Bad Publishing Deals of the Past: Noah Webster

The “American Spelling Book” made money but the contracts were never very good. Based on sales he should have been oozing with cash, but he never made the absolute killing he should have. In 1816 he landed America’s first blockbuster book deal, which promised him $42,000 over a 14-year period. He could have made even more, but because he had retired to devote himself full-time to the dictionary, he was dependent on the income from the “American Spelling Book” and didn’t strike hard bargains with his publishers. A year after signing that hefty contract, he caved and asked for the money up front, settling for a total of $23,000.

-Joshua Kendall quoted in Failure Magazine.


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