• January 2013

Jan. 21: Why do publishers lie? Michael Levin explains

New York Times author Michael Levin has written, co-written, or ghostwritten more than 100 books, of which eight have hit the bestseller list.

He is an Amherst College graduate, a Columbia Law School-trained attorney, and a non-practicing member of the Massachusetts bar. He served for many years as a member of the Authors Guild Council, and as Treasurer of the Authors Guild Foundation.

And given his background, Levin has big insights into the publishing industry—including why publishers are laoth to provide accurate sales figures.

“There is no equivalent of gold records in the book publishing industry,” he explains. “That’s because sales numbers are almost impossible to come by, and the numbers you can track down simply cannot be verified.”

Publishers are loath to provide accurate sales figures, for two reasons, Levin insists.

  • One is that they don’t want authors to know how many copies they sold, so that they don’t have to pay all the royalties due the authors. Second, they’re embarrassed by how few copies most books sell.
  • Publishers control sales data the way the former Soviet Union controlled data regarding the sale of wheat, with about as little honesty and transparency.

So what’s an author to do?


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