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Arts & Entertainment

Navigating the Publishing Business, Part 1

David Baldacci

Lesson time 16:46 min

David offers rare insight into the inner workings of the publishing world, including how to find an agent, how to navigate rights, and how to best promote your book.

David Baldacci
Teaches Mystery and Thriller Writing
In his MasterClass, bestselling thriller author David Baldacci teaches you how he fuses mystery and suspense to create pulse-pounding action.
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[MUSIC PLAYING] - The publishing industry is a big, unwieldy beast with a lot of moving parts to it. But it's not indecipherable. It's not unfathomable. It's not overwhelming if you take the time to learn it. And I would counsel all of you to take the time to learn the business side of it. It'll put you in control of your career. And what I'm gonna talk about are now some of the lessons I've learned from that road that I went on in trying to understand and learn about the publishing industry. [MUSIC PLAYING] All of us, I think, if we get a book published for the first time will be overwhelmed and thrilled by that facet of it, and not really focusing on the other part of it-- the business side of it. We're just like, thank you, God. I'm finally published, and my book's out on the shelf, and everything is wonderful in my life. But it is a business, and you can't lose sight of that. A lot of first-time novelists, and a lot of novelists just in general, sort of abdicate the responsibility of their career and leave it to other people. I write the books and the business side will take care of itself, until it doesn't. You know, until the next contract you get is not what you really thought that you would be worth or what you would be paid, and you're upset about it, and you're not-- and you're wondering, why isn't the publisher supporting my books more out there in the marketplace? Why don't I see my stuff at the airports, or in the front stacks at the Barnes & Noble? Well, you've abdicated, you know, control of your career over to somebody else. No one in the world will care more about your career-- not your agent, not your publisher, not your best friend-- than you. I'm a lawyer by training, and I think that gets me an edge, but that doesn't mean that you can't do the same thing that I did. I got my first publishing contract for "Absolute Power," and it's very lengthy from my American publisher, plus 40 other publishers around the world. But I focus on that one. That was the biggest. And because contracts were something I was intimately familiar with, I read the whole thing. And even though I didn't have the leverage really to make significant changes in that-- you know, they were paying me a lot of money for the book, and I was happy about that. It wasn't like I was gonna say, no, I'm not gonna take this deal, because I didn't have another deal to back it up. But I learned about how the publishing industry set up is really royalty-driven. You know, you're given an advance, and then the books sell. And then you're paid 15% of the cover price of a hardcover. So if a hardcover sells for $25, and you're basically gonna to get $4 a book off of that. And even though they wholesale it-- so the publisher's only getting like $13 for the book. They pay you $4, and they keep $9. OK Me? That seemed like this is crazy because my other rule is, nobody should make more off of a book than the person who created it, the writer. You an...

Captivate your readers

David Baldacci has captivated readers across the world with gripping, suspense-fueled thrillers. Now the New York Times–bestselling author of 38 novels shares his techniques for crafting authentic characters, developing research-based plots, and navigating the world of publishing. Learn how to write a novel with red herrings, clues, and plot twists that will keep your readers turning the pages.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Shows that leveling up your research helps to make your storytelling effortless

I loved how straightforward and down to earth David was. He addressed all aspects of writing and I found it so helpful. I feel encouraged and optimist

David, your class was AWESOME. Award-winning author, Dee Willson

David Baldacci provides many valuable lessons on writing, and not just the technical aspects of writing a thriller. I really appreciate his encouragement, too!


Liz C.

I wonder, how do you submit your material to a publisher and protect your material? Is there a specific process?

Michele H.

Severing foreign language publishing rights from English language rights would never have occurred to me nor would I have realized why that would be such a benefit. Great to know! Very helpful lecture.

Dale U.

A creative mind for the book, a head for business about the publishing industry and realizing that social media is not just a luxury but a necessity. I have learned more than I ever thought possible in this class. I've got some work to do.

Ashe W.

Finally somebody talking about this. We need a masterclass by Baldacci or someone else (maybe an agent or editor?) on the Business of Writing - it's always so shrouded in mystery (cliche, sorry). This was deliciously satisfying and informative. Thank you a million times, DB!

Tina W.

This felt like an intimate talk about the publishing business and what the expectations are. Publishers are about $$$ I had a book published (no advance) the deal was up front. If it "performs in 3 months" good we have you locked in for 7 years. If no, bye bye you get your book/cover and isbn # back and good luck. I feel that the platform they had wasn't based on true crime. It was a lesson learned. Check what they are promoting a little more closely. I got the book back and I self published the e reader and will have the PB up in a few weeks or less.

laura J.

printing several chapters out for a reference guide, this is big on my list, a class I didn't believe any writer would share.

laura J.

I always wondered what happened, could never have dreamed this was part of course.


I'm unlikely to ever be published so this was a superfluous lesson for me, but it was interesting to hear the business from a lawyer's perspective.

Lucas N.

Another one of the most helpful and beneficial Masterclass writing lessons is Neil Gaiman's "rules for writers".

Lucas N.

Probably the most legitimately helpful and beneficial Masterclass lesson so far.