Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Oh, I Get It, It's a Profit Deal!

I saw this headline on yahoo news: New prize for unpublished manuscripts, so of course I had to read the story.

I'm not big on writing contests, but I have entered a very few. Randy haiku on Good Vibes, the Rock Me Baby contest on Clean Sheets, and the typewriter contest on Desdmonas.Com. I've placed well, but honestly, I did it so that my name would appear on more Google searches. (Not a problem now, but when I started writing, I wanted my name out there.)

It's not germane to my writing, but my degree is in finance, with an emphasis on monetary theory. The finance degree allows me to make a living where my writing doesn't. Since graduating though, I have evoked the terms "velocity of money" and "money multipliers" only twice. Both times, I used them to point out to art divas that all profit is not evil, despite their starry-eyed Kum By Yah philosophies. (At that point, the discussion went right over their sanctimonious heads and they resorted to spouting more art diva "feed my inner muse" crap.)

The point here is that I'm not anti-profit. How profit is earned, and what's done with it are different matters, but profit in itself isn't good or evil. It's the reason why we bother to get out of bed in the morning.

But since I am a financial type, the first thing I did was throw some numbers into a spread sheet and have a look at this contest. Hmmm. The payout - $100,000 to the winner, $25,000 to second place, $10,000 to runner up, and $7,000 in other prizes, - adds up to $142,000 in expenses, assuming no administrative overhead, PR costs, etc.
A maximum of 50,000 manuscripts will be accepted, at $85 a pop for an entry fee.

He probably won't get 50,000 entries, but there are a lot of desperate writers out there. If he does get all 50,000, his income is $4,250,000. Minus the cost of prizes, he walks away with $4,108,000 profit. All he promises is that:"As the winners' agent, we will nurture them, introduce them to publishers and negotiate the best deal for them," Shomron said.

That doesn't mean you'll be published. It only means you'll have an agent.

You know, for $4,108,000, even minus the taxes, I could start one hell of a small press. For 4 million dollars, I could have a print-on-demand house print your book, slap a sticker on it with the name of my small press, distribute it for free, and still have money to hire a sexy cabana boy for my new swimming pool (outside my new McMansion).

But what if he doesn't get 50,000 manuscripts? What if there are only 45,000 desperate writers with $85 to blow on a shot at $100,000? Profit of over 3.6 million. Even at 1/10th of his limit, 5,000 entries, he clears $283,000 after expenses. Not too shabby. How much do you earn per year? His break even point, by the way, is 1,671 entries (leaving $35 dollars of profit.)

Come to think of it.... where's my spread sheet? Let's think of this as a lottery with an $85 ticket price with a 1 in 50,000 shot at winning the $100,000 top prize. If you were to enter 1,000 manuscripts, and you won, you'd walk away with a profit of $6,500 before taxes. I doubt your entry fees would be tax deductible as expenses, so you'd probably want to max out at 600 entries, which would leave you a tidy after-tax profit of $24,500. Not bad. Is that more in the range of your annual take home pay? Probably. Purely on the odds, if 50,000 people enter, you have a one in 83 chance of winning. But if only 1671 do, your chances pop up to 1 in 2.78. That's better than the California lotto! And hey, with this guy as your agent, you might even possibly sell the book to a real publisher and make a couple thousand on top of that. Sweet.

Who's in?

1 comment:

Yasamin said...

Everyone and their mother is talking about this "award" and how these well known people could be attached to it without seeing the all around creepiness of the idea.

You want to have a moment of nervous laughing? read the contract they make you sign when you hit the finals.