$50 million reasons to smile …

There was an interesting news item at Dear Author last week about Janet Evanovich, author of the hugely popular Stephanie Plum series, asking her publisher for $50 million for her next four books.

Yes, you read that right — $50 million for four books. Assuming that the four books are each around 100,000 words that is $125 per word. Yep, all those thes and buts and ands would be worth $125 a piece. If the books are only around 90,000 words (which seems more likely to me), that figure goes up to about $139 per word.

This boggles my mind.

Most writers, including yours truly, are lucky — lucky — to get 20 cents a word for whatever they write, whether it’s books, magazine articles, or something else. Some publications literally only pay pennies per word — if that.

Sure, the powers that be in Hollywood are making a movie out of Evanovich’s books, which will only increase her sales. But $50 million? For only four books? At $139 per word? C’mon. Is anybody really worth that kind of money, especially in today’s economy? I don’t know how many books Evanovich sells, but she would have to sell a whole heck of a lot of them to justify that kind of advance and for her publisher to make a profit.

Now, I’ve read several of the Plum books. I found the first four or five to be great, fun, breezy reads, so much so that I bought copies for friends for birthdays and whatnot. But somewhere around book seven or eight, the series starting feeling a little repetitive to me. It seemed like Stephanie was making the same mistakes and telling the same jokes over and over again. And don’t even get me started on the love triangle between her, Joe, and Ranger. I quit reading the series because I just wanted her to pick one of them already (!), and it didn’t look like it was ever going to happen.

Am I jealous? Yeah, a little bit. It would be nice to be as successful as Evanovich. I’m sure I would be quite happy to swap all of my book advances for just one of hers. Heck, forget the advance. I’d be happy with just her sales numbers.

It’ll be interested to see if Evanovich’s current publisher agrees to her price, if she’ll move to another publishing house, or if anyone will shell out that kind of money to her.

Perhaps if Evanovich’s Plum series ever gets up to the number 50, she can title the book Fifty Million Reasons to Smile

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