Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Why 70% Royalties Might Not Be As Much as 10%

A friend has self published their book. It's non-fiction, and doesn't lend itself to e-publishing as it has lots of illustrations over double spreads so she's gone the print route. It's sold well and is making money, but she was grumbling to me about how she was having to chase up the various retailers for payment. Other grumbles included postage, and the need for invoices and delivery notes. It wasn't so much the cost of these things as the amount of her time they consumed.

OK, if she'd gone the e-publishing route, she wouldn't have had the same grumbles. But there would have been others. Different formats, the threat of piracy and Amazon pricing glitches for example. All of which have time implications, and that's before the big time-suck is included: marketing.

If you are conventionally published then I agree that they are asking authors to do more of their own publicity - too much, with too little support IMO. But you'll still have a publicist who will be dealing with the more conventional outlets such as reviews in magazines etc as well as promoting you on-line. You'll also have a team who will deal with all the other stuff involved with publishing, from editing to production to admin.

Now, basic maths tells me that 70% is more than 10%. But your 70% may have to fund some areas that you weren't expecting, whether directly (in the form of hard cash) or in terms of time spent. It's like thinking an advance of £20,000 is a fortune, when - if it's taken you a full time year or more to write the book - it's less than the national average wage, and even less when the agent's commission is taken out.

This isn't an anti e-publishing post, just Caveat Emptor. If something looks to be too good to be true - you get to keep 70%!!! - then it usually is.


Philip C James said...

Although it's used illustratively, I imagine the 70% figure refers to the gross return on ebooks sold via the Apple store.

The actual return is not as high. As I understand it that figure applies only to the fraction of suppliers who deal direct with Apple and I assume they are selected for reasons of prestige, volume, throughput and reliability.

Most sellers have to use Apple via consolidating companies approved by Apple, and they can take another 15-25%, so most authors are only likely to make 45-55 pence in the pound.

Add to that the requirement that an ebook sold on the store must be produced on an Apple computer, requiring initial capex to amortise, and returns are not always as high as headlines suggest.

"Other e-stores are available" and it may well be the only or better option for some but, as you say, best to make an informed decision.

Sarah Duncan said...

It's the figure if you sell via Amazon, Phil. My point was really to remind people that going it alone may involve other costs (of money and time) that you may not have thought about beforehand.