publishing’s dirty secrets

The Observer‘s Sara Nelson tries to figure out why publishers won’t reveal their numbers:
“Nobody talks about publishing numbers because they are so unbelievably low. How many authors really make a living wage from their advances? How many books actually earn out, or pay their authors anything beyond the initial advance? And how many copies sold turn any particular book into a best-seller? Those are the questions all people interested in publishing think they want to know and their answers are the ones publishing executives go out of their way not to reveal. A book can be on the best-seller lists for a couple of weeks and have sold 30,000 copies. Within publishing, that’s a reasonably good showing, but compared to, say, the music or movie or magazine business, where sales are measured in millions, it seems like nothing. When told, for example, that last year’s hit novel, Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated, sold about 100,000 copies in hardcover, one editor of a huge-circulation monthly gasped and said, “If I only sold 100,000 magazines, I’d get fired.” The fact that very few people in this country read books is publishing’s dirty little secret, and it’s one executives are, understandably, desperate to keep.”
Another link from Moby.