Jared Paul Stern — the disgraced “Page Six”-er captured on videotape allegedly demanding money to stop negative coverage — finally sold his long-promised memoir yesterday, a gossip-world tell-all that Gawker assures us fetched someplace in the six figures. Times books reporter Julie Bosman today follows up by raising the question of why anyone would choose to spend, well, anything on it. Let’s take a look at unit sales for previous, similar works, as reported in the Times:
• Burning Down My Masters’ House, by Jayson Blair, Times fabulist and plagiarist: 4,000 copies
• The Fabulist, by Stephen Glass, New Republic plagiarist: 4,000 copies
• It!: 9 Secrets of the Rich and Famous That’ll Take You to the Top, by Paula Froelich, “Page Six” reporter: 9,000 copies
• Welcome to Yesterday, by Ian Spiegelman, fired “Page Six” reporter: 1,000 copies
• 4% Famous, by Deborah Schoeneman, erstwhile New York gossip reporter: 4,000 copies
Now let’s do a little math, shall we?
Authors earn a royalty on each book sold, and those royalties are charged against the advance until the book “earns out.” The standard royalty for a hardcover is 10 percent of the cover price. So let’s say Stern’s book retails for $25. That means his royalty would be $2.50 a book. If we assume his advance was the smallest possible that fits the phrase “six-figure deals” — that would be $100,000 — it means it’d take Stern a mere 40,000 copies to earn out his advance.
Next, let’s go a little further. The Times’ sales numbers are from Nielsen BookScan, which purports to tally 70 to 80 percent of all book retailers in the country. So let’s extrapolate 100 percent coverage from that, which means adding a third to the sales of each disgraced journalist and/or former gossip reporter’s book. That’ll create a ballpark national sales number. Now let’s average them.
So how many books can Stern expect to sell if he does roughly what his competitors did? That’s 5,852 books. Or 24,148 units shy of earning his advance.