Books

Business Lessons From ‘Go The F**k To Sleep’ Author Adam Mansbach


Author Adam Mansbach promotes his book 'Go the F**k to Sleep' at PJ Clarke's on July 27, 2011 in Washington, DC

Photograph by Paul Morigi/WireImage via Getty Images

Author Adam Mansbach promotes his book 'Go the F**k to Sleep' at PJ Clarke's on July 27, 2011 in Washington, DC

Fox 2000 is moving forward with plans to turn the 32 page children’s-book-for-adults, “Go The F**k to Sleep,” into a feature film. After picking up rights to the book in 2011, the studio has now hired Ken Marino and Erica Oyama, the husband-and-wife duo behind the popular online series “Burning Love,” to adapt it for film, presumably as a comedy.

“I’m psyched about it,” says author Adam Mansbach, who says he wrote the original manuscript in about an hour (but admittedly had been kicking around ideas in his head before sitting down to write). The story is centered on the cheeky yet universal joke about how desperate every parent feels when a child simply refuses to sleep.

For Mansbach and his publisher Akashic Books, it ended up being a very lucrative 60 minutes. Including e-books, “Go The F**k to Sleep” has sold about 1.2 million copies worldwide since it was released in 2011, according to Akashic. The kid-friendly version of the book “Seriously, Just Go To Sleep,” has sold 50,000 copies.

The company would not share sales figures, but at the full retail price of $14.95 and $15.95 each (respectively), that would mean the book raked in around $18.7 million. At the Amazon.com price of $9.16 and $11.94, that’s still $11.6 million. So roughly speaking, that translates into anywhere from $193,150 to $312,292 in total sales revenue for each minute Mansbach spent writing.

“That’s going to be my work-for-hire price quote from now on,” Mansbach said when I told him my back-of-the-envelope calculation. (This is not including the movie deal, or sales of the audiobook, read by Samuel L. Jackson, which Audible says was free upon release and has been downloaded hundreds of thousand of times.)

Still, success was no guarantee. Mansbach shares this business advice:

1. Don’t be seduced by a bidding war. “I was getting seven figure offers from other publishers but I would have had much less say in everything: the marketing, the promotion. I would have been taken out of that conversation. And financially, I’d be making cents on the dollar compared to now because the structure and payment are different at big publishers.”

2. When choosing a partner, “hustle beats muscle,” he says. “Figure out who will hustle most for you. Akashic is smaller, but they’ve got the hustle. Because they are smaller, they were able to be more efficient.”

3. Keep plugging away on other projects. “I had a backlog of work I was able to capitalize on with the success of this book. Stay on your grind.”

Venessa-wong-190x190
Wong is an associate editor for Bloomberg Businessweek. Follow her on Twitter @venessawwong.

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