Author Topic: please don't shoot the messenger  (Read 3698 times)

Offline 007 fan

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please don't shoot the messenger
« on: September 13, 2014, 03:12:49 AM »
Most people are shocked when I share what I learned during my research months ago about getting a book published...thought I would share the info to others who maybe didn't know...so the shock has a chance to wear off.   

BTW, I was super shocked, like for a few days, when I learned some facts about the traditional publishing route.  But, I was glad to know so that I wasn't in for a shock if I ever do secure an agent and learned all about it then.   

Once (if) you secure an agent, and they find you a publisher (this isn't guaranteed just because you have an agent), it could take up to two years before your book goes to print.  It can happen sooner for some.

Most new authors start with getting 10% from each printed book sold...your agent gets their 15% from your 10%.  The amount agents make off most writers makes me believe they must be in the business out of love for the written word.  Am I na├»ve?  lol

Publishers keep 90% of each book sold, but they pay for the cost of printing, which is about 60% of the sale price of the book.  The 30% they keep minus the printing cost and the 10% to authors is for marketing/profit.  It doesn't seem like much really considering they are taking all the risk your book will even sell well enough for them to make their money back.

Percentages for authors varies per book for e-books, it's higher, but the cost of the book is much, much lower. 

There is more that I learned.  I'm only sharing what shocked me the most.

p.s.  I'm glad the 'smite' button has been eliminated...I feel susceptible after this post.     :draw:
« Last Edit: September 13, 2014, 08:11:08 AM by ece007 »
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Offline gogo5358

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Re: please don't shoot the messenger
« Reply #1 on: September 13, 2014, 10:43:28 AM »
That is really interesting. I've done some research and I knew that agents get 15%, but I guess I just didn't realize where all the other percentages were going. I certainly didn't even think about the publishers. I knew that they take a risk on a new author, but I didn't know the breakdown of what their actual profits were.
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Offline bodwen

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Re: please don't shoot the messenger
« Reply #2 on: September 13, 2014, 03:21:44 PM »
Publishers keep 90% of each book sold, but they pay for the cost of printing, which is about 60% of the sale price of the book.  The 30% they keep minus the printing cost and the 10% to authors is for marketing/profit.  It doesn't seem like much really considering they are taking all the risk your book will even sell well enough for them to make their money back.

Actually, it breaks down further.  The cost printing is minimal, they are printing in runs of thousands overseas for less than a dollar a copy.  However, they sell these books to bookstores at about 45% of the cover price.  So the publishers share works out to 55%, minus royalties.

However, these books are sold as returnable.  What does that mean?  It means that the bookstores are selling the book on consignment.  Say you write a book.  Barnes & Nobel orders 3 copies.  They sell two.  What do they do with the remaining copy?  They return it to the publisher for a full refund.  Often the publisher doesn't want to pay the shipping for a dog-eared copy, so they ask for just the front cover and tell them to recycle the rest of it.  Ever see the warning not to buy a book if it's missing a front cover?  That's what that's all about.

Of course the bookstore can offer to pay less than a buck for the book and sell it as a remainder.  That's what all the discount books at the front of the bookstore are.  Not sure how that figures into the royalties, but it does cut sharply into the publisher's profits.

This is why "midlist" is a term to be dreaded.  And why ebooks are such a game changer.

Offline 007 fan

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Re: please don't shoot the messenger
« Reply #3 on: September 13, 2014, 04:30:45 PM »
Publishers keep 90% of each book sold, but they pay for the cost of printing, which is about 60% of the sale price of the book.  The 30% they keep minus the printing cost and the 10% to authors is for marketing/profit.  It doesn't seem like much really considering they are taking all the risk your book will even sell well enough for them to make their money back.

Actually, it breaks down further.  The cost printing is minimal, they are printing in runs of thousands overseas for less than a dollar a copy.  However, they sell these books to bookstores at about 45% of the cover price.  So the publishers share works out to 55%, minus royalties.

However, these books are sold as returnable.  What does that mean?  It means that the bookstores are selling the book on consignment.  Say you write a book.  Barnes & Nobel orders 3 copies.  They sell two.  What do they do with the remaining copy?  They return it to the publisher for a full refund.  Often the publisher doesn't want to pay the shipping for a dog-eared copy, so they ask for just the front cover and tell them to recycle the rest of it.  Ever see the warning not to buy a book if it's missing a front cover?  That's what that's all about.

