Ebooks and authors: The math of publishing doesn’t add up
In Math of Publishing Meets the E-Book ( New York Times , Feb. 28, 2010) reporter Motoko Rich considers mainly publishers’ profits in her article about the current debate about the pricing of e-books versus printed ones. She does point out, however, that authors, earning 15% on a book that sells for $26, would come away with almost $3.90 after paying back any advances on royalties.
On my book, Broken Patterns, published 15 years ago by Wayne State University Press, I made 7.5%…on each hardcover–which sold for $44.95 ( you can imagine how many I sold at that price!) and 5% on the paperback, which went for $24.95. The book, on which I spent 12 years, went on sale a few years later…Used copies are now advertised at 11 cents…Well, you can do the math. (I can’t bear to).
With a new book, Ithaca Diaries, in the works, I’ve been thinking of self-publishing, this time around. But I read somewhere that self-published authors, using publishing on demand plaforms, sell on average maybe 25 copies—and you have to factor in the costs of marketing, editing and design.
In her Times article, Rich quotes Anne Rice, the best-selling author of vampire books, as saying that authors have no idea what books cost or what profits publishers make. “For all I know, a million books at $9.99 might be great for an author,” Ms. Rice says.
Could be. (Hey, I was an English major–again, no math). But even I have figured out that if I had a day job, I shouldn’t quit it, just yet!