned into a movie franchise.

Of course, there’s also more to books and reading than simply monetary success. Philip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials, has recently spoken out on booksellers’ steep price cuts. Pullman, who also serves as head of The Society of Authors, a trade union for “writers, illustrators, and literary translators” in the U.K., stated his beliefs that excessively discounted books damaged authors’ brand and propagated the belief that “books are a cheap commodity and reading is an experience that’s not worth very much.” (The Society of Authors’ open letter against the same phenomenon was more focused on the damage to the authors’ earnings and the affect on the market.) Less popular books, the Society and Pullman argued, can be discounted, but popular books such as Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which easily sell at full price, should not be marked down so heavily. In my opinion, it’s difficult to confidently say that books would sell at full price, and I find it difficult to have sympathy for such successful authors such as Rowling, King, and Pullman.

 La Cartonera Publishing Logo, 2017

Instead, I would much rather spend money on books with unique origins such as Leroy Bennett, a formerly homeless man in South Carolina who lived on the streets for five and a half years and will be publishing a book on his experiences, or the books produced by cartoneras, craftspeople who make book covers out of recycled cardboard for books by local authors, or even a children’s book about Fiona, Cincinnati Zoo’s baby hippopotamus.

Stephanie Tran

Stephanie Tran

Queer, 20-something intersectional feminist, Vietnamese-American, and born fangirl. Writes about anything geeky and thinks about food too much. You can find Stephanie's Twitter rants at @YouAndYourEgo.