Sarah Palin Book Income Update

Why is Sarah Smiling?

Publishers Weekly just came out with its list of the best selling books of 2009.

For all of you readers out there who thought that Going Rogue by Sarah Palin was a joke, the joke is on you.  Sarah’s publisher, HarperCollins is laughing all the way to the bank. And so is Sarah.  Yes. Going Rogue was the #1 non-fiction best-seller of the year. It sold 2,674,684 copies. Nobody else came close.

Ask The Agent made an educated guess that Palin received a $6,000,000 advance for the book.  Truthfully, we were blowing smoke. We have no idea what that advance really was. But for comparison, it was reported that Senator Edward Kennedy’s received  an $8,000,000 advance for his autobiography, True Compass. It was  #5 on the non-fiction best seller list selling 855,843, about a third of Palin’s sales.

Now that the sales are in, it is a lot easier to calculate how much Palin actually made on the book and how well her publisher did.

Whatever Palin’s advance was, it was an “advance” against royalties. Royalties are based on actual sales of a book. An author doesn’t receive royalties until the advance is “earned out”, i.e. royalties exceed the advance that was paid. Typically the royalty rate is 15% of the list price, which, in the case of Going Rogue, was $28.99. So Palin made $4.34 on each book or a total of $11,608,128.56. Not bad for a book she didn’t even write.   She may have paid some of this out to her hack ghost writer. We don’t know how much, but $1,000,000 would be a lot for this kind of work. And shabby work it was!

But  wait! It gets even better. The numbers we are talking about are for US sales of the hardback version only. It doesn’t include the following: world English sales, translations, e-book sales, electronic apps, movie options, audio books, condensations, serializations, and merchandise (calendars, t-shirts, mugs, video games, and posters). And let’s not forget book club sales. And the Conservative Book Club is a huge driver of sales, frequently in the seven figures. We don’t know these numbers and probably never will.

But wait! It gets even better. Those numbers are only for sales in 2009.  Going Rogue is still a best seller juggernaut. Her Amazon ranking is (as of today) #266 and her Kindle ranking is #573. Trade and Mass Market paperbacks will be rolling out sometime this year. By comparison, the best-selling non-fiction trade paperback in 2009 was Glen Beck’s Common Sense selling over a million copies.  Assume 8% royalty on a $16.00 paperback (that is conservative), Palin stands to reap another  $1,250,000 plus change on these sales.

Feel sorry for the publisher, HarperCollins, for shelling out all that dough for royalties? It’s ok. Don’t worry. Let’s look at publisher costs. Typically a publisher will receive about half of the retail price of a book which would be for this book $14.47. HarperCollins out of pocket costs would be approximately $3.00 for preproduction (editing and the like), $2.50 for manufacturing, and $2.00 for marketing. Add to this Palin’s $4.34 royalty. The publisher’s profit  should net out at $12,383,786. (This does not account for publishers fixed overhead costs). And they also stand to make lots of money on continuing sales, paperback sales and other subsidiary sales.

I wish I was Palin’s agent. Let’s see….15% of author’s net income. That’s $1,741,219 and counting.  Sweeet!


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12 Responses to “Sarah Palin Book Income Update”

  1. Ilana DeBare Says:

    Andy, you know how to throw red meat to your liberal Bay Area readers! Fascinating.

  2. Kristen L-M Says:

    Andy, You don’t really want to be Sarah Palin’s agent any more than you want to become a hit man or a tobacco executive. Sure, it’s fun to think about going over to the dark side once in a while, but really, at the end of the day, no amount of money can bring the same joy as noble poverty, professional integrity, and lovely-yet-unmarketable prose.



    Are you having that daydream again? About the new BMW 535i convertible? The red one?

    You betcha.

    • andyrossagency Says:


      Uh…Well…(eyes looking down…feet shifting…mumble mumble mumble) I guess you’re right. Excuse me, I have an incoming call from a perspective client. “Hello, Dick? How are the rest of the Chaneys doing? Are you the one who left that new BMW in my driveway? You little devil.”

  3. Michael G-G Says:

    I wish you were Palin’s agent too. Perhaps you could get her a better ghost writer.

    Not that I, a rabid liberal (yes, yes, foaming at the mouth and all that), have read her book–but I’ll take your word for its quality.

    • andyrossagency Says:

      Michael, I’m glad you brought this up. I have been working as a sub-agent for Ms. Palin and (entre nous), sensitive negotiations are in process with Philip Roth to ghost her next book. Let’s cross our fingers.

  4. Peter Richardson Says:

    Andy, weren’t a lot of Palin books sold on Amazon for $5? I can’t figure out who makes money on those.

    • andyrossagency Says:

      Peter, I didn’t hear about Amazon selling them for $5. I suppose Amazon could have sold it as a loss leader, but that seems a little extreme. Are you sure about that? I never heard that.

  5. Lynn Braddy Says:

    Its July 18, 2011. She has now sold combined roughly 4 million books. At 4.34 per book, 17,360,000.00 simply amazing

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