a man in a suit sitting on a sidewalk

Last week, we published the story of David Raether, the former comedy writer for the Roseanne show and father of eight who ended up homeless and separated from his family after he was unable find work for many years. David adapted his memoir into a stunning essay that charts the the rise and fall of his career and family life. Despite being stripped of his family, home, and livelihood, the essay ends with unbridled optimism. 

David concludes his story:

So full-time, permanent employment in a real company with actual revenues is still an elusive prey. Life is still perilous for me and blogging is hardly a lucrative profession. But life is good. My emotional, psychological, and spiritual situation is considerably improved. I am close to my children, and I speak to most of them almost every day. I am healthy, strong, and full of hope and ambition again. I have survived failure. I lost my career, my home, all my savings — just about everything that seemed important. But I have held onto what I value much more: my children and their enduring love and affection, my health, and my ambition and self-belief. And in the end, those were the only things worth keeping.

At Priceonomics, we like to share data and information that’s not widely known. So, we thought we’d share (with David’s permission) the backstory of how this essay came to be, the financial arrangement, and how many book sales David made.

But really, we think you should buy David’s book. We’re proud to have his story on our site, we think the book is great, and we’d like to see more book sales that help David find his footing after a rough decade of unemployment and homelessness.

But back to the story. At Priceonomics, we’ve interviewed quite a few applicants for the writer position on our blog. David was one of those candidates. The writing samples he submitted were chapters from his book, which was unpublished at that point. In our hiring process, however, we were looking for someone more adept at analyzing the world using an economic and data driven lens, so there wasn’t a fit. But the quality of the writing and his personal story impressed us.

We made a suggestion to David: Would he like to publish his story in essay form on Priceonomics? We’d pay him $1,000 for this freelance assignment. Much of the essay would be adapted from his unpublished book. He accepted.

As we worked with David on the editing process, we made another suggestion: Why not self publish his book on Amazon in conjunction with posting on our blog? That way, if people liked his essay, they could buy his book. David had written a great book, but he was hoping to get a literary agent, editor, and major publisher. In our estimation, the odds of that happening soon were low. He said he’d consider it.

Within two days, David surprised us by letting us know that he’d self-published his book on Amazon and that it was now available for purchase in paperback and Kindle. That was fast!

After a couple weeks of back and forth edits, his piece was ready. A 5217 word essay that spells out in gripping detail what it’s like to fail and the agonizing process of picking up the pieces of a shattered life. In our humble opinion, the world is a slightly better place because David shared an honest account of his life. The essay is the third most trafficked blog post on our site, and we are very proud of publishing it. We gave David a 50% bonus for his freelance piece, so he made $1,500 from publishing it.

David also agreed to share information on the book sales that resulted from his essay. The book is priced at $17.90 for the paperback version and $4.99 for the Kindle version. David receives $7.72 for each paperback copy sold and $3.44 for each Kindle version.

Here are the book sales since David posted his story:


In the past 2 weeks, David has made $2,331 from self-publishing his book. To us, that’s fascinating. Perhaps the way to help solve the problem of “content economics” is that writers / publishers need to have something to sell (like a book) so that the information they publish online can help lead to revenue beyond just advertising? This of course isn’t a new idea, but this is at least some data that shows this is a potentially viable strategy.

So, here’s a request / challenge to our friends and readers: why not buy David’s book? It tells the story of David getting his dream job in Hollywood, building a family of eight, and then losing it all. And then making a comeback. Plus, it’s only $4.99 on the Kindle or $17.90 for paperback

We’ll update how many sales he gets here on this blog post. Consider this a real-time publishing experiment. Or consider it a nice thing to do for someone on Thanksgiving. Either way, it’s a great read.


Current Sales of David Raether’s Book (updated as Amazon updates its royalty reports):

# of Kindle Sales: 484

# of Paperback Sales: 201

Income Generated for David: $3,216

Update: Looks like Amazon doesn’t update its royalty data in realtime (especially for paperbacks) so we’ll update these numbers whenever new ones are available.


Buy the book here.

Happy Thanksgiving from Priceonomics! We hope you’re having a wonderful day with family and friends. 

This post was written by Rohin Dhar. Follow him on Twitter or Google Plus. To get occasional notifications when we write blog posts, sign up for our email list.