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'The Great Gatsby' Price: How Much Did Fitzgerald Get Paid To Write The Great American Novel?

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If you read a lot of books, you've probably read "The Great Gatsby." Love it or loathe it, it's withstood the test of time and the scoffs of critics, earning a top spot on Modern Library and TIME's best novel lists.

This wasn't always the case. According to Discover:

Charles Scribner’s and Son issued the first hardback edition in April 1925, adorning its cover with a painting of a pair of eyes and lips floating on a blue field above a cityscape. Ten days after the book came out, Fitzgerald’s editor, Maxwell Perkins, sent him one of those heart-breaking notes a writer never wants to get: “SALES SITUATION DOUBTFUL EXCELLENT REVIEWS.”

The first printing of 20,870 copies sold sluggishly through the spring. Four months later, Scribner’s printed another 3,000 copies and then left it at that.

Maybe this would explain the minuscule price this literary giant originally sold for. We stumbled upon this record stating that Fitzgerald received an advance of $3,939.00 in 1921. That'd be $50,098.58 today. According to a book deal key sent out weekly by Publishers Lunch, this would be categorized as "nice" (as opposed to "very nice," "good," "significant" or "major"). This is surprising considering "The Great Gatsby" sold millions of copies in the 20th century, thanks in part to its placement on just about every high school's required reading list, and has also made it on many 'best novels of all time' lists.

Still, Fitzgerald faired better fiscally than scores of other authors. Thoreau, Kafka, John Kennedy Toole and Sylvia Plath's work remained unrecognized until after they died.

How much do you think Fitzgerald should have been paid for "The Great Gatsby"?


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