David Drake on Robert Jordan

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Paul Howard

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Sep 19, 2007, 1:49:34 PM9/19/07
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In a discussion of Robert Jordan and his work on Baen's Bar, a comment
was made that some of the slowness of his later books was caused by
people at Tor Books. Since David Drake was the info source, he decided
to comment further. His complete comment is below.

Subject: Re: Who Should Not Finish WoT for Robert Jordan
From: MikesMadhouse Listmanager <MikesMadhous...@bar.baen.com>
Date: Wed, 19 Sep 2007 06:36:49 -0400
To: (Recipients of 'MikesMadhouse' suppressed)

From: David Drake

Dear People,

What I said was that when Jim Rigney's work became a significant part of
not only the Tor but the Von Holzbrink bottom line, the plots for
individual volumes were decided by very highly placed people in council
with the author.

Business was expanded to a complete volume where it might originally
have been one of several strands in a volume, and the action in minor
theaters (so to speak) was followed when the author might have been
willing to elide it.

I further said and will repeat: there were quite a lot of people who
sneered at 'Robert Jordan' but whose own books wouldn't have been
published without the Wheel of Time to subsidize them. Since the onset
of Jim's (Jim Rigney's) illness, he hadn't been able to write--and a lot
of those people are not being published any more.

Dave Drake

--
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Paul Howard
*
Need a Wizard? Call on Harry Dresden not that Potter boy. [Very Big Grin]
*

Andrew Wheeler

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Sep 20, 2007, 8:21:00 PM9/20/07
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Drake may have inside information in this particular case, but that is
the opposite of the usual pattern for big bestselling authors --
*they're* the ones who have increasingly more power as their books sell
better and better.

Jordan/Rigney was a #1 _New York Times_ bestseller, and the single most
important author Tor had...I find it hard to believe they could, or
would try to, dictate plot specifics to him.

(I do think the existence of the projected prequel trilogy was
encouraged by Tor, and Rigney/Jordan might have spent more time on _New
Spring_ than he otherwise would because of that. Maybe that situation is
the source of Drake's comments?)

Even more than that, what I heard at the time was that Tor knew nothing
about the content of the last few main-sequence "Wheel of Time" books
until they arrived in the office (already edited by his wife and editor,
Harriet McDougal). Also, if you look at the solicitation catalog copy
for those books, you'll find that it is exceptionally vague and often
bears little relation to the final book -- usually a sign that the folks
in the office have no idea what will be in that book.

--
Andrew Wheeler: Professional Editor, Amateur Wise-Acre
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Paul Howard

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Sep 20, 2007, 8:34:11 PM9/20/07
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While I can't speak for David Drake, it might be that Tor might have
'flashed' more money at Mr. Rigney.

Konrad Gaertner

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Sep 20, 2007, 9:33:01 PM9/20/07
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Andrew Wheeler wrote:
>
> Jordan/Rigney was a #1 _New York Times_ bestseller, and the single most
> important author Tor had...

Was he really that significant? Checking PW's yearly summaries (and
damn they're a pain to Google), I get this for the past three years:

2006
Phantom by Terry Goodkind. Tor (258,827)
Hunters of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. Tor (110,134)
Halo. Eric Nylund. Orig. Tor (240,467)
http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6427430.html
http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6427375.html

2005
Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan. Tor (514,833)
http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6318930.html

2004
New Spring. Robert Jordan. Tor (548,937)
Dune: The Battle of Corrin. Brian Herbert and KJA. Tor (100,769)
http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA512903.html

So yes, he seems to be well out-selling anyone else at Tor when he
has a new book, but other years Tor manages to compensate with other
authors. And note that Jordan's sales seem to be declining a little
(particularly considering that _New Spring_ was an expansion of a
previously published novella).

--
Konrad Gaertner - - - - - - - - - - - - - email: kgae...@tx.rr.com
http://kgbooklog.livejournal.com/
"If I let myself get hung up on only doing things that had any actual
chance of success, I'd never do *anything*!" Elan, Order of the Stick

Andrew Wheeler

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Sep 21, 2007, 7:30:01 PM9/21/07
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Konrad Gaertner wrote:
>
> Andrew Wheeler wrote:
> >
> > Jordan/Rigney was a #1 _New York Times_ bestseller, and the single most
> > important author Tor had...
>
> Was he really that significant? Checking PW's yearly summaries (and
> damn they're a pain to Google), I get this for the past three years:
>
> 2006
> Phantom by Terry Goodkind. Tor (258,827)
> Hunters of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. Tor (110,134)
> Halo. Eric Nylund. Orig. Tor (240,467)
> http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6427430.html
> http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6427375.html
>
> 2005
> Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan. Tor (514,833)
> http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6318930.html
>
> 2004
> New Spring. Robert Jordan. Tor (548,937)
> Dune: The Battle of Corrin. Brian Herbert and KJA. Tor (100,769)
> http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA512903.html
>
> So yes, he seems to be well out-selling anyone else at Tor when he
> has a new book, but other years Tor manages to compensate with other
> authors. And note that Jordan's sales seem to be declining a little
> (particularly considering that _New Spring_ was an expansion of a
> previously published novella).

