11 Startling Financial Facts About The Help

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Startling Financial Facts About The Help

As a break from my regular focus on my dream of mastering my personal finances, I thought I’d treat you to some financial news about The Help.

  1. It took author Kathryn Stockett 5 years to write The Help and another 3 years to find a publisher. Figure a 1080-hour work year. That’s 8,640 hours.
  2. At 90 cents per hour, the  black maids in the book would have earned $7,776 for that 8 years.
  3. Ninety cents per hour in 1963 is the equivalent of $7.21 per hour in 2011. The federal minimum wage standard is about $7.25.
  4. The Help (the book) sold 5 million copies as of August, 2011. At an average price of $16, that’s $80 million. (But check my math. That many zeroes made me dizzy.)
  5. I don’t know how much Stockett made from the book, however I did find some averages. An author might be paid between 17 cents and $1 per copy of a book sold. Even at the low number, Stockett might have earned $850,000. That’s about $100 per hour for the 8 years she spent writing and selling it. Not too shabby.
  6. The film cost $25 million to make.
  7. In the first two days of release, the box office was $9.9 million.
  8. The box office is forecasted to exceed $25 million by the end of its first weekend, thereby turning a profit.
  9. I don’t know how much Stockett made or will make from the movie, but with her impressive book sales, which translate into ticket sales, I’m sure she did pretty well.
  10. Kathryn Stockett is being sued for $75,000 by her brother’s nanny, who happens to be black and named Ablene. If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, one of the main characters is a black maid named Aibileen. Coincidence? You be the judge.
  11. I’m trying to figure out why $75,000. There must be some kind of statute that limits the amount of damages. If you believe that your persona was built into the main character of a book that did $80 million in sales and a movie that will do millions more, $75,000 seems like scratch.

    I do want to say something about authors here. I think their business model was way, way ahead of its time.

    An author invests it all up front, especially with the first book. You can’t have an idea for a book, call up a publisher, and say: I’ll write this book for you if you’ll pay me $100,000 while I’m writing it, and then royalties when it sells. That simply is not the business model.

    To make any money, an author pretty much has to write the book, like Kathryn Stockett did, and then market it, rewrite it, market it, rewrite it, and stick with it for however long it takes to get published. If it ever does get published at all.

    In other words, the author has to believe in the value of the book, and has to be able to demonstrate the value to a publisher. Earning the money is connected with the value delivered, not the hours spent writing.

    Imagine if you set your business up on the same kind of model, where you invest it all up front, demonstrate the value, and then ask for the fee.

    I’m not talking about a free trial or a restricted license or a set of screen shots. I’m talking about the full monty.

    Authors don’t typically get paid for sample chapters – they get paid for complete manuscripts. Sometimes they don’t even get paid for that; they have to wait for actual sales. Like I said, the dollars are connected with the value delivered, not the value predicted.

    When I was a girl, my mother persuaded me to prepare for a professional career – one with a salary and security –  instead of setting my sights on becoming a poet or novelist. She thought it was too risky being a poet or novelist. You might never get published and never get paid. A career was the sure bet.

    Seems quaint 30 years later, doesn’t it? Who would have thought that investing one’s time up front in nothing more than an idea turns out to be the surer bet.


    Jayne Speich is a small business coach/consultant who writes, thinks, and coaches extensively on customer service, business finance, and ways to thrive in the new economy. She has an exciting new business venture with sister dreamer Remy Gervais, called The Gazelle Goal. She is the owner of Onsys21 Dental, a coaching/consulting firm for dental practice owners. You can keep up with her conveniently at http://www.xeeme.com/thegazellegoal. Jayne’s post day is Saturday.

    • “Imagine if you set your business up on the same kind of model, where you invest it all up front, demonstrate the value, and then ask for the fee.”

      I think that perfectly described the dot.com boom… and bust.

      Great analogy!

      – H

    • Remy Gervais, Top Photographer

      great post! R

    • You and I have the same mother.

      I love this statement, “the dollars are connected with the value delivered, not the value predicted.”

      Ahhhh … a law suit.

      A successful mentor once told me that you are not a success until somebody sues you so I guess Kathryn Stockett is now a success.

      These facts are great.