Saturday, 22 August 2015

How much money does a single book sale make an author?

This is the second part to my blog (semi-rant) about the state of the novel marketplace. To read my opening salvo, go here.

In this part, I dissect just how much a single book sale makes for the majority of published authors and set right people's perceptions as to how much money writers are (not) raking in.

This is not a blog bemoaning how little I make for each book I sell. Whilst, of course, I would like to earn more for each book I sell, I actually feel for a sensibly priced book (see earlier blog), the return I get per book is about right. I might have written the novel, but there's been a lot of work from others which has gone into its final realisation which needs to be recognised and paid for, plus the whole design, manufacture, distribution and management of the book - and bookshops desperately need to make money to keep going too.

I was encouraged to write this blog entry, not just because I feel strongly about the whole subject of the health of the book industry, but on a taxi ride home the other night, the driver was amazed to hear what I make from each book sale. I was surprised he would think I should be making more.

And perhaps he's not alone?

Every published author will have their own specific agreed percentages for the different formats of books they are published in; hardback tend to pay a little better, mass market paperback the worst to begin with, but your percentages go up as you sell more so mass market paperback can end up being your big money spinner (if perhaps without the 'big').

To make the maths easier for this illustration, averaging out across all the different formats and sales volumes, I get, roughly, 10% on each book sale. That's pretty much the standard for authors from my research and those I've spoken too.

So The Damned, in its posh deluxe paper back version retails for £12.99. Therefore, for every copy sold, I get £1.29.

From out of this you need to deduct your agent's fees, the standard being 15%. Agents are essential and I don't begrudge them their fee for a moment. Without my wonderful agent LAW, I would never have got published and The Damned would not have been as polished and effective as I think/hope it is. They've supported me every step of the way. They've earned their 15%, and probably more.

So we're down to £1.10 per book.

Then we have tax of 10% to pay - that necessary evil. Perhaps there should be tax concessions on things which benefit and contribute to the colour and spirit of a nation? Anyway, after all that we're down to 99p a book. One pound a book (and on a premium priced book, too).

Rates tend to be better on ebooks, due to reduced costs in distribution and production, so you're looking at about the same amount earned for each ebook sold.

But as you can see, I need to sell a lot of copies in order to make a decent living.

Just to reiterate, this is, for once, not a moan. I think what I receive for each book sale is probably about right, considering all the hard work and investment that goes into a book beyond simply writing the thing. And I never looked to get published to become rich or famous. I wanted to leave something behind, a legacy, and that is what I have done and hope to continue to do. This blog entry is purely about setting people's perceptions right about how much each book makes, or doesn't make, for a writer.

One thing I will leave you with is next time you um and ah about buying that paperback, the price of two regular coffees, or that Kindle version, the price of a single posh tea, just buy it. It'll give you longer enjoyment than those drinks and will contribute to the writer's meagre income.

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