• Bill

Royalties, Costs, Money, & Sex: Sales of New Novel

I'm still digging my way through this.


COSTS. They're all sorts of costs attributable to the making of a novel: author, publisher, distributer, retailer, etc.

  1. My upfront costs contribute only indirectly to the dollar cost of making the book, but of course the money out of one's own pocket is of prime interest to authors. These range from tuition for a MFA, to costs of printer paper, and Scrivener. (I'll get these issues in a later post).

  2. Publisher's costs--depends on the publisher, which can range from Knopf to self-publishing, and usually involve several kinds of editing: developmental, line, and proofreading. Also cover and interior design. Advertising, licensing and back office stuff like accounting, data management, providing royalties, tax withholding, space rental, and reports. (maybe some of these will be covered in a future post).

  3. Costs of printing the book—Ingram Lightning Source and Amazon. These are vague and are and admixed with the profit that the printers make. (maybe addressed later).

  4. Publisher's profits are what's left after paying my royalty and other stuff. (not going there).

  5. Distributors' costs and profit. (yup, later).

  6. Retailer's costs and profits. (same).

ROYALTIES. First, the author's royalty (gotta love the term): royalties vary depending on the distributor, the book’s list price, and the publisher’s rate of compensation from the distributor. Since Amazon is the big gorilla, I'll stick with them for my illustrative numbers.

My current


Royalty rate for trade paperbacks is 25% of Wheatmark's net receipts. Baby Doe is sold through Amazon’s KDP program, which is available to small- and mid-sized publishing firms like Wheatmark as well as self-publishers (and is different from KDP Select). Amazon prints each copy of Baby Doe that they sell.The Baby Doe paperback list price on Amazon is $15.95. Wheatmark gets 60% of that, which is $9.57. I get 25% of that, which is $2.39, which is 15% of the list price. The industry standard for the author on a trade paperback is 7.5% of publisher's revenue or $1.44, so I'm getting almost a buck more than I'd get from a traditional publisher. Wooeee.


Royalty rate for ebooks. Baby Doe ebook list price is $9.99. Wheatmark gets from Amazon either 70% or 35% of the list price, depending on the Amazon marketplace where the book was sold. (The 70% rate applies for the EU and most English- speaking countries). The 70% rate means WM receives $6.99. I get 50% of that, which is $3.50, whereas the industry standard for the author's royalty for ebooks is 25% of publisher's revenue, which would be $1.75, half of what I make for each ebook sold.


Why is Wheatmark seemingly so generous? Because they are publishers situated in a unique spot on the spectrum between traditional publishing and self-publishing (although within those two categories there are also diverse subcategories). A very short explanation: I pay some, not all, upfront costs for publication and publicity. Wheatmark shares in the profits from the sales of Baby Doe, and it's in both of our interests to produce a good book and see that it sells. I am the final decider for most all aspects of making the novel (though Wheatmark's staff is excellent and knows what they're doing). Our agreement is transparent, and I retain all rights to my novel. Wheatmark and I can part company with a minimum of fuss at any time.


Is this fair? It's complicated. Read about it here. For one with limited understanding of the publishing biz, I think it's fair, because I prefer writing to the work of self-publishing, and lack the expertise.


Now we're clear how much I make on the sale of each ebook and paperback, the next question is, how many books am I selling? (I addressed this in the earlier blog, but you can get a clue here).


My goal is for sales in the first 12 months after publication to exceed 500 books, with a doubling of that each year till I hit 5000 sold. Let's say 100 books are sold in Q2, 70% ebook with my royalty being 3.50/copy, and 30% paperbacks sold @ 2.39 /copy for me. That's $245 for ebooks and $71.70 for paperbacks, totalling $316.70. We'll see how close that is to reality when the official Q2 report comes out.


What have I forgotten? Oh yes :). Sex? Sorry, sex in the title was me shilling SEO.


You can get a look at Baby Doe here. Or preferably at either of those two great independent bookstores in Jerusalem: Katamon Book Store on HaPalmach St and Rehavia Book Store on Emek Refa'im St.


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