3 Truths Book Publishers
Don’t Want You to Know
Many writers have the same dream. We want to be famous, influential and respected for our craft. Our craft, in essence, is a piece of ourselves. Writers often have a bit of the narcissist somewhere in our psyche. Some of us also want to be rich, rich, rich! Not all of us, mind you, but it’s pretty common knowledge that once you’ve “made the big time,” big-time paychecks can follow. This, unfortunately, is the exception to the rule; and the first thing that book publishers don’t what you to know.
PUBLISHING WITH TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING HOUSES WILL NOT MAKE YOU RICH OR FAMOUS
For every J.K. Rowling, there are thousands of writers you've never heard of. Writers seem to come out of the woodwork, yet they've been published for years, wiling away in obscurity until, for one unknown reason or another, something ticks. This is more luck than talent, mind you. This is not to say that someone without talent has the same chances as those who do. Talent is a must.
There are thousands upon thousands of new books published every year. The idea of the overnight success is a fallacy that many do not understand. For instance, Nicholas Sparks of “The Notebook” fame was not an overnight success, although the sensation of the movie produced from his novel made some folks think so. Actually, he published a book (many books) years earlier, including one that was made into a movie starring Kevin Costner and Robin Write-Penn, titled, “Message in a Bottle.” Same guy. Even after “making the big time” with the conversion of that book into a major motion picture, some people still thought he was an instant sensation with, "The Notebook."
Simply signing a contract does not an A-list author make – nor does it promise that you will sell your movie rights and retire to the writing cabin in the woods you've been dreaming about all these years. In fact, the opposite is most likely true.
This is not to say that working with a commercial publisher is not a perfectly good avenue to take for some writers. Others, however, prefer the independence of self-publishing.
BOOK PUBLISHERS EXPECT YOU TO FOOT THE BILL FOR PROMOTION
If you want your book to be successful, you will have to personally put in the hours and money to promote your book – regardless of whether you sign with a big publishing house or you choose to publish the book yourself. The difference is in the final distribution of profit. If you sign with a large or small press, you are still expected to pay out cold, hard cash for ad space, promotional materials like bookmarks and flyers, and the expenses associated with attending trade and genre conventions. But in the end, the publisher will receive the lion’s share (by a lot) of the proceeds from each book sale. You’re still relegated to your royalty percentage.
If you choose to publish your book yourself, you’ll reap more of the benefit of each sale. Your profits are all yours. Keep in mind that profits do not equate to the entirety of the cover price. You will have expenses for each sale from various sources. We specify this based upon questions raised on a popular writer's forum where at least one writer misunderstood our use of the word, "profit." When you choose to self-publish, the profits of each book are yours. Check out the sidebar for more information about what we mean here.
There are other benefits, as well. With the availability of print-on-demand publishing, you won’t have to put together a huge print run just to get a reasonable deal on the per-book price. Instead, you can purchase what you can afford or what you need for a book signing or conference. When you sell a book on the internet, the copy isn’t printed until it’s sold. No more endless stacks of book cases in your garage or basement!
BOOK PUBLISHERS EXPECT A CERTAIN NUMBER OF BOOKS TO FAIL
Book publishers know that all of the books they select won’t become best-sellers or even moderate sellers. They are taking a risk, which is why they can pay royalties with the larger percentage paid to themselves. They are risking their investment capital and should be repaid accordingly. They have faith in your book, certainly, or they wouldn't risk anything. But they won’t necessarily invest in high-dollar placement in major book outlets, especially since the majority of books are sold elsewhere. Only about 26% of books sold today are sold in brick-and-mortar stores.
However, they must make up this money somewhere, so they do it with the overall prices they charge for books. They charge as much as $30.00 for a book that costs them, realistically, $3.00 to print. They are covering other costs, including editing and design, to the overall price to produce the book is higher, but they are in business to make a profit. Still, think about other industries and the markup you might see. Even including all of the costs, the markups are generally not that high.
THE BENEFITS OF INDIE PUBLISHING
Book publishers need to make up the costs of producing books that do not sell, just as much as they make up for the costs of the books that do. By taking on the costs of producing a book yourself, you can spend as little as $1000.00 or so on the editing, plot development, art work, formatting and other aspects of creating your book. You can also pay much more than that. This is determined by the services you choose to hire out and which editor or artist you use.
For a full length novel, if you charge $4.99 (let’s call it $5.00), you only need to sell 200 copies of an eBook to break even. You will also need to pay for ad space, promotional materials – let’s add another $2000.00 or so. You need to sell another 400 copies to cover those costs. That’s only 600 books. Everything above and beyond that is pure icing. (You know… the rich, creamy kind that makes your jaw bone ache when you taste it!)
On the flip side, if you sign with a major publishing house and receive, let’s say a $5000.00 advance, you’ll spend at least some of that on promotion. If you attend a trade show outside of your own community, you can pretty much wipe out the entire five grand if you're paying between $250.00 and $450.00 for registration, plus meals and hotel. We’ll give you the benefit of the doubt on your royalty and round it up to 10%. Let’s list the book at the average cost of a paperback novel at Wal-mart – about $6.99 (call it $7.00).
Your share of each sale of the book is $.70 cents, if you're getting your royalties off of the cover price, before discounts to the re-seller You must sell 7,143 copies of your book before you “earn out” your advance – which means that you've earned the amount the book publisher paid you ahead of time. Once you've earned out your advance monies, then the book publishers will begin to cut you checks for your royalties.
I know what you’re thinking: “But I got that $5,000 in my hot little hands, so what do I care how long it takes me to ‘earn out'?’”
Don’t forget that you've spent all of that money on promotion. You didn't exactly get to run off for a Hawaiian vacation or anything. So, authentically, you won’t see any profit if you don’t earn out. And choosing not to invest your advance in promotion can be a huge mistake, as the more you invest in your own writing career, the further it will go, in theory.
Indie publishing allows you complete creative control, economic control, distribution control and artistic integrity over your projects. If you’re going to do most (or at least half) of the work, you should be compensated for it. If you can find publishing houses that will offer you a 50% royalty, I say snap it up, but chances are you won’t be able to. Indie publishing affords you the control you need to be a leader for your own success.
To find out more about Indie Artist Press and our ability to help you create the best possible book you can, please contact us, today.
The Definition of "Profit"
There are a couple of different types of profit: gross profit and net profit.
Gross profit is the amount that a company (in this case, you) brings in from sales. This is generally the cover price of your book multiplied by the number of copies you've sold. You won't see all of that money, in reality, because when you list your books on Amazon, for instance, they take their cut off the top.
There are other expenses to publishing your book, too. Editing, design, promotion, printing... they all cost money. Your net profit is the amount left over after all of these expenses have been paid. Now, you've already forked out the cash to your editor, your artist, etc. So, until you've sold enough copies to pay yourself back for that investment, you're still in the red.
Your book is profitable after expenses have been met and you're still selling copies.
When you sign a contract with a commercial publisher, you don't have the expenses of a self-publishing venture, but the publishing house does have those expenses. They turn a profit after you have earned out your advance, and after their expenses have all been met.
Don't forget to pay yourself, too, if you like. If you'd like to assign a value to your per-hour investment, you can track how many hours you spend writing, editing, reviewing, marketing and promoting your book. As you sell copies of your book, you can apply that to your investment of time and talent to figure out your actual profits.