Of course the bookstore can offer to pay less than a buck for the book and sell it as a remainder.  That's what all the discount books at the front of the bookstore are.  Not sure how that figures into the royalties, but it does cut sharply into the publisher's profits.

This is why "midlist" is a term to be dreaded.  And why ebooks are such a game changer.

That's interesting...either way, authors get such a small piece, and an even smaller piece for the agents.

I was so shocked when I first learned author/agent cut from it all, how securing an agent isn't a guarantee in securing a publisher, and the amount of time it could take to actually go to print. 

Thanks for clarifying some of the deets.   :)
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Offline violet

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Re: please don't shoot the messenger
« Reply #4 on: September 13, 2014, 04:30:57 PM »
Yup. If you net a buck per book, you're doing pretty well when it's all said and done.

There's a recent article about a romance writer who was struggling to make money, even though she'd written a ton of books for her publisher. They turned down one book, then another, so she decided to SP. Her first month she made 40k. She now makes 8-figures. You read that right.

Now, not the norm, I know. But if you can upload your book to Amazon and keep 70% of the list price? That's why so many of my trade pubbed friends have gone the SP route. Also, if you get an advance and don't earn out? Your publisher may very well dump you. You're also not waiting 12-24 months between books.

My friend got her first trade deal September 2013, and her book is coming out in 3 months. That's a helluva long time to wait, imo.

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Re: please don't shoot the messenger
« Reply #5 on: September 13, 2014, 04:59:42 PM »
Yes. But the average ebook on Amazon makes less than $500.

So you can keep a whole $300 for yourself.

Offline bodwen

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Re: please don't shoot the messenger
« Reply #6 on: September 13, 2014, 06:45:28 PM »

Not to mention that it's pretty easy to spend that much on editing, awesome cover art, formatting, advertising, etc...

The good news is that it's pretty easy to sell a lot more if your book is awesome, you try hard enough, and know which marketing tactics work and which are a waste of time and money.  I know people who make a steady income from SP, but it's a fulltime job for them. 

If you want to make the big bucks in SP, you're going to have to do some aggressive marketing, which a lot of authors are reluctant to do.  You have to market your work even if you're not self-published, but at least you can make the claim that someone liked your book enough to cut you a check.

Not saying either path is right or wrong, but you have to weigh all the pros and cons.

Offline Tabris

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Re: please don't shoot the messenger
« Reply #7 on: September 13, 2014, 06:51:08 PM »
Yes. But the average ebook on Amazon makes less than $500.

So you can keep a whole $300 for yourself.

And how much do most writers get from the big publishers? Nothing, because they don't want to look at us.  :inocent:

Offline Doggy Teng

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Re: please don't shoot the messenger
« Reply #8 on: September 14, 2014, 01:23:14 PM »
Don't worry about being the bearer of bad news -- many of us here have known about these things for a long time.  And I certainly understand that it looks daunting and rather discouraging, especially when you first learn the sad truth. :sad:

It seems like it wasn't that long ago when everyone was telling me that you just had to 'get your foot in the door' with your first book sale and then you could happily focus on writing and not have to worry about the rest of it anymore.  So I think that was the biggest shocker for me -- not how long the publishing process takes, or how little the author gets from the sale of each book, but the fact that you could publish a book or two and then get dumped by your agent and publisher if the sales weren't good enough, and be even worse off than you were before!  :eek:

Your post also reminded me of the time, many years ago, when I read some breakdown of the sales price of a book and calculated that, out of the $25 or so I'd just spent on a beautiful hardcover fantasy novel I'd given my friend for her birthday, the author received no more than a couple of dollars . . .  And at the time I knew that that particular author had recently given up her day job and began writing full time -- but she had the sales volume to make that possible, on account of having a popular ongoing series and many devoted fans.  Since the author gets such a tiny percentage of the sale, the sheer volume of sales is the thing that makes it work -- and naturally it helps if an author is prolific and has many books available.

But of course Tabris is right that if you can't get a book deal with a big publisher, $300 may not contribute much toward your living expenses, but it still looks a lot better than $0!