I expect that Jordan's books backlist exceptionally well, especially at
the chain stores and Amazon. And one year after each of his books is
originally published, it comes out in mass-market and sells another huge
pile of copies. (PW only lists new books on those round-ups.)

And selling half a million copies in hardcover -- the bulk of that over
the course of no more than two months -- generates quite a bit of money
for a publisher. From those numbers, you can see that he sells twice as
many as Goodkind, Tor's next strongest seller, and five times as many as
their best-selling non-media SF book.

Those numbers show *exactly* how dominant Jordan is.

Kent

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Sep 22, 2007, 11:05:33 AM9/22/07
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Konrad Gaertner wrote:
> 2005
> Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan. Tor (514,833)
> http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6318930.html
snip

> So yes, he seems to be well out-selling anyone else at Tor when he
> has a new book, but other years Tor manages to compensate with other
> authors. And note that Jordan's sales seem to be declining a little
> (particularly considering that _New Spring_ was an expansion of a
> previously published novella).

You're lacking some data which invalidates your assumptions.

New Spring was a summer release (01 June) and sold for six months that year.

Knife of Dreams was a Mid-November release, generating those numbers in under
7 weeks. I remember it well. Our store sold 118 copies of K.o.D. by the first
weekend on the shelf.

The Mass Market has been out for nearly a year and is still selling an average
of 100.5 copies per week across Canada (for the 4 weeks ended Sept 16, so
unaffected by news of his death.) (sorry, I don't have access to American
sales stats, but if the population percentages hold up, it is probably turning
around 1000 copies a week right now in the U.S.)

A note, our small chain, combined with other independent bookstores running
the same software package I use, accounted for 10% of those Canadian paperback
sales, while accounting for less than 5% of Canada's non-Christian book
market. For backlist SF&F, independents are your friends.

Kent

Sea Wasp

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Sep 22, 2007, 11:45:02 AM9/22/07
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Kent wrote:

>
> The Mass Market has been out for nearly a year and is still selling an
> average of 100.5 copies per week across Canada (for the 4 weeks ended
> Sept 16, so unaffected by news of his death.) (sorry, I don't have
> access to American sales stats, but if the population percentages hold
> up, it is probably turning around 1000 copies a week right now in the U.S.)

If true (and that sounds right), and if Jordan was getting what I
would expect (8-10% at least on each copy), then per week, that one
book (a year after release) is generating around $800 per week of income.

To put it another way, a year after release that sucker is selling
fast enough that it would have earned out my advance for Digital
Knight in slightly over 6 weeks. That's over $40,000 per year at that
level, and that level is the BOTTOM point after a year. Given the way
the graphs on these things work, that implies a vastly higher level of
sales -- and income.

500,000 copies in HARDCOVER -- as Jordan's probably at the 25%
royalty level -- implies he's getting nearly $4 MILLION dollars from
the hardback alone.

And the publisher gets a lot more than that.

--
Sea Wasp
/^\
;;;
Live Journal: http://seawasp.livejournal.com

Lawrence Watt-Evans

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Sep 22, 2007, 11:58:46 AM9/22/07
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On Sat, 22 Sep 2007 11:45:02 -0400, Sea Wasp
<seawasp...@sgeObviousinc.com> wrote:

> 500,000 copies in HARDCOVER -- as Jordan's probably at the 25%
>royalty level -- implies he's getting nearly $4 MILLION dollars from
>the hardback alone.

I believe he was only getting 15%, not 25%.


--
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The fifth issue of Helix is at http://www.helixsf.com
The tenth Ethshar novel has been serialized at http://www.ethshar.com/thevondishambassador1.html

Sea Wasp

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Sep 22, 2007, 12:27:00 PM9/22/07
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Lawrence Watt-Evans wrote:
> On Sat, 22 Sep 2007 11:45:02 -0400, Sea Wasp
> <seawasp...@sgeObviousinc.com> wrote:
>
>
>> 500,000 copies in HARDCOVER -- as Jordan's probably at the 25%
>>royalty level -- implies he's getting nearly $4 MILLION dollars from
>>the hardback alone.
>
>
> I believe he was only getting 15%, not 25%.
>

Oh, dear, then he was only getting about 2.25 million. Pauper's wages. :)

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