The Price of Books
When Ford Motor Company releases a new car to the dealer, payment comes when the car is sold, usually on consignment. The dealer gets a percentage; Ford Motor Company gets a percentage. That is the only money the company makes on the car. No matter how many times the car is sold and resold, the company earns not one nickel more.
So it is with books. As part of a review at Amazon, a reviewer reprimanded the author for the ridiculous high price of the book. The out of print book was ‘Baja Sailor Tales,’ a collection of stories and character studies based on people I met during my one-year solo sail through Mexico. The price asked was $37 and it was from an online used book outlet. Eight copies were left, seven used beginning at $1.50 and the one new at the $37. The reviewer stated that the author must be looking for a new boat.
Like Ford, once a book has been sold, the bookseller gets a cut, then the publisher, then the guy who wrote the book in the form of a royalty. No matter how many times that book sells after that, the writer receives nothing, not one cent. Here’s another flash. The writer has no say whatsoever what the book will sell for, unless it is self-published, and even then the price must fall within certain guidelines. And, the dozens of free books given for reviews, book store samples, to influential people, friends and family, eventually end in a used book outlet, offered at a low price, with nothing going to the writer.
It is no surprise many writers have decided to go the self-publish route which offers control of your work. Of my more than 30 published books, I self-published five. This was at a time when publishing your own book was the same as making used car sales your lifetime career. Much of that stigma still remains, mainly because of badly edited books. A good editor can make a book; a bad editor can ruin it. But respectability is easing in. Self-published books have received literary awards, and at least one self-published writer has made over a million dollars. Many make more than $50,000. Thanks to Amazon and Kindle and Create-Space, the process has become easier, and you don’t have to pay ridiculous prices to print mills to get your book out there.
It has been written that if your book is listed with Amazon and Barnes & Noble, you are reaching 85% of the reading public. To be listed costs you 40% to 45% of the retail price, a big chunk. Publisher and writer cuts come from what’s left after that. And reaching the reading public does not mean connecting. To connect you need all the rest of that marketing stuff: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Goodreads, and so many others. You must get on writer forums; get others to review your books while you review theirs, join writer clubs and critique groups, do book signings, print book markers and business cards – all the nonsense connected with product peddling. You need all of it whether your book is published by a big time house, or a small independent, or by yourself. And even doing all that is no guarantee you’ll sell many copies of your book. Marketing may get the reader to the book, but the book must be good enough to sell itself.
The only time much of this is unnecessary is when the publisher you sign with has full time sales reps on the payroll. The rep physically visits bookstores and pushes your book. It is the rep who can make a New York best seller. Few publishers have sales reps, and those who do are cutting back. These days everything is handled electronically, not by personal visits.
Currently, I am with two publishers. The only books I now self publish are early novels that missed the electronic revolution in eBooks, but times they may be a’changing. I’m bringing them out as New-Revised-Editions in eBook format only and I’m selling them for 99¢. One of my two publishers is a small independent; the other is mid-size. The mid-size, who has only one book of mine, offered what they called the ‘standard’ contract: 35% royalty print, 40% eBook, 40% discount on author purchased books, and no time dates when editing, electronic or print was to be released, no author input on cover design. I fought for changes before I signed. Some I got, some I didn’t. The royalty went to 40% print, 50% eBook, definite dates for completion of editing, and author copies at publisher cost. I still had no say on cover design. I consider it a bad contract but I can live with it. My small independent publisher is local and we have lunch every time we sign a contract. He pays. Our split is simple, 50% of net down the line on everything. They both have the same distribution markets. They both sell books in house. My small independent publisher has all their books reviewed and the review is published on their site. I have three books with them with two more pending. Neither offer an advance. Neither pushes marketing for their books.
So, next we must explore self-publishing.