Let’s talk about money!
Well, kind of. There just isn’t enough transparency in publishing, so I figured I’d blog about my own experience, which again, is minimal, but nonetheless, hopefully helpful to any dreaming authors out there.
I’ve talked previously in one of my book blog posts about how everyone’s publishing journey is unique with the various paths (i.e., traditional, self publishing), and how I ended up on with a hybrid publisher, Atmosphere Press.
Using an author-subsidized model meant we did have to make an upfront investment (for things like cover design, editing, distribution). Side note: we’re close to recouping our investment. More importantly, the author-subsidized model also means that 100% of the sales are mine.
That’s the big difference between a traditional publisher, self-publishing and hybrid publishing.
While traditional publishers have all sorts of setups, sometimes the author gets an advance, or a “signing bonus,” against future royalty earnings, based on what the publisher thinks the book will earn. Advances are guaranteed, meaning that even if the book doesn’t sell the advance amount, you don’t have to return the balance to the publisher. So you can spend your advance on whatever you want—fancy cocktails to celebrate or prepaying your taxes; it’s up to you which one is the smartest choice. I have a few friends who have gotten advances, so they do still exist! Of course if you are Stephen King, an advance check could be $1 million. But if not, it could just $500.
The traditional publisher route also means they take a cut on future sales. It’s not standardized—sometimes a dollar amount, and sometimes a percentage (I’ve heard 6-8%).
With self-publishing and my hybrid indie publisher, there was no advance. On the flip side, there will be royalty checks, 100% of which are mine.
100% is actually a misnomer. Because every 4 months, when my publisher aggregates online sales through my wholesale distributor (Ingram), the online sellers have already taken their cut. These online retailers are actually taking 80% of the sale, while I get about 20%. Granted, they have fixed costs (printing/packaging/shipping) to offset, but still! And I kind of find it hilarious that I get basically the same cut for a paperback versus an e-book … there seems like there’s literally no extra work or expense for making the e-version available. (Yes, I’m referring to Jeff Bezos and his behemoth, Amazon). Thankfully, my publisher takes no cut.
Anyway, this is why we purposely made the book available for sale via our website, on the advice of my publisher, cause ain’t no one taking a cut there (after packaging material costs, taxes, website upkeep, etc). The per-book profit is triple what it is from Amazon, plus we can keep better track of our sales.
All along, we’ve been treating the quarterly distribution royalty checks as a “bonus,” not really knowing how many books would sell there. I’ve blogged about how Justin likes to try to figure out the Amazon algorithm and system, and I’d rather not be bothered. Every quarter, I can just be surprised at the disbursement.
My book released 11/15/20 and my first quarterly cycle ended 12/30/20. We both decided we would be satisfied if 47 books sold, basically 1 for every day it was available during that first quarter.
We were both wrong. Way wrong. In a good way.
Drumroll please …
In my first quarter from online retailers, there were 222 books sold!
It’s a milestone that feels like a holy grail.
My publisher doesn’t get a whole lot of detailed information from the distributor, but of those 222 books, he thinks 32 were e-books and 39 were international sales. I mean, I’m not ready to call Amazon a savior, but it’s doing its job in dominating the book market.
Honestly, Justin & I know this book is far from a “get rich” strategy. I can’t stress this enough: it’s never about the money. A writer writes books because they have something to share and connecting with others. I still think people believe authors make so much money (we do not). Marketing a book—during a pandemic—is special kind of awful. But I feel like a pandemic might be ideal timing for a travel/trail memoir to soothe wanderlust.
I’m still not comfortable selling and promoting … me. It’s also a full-time hustle, intertwining various roles of secretary, publicist, office manager, shipping manager, accountant and more. Thankfully, I have a partner, Justin, AKA, the hammer. I would say we should feel proud of book sales so far, but we are working our tails off for this tiny compensation.
So keep helping us spread the word because word of mouth is my best friend at this point.
Download a podcast episode I’ve been on (future podcasts are in the process)! Suggest me to be interviewed on another podcast.
Pass around the book trailer (that Justin worked so hard on and recently posted to YouTube) to a friend.
Suggest that your local library or bookstore carry it.
Recommend it for a book club pick.
And if you know anyone interested in audiobook or movie rights (LOL), let’s do this!
And thank you as always for your support. It means the world to me.
PS-If anyone has NOT received their book from us, and should have by now, please do reach out! The USPS was quite slow during the holidays, rightfully so, but I worry there are people still waiting on their book shipment.