Author Topic: One of my pet peeves: slanted comparisons between self and traditonal  (Read 2172 times)  

Offline Michael_J_Sullivan

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One thing that drives me a bit crazy is that stupid Taleist Survey which says self-published authors only make $500.  The reason it bothers me is it fails to do an apples-to-apples comparison. If you consider the entire pool to be books written - some of which go through the query go round and some of them that go self-publishing. I think the chances of success is pretty much equal...and those that fail on the query-go-round won't make ANY money.

Anyway, I wrote a post about this for Amazing Stories, and thought I would share it here.
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    Offline D.L. Shutter

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    Michael

    Yeah, it's getting tiresome. The avg. indie only makes X while the average print writer get's an advance, maybe xx in royalties, plus value add, plus validation.

    But like you said, this omits the average slush swimmer in the traditional kiddie pool who get's nothing. I'll take a handful of buys and a review or two (even if bad) over a pile of rejection letters.

    Offline Lisa Grace

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    I'm getting to the point where all theses comparisions make me roll my eyes (and I'm not an eye roller) ::).

    They just don't get it, and it's okay, really. Because the amount I get deposited into my bank account each month, is proof enough I'm a real author. And I'm in the lower middle end of the indie pack earnings wise.

    I think we need to put together a little video, where an author out shopping runs into person after person telling him/her he's not a real author. The final stop is a bank, he/she pull out a series of checks, one from B&N, one from Kobo, one from Sony, one from iTunes, one from Deisel, one from Drive Thru, one from All Romance, one from Paypal (for the books sold on their personal website) one from each of the Amazon stores, and lastly one from Smashwords (and maybe a few other off-beat places). Where the total of all the checks adds up to a tidy sum.

    P. S. I agree with your article and tweeted it.
    « Last Edit: June 15, 2013, 09:08:19 am by LisaGraceBooks »
     
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    Offline Hugh Howey

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    I've been trying to drive the same point home for years. People can't wrap their brains around this. They think if you go traditional, your book is going to sit on store shelves for the rest of your life. They compare that to self-pubbing. It's frustrating, because it sends hopeful writers down a poor path.
     
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    Offline JRTomlin

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    Excellent post, Michael! Very well thought out.

    I do not accept the Terms of Service which were instituted without notification. I do not consent to VerticalScope reproducing content I posted on this forum in any newsletter, website, or another forum. I've requested account deletion; however, the owners of this forum REFUSE to delete my content. Further, I repudiate any association with ads that are sexist, racist, and demeaning to women which are now appearing on this site.

    Offline BrianKittrell

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    Since there is little real data on the topic, I'll have to prance through the meadows of made-up figures. I hope you don't mind.

    The common belief is that 95% of books don't earn more than $500 in its lifetime. That's probably true. I mean, anything that stays above rank #100,000 is probably on that road, and there are millions of books in the system (on Amazon alone).

    Okay, so there are 99,999 books above rank 100,000. Of those, how many are traditionally published? We may never know, and I'm not going to count. Perhaps in my youth I might have....no.

    So, let's make up some random figures to make ourselves feel good.

    What would you say is the ratio of trad authors to self-pub authors in that top 100,000? 1 trad to every 1000 self-pubs? Maybe even more? There are a lot more of us than them. Of that we can be sure.

    The distribution of money earned per book is more on the traditional side, or so we're being told. Less authors generating books which earn more money per title than most of us will ever see. However, they get considerably lower royalty percentages. Many of the authors make much more than any of us, but it takes tremendously more book sales to achieve the same. (around 6-10 times as many, depending on several factors)

    And that last bit is based on plenty of anecdotal evidence. I've seen authors talking about royalties per sale in the area of $0.30-$0.70 per copy sometimes. If I pull ~$4.00 per copy, I have to sell 1/10th the amount to make the same money. That gives me a comfortable living if I sell 300 copies of three different books in a month, as opposed to the ~9000 I would have to sell to make the same kind of money. Isn't ~3,000-5,000 copies in a week NY Times status? I've heard that less than that can land you on the list in the slower months.

    So... many of us are making more than NY Times bestselling authors due to the royalty structure? On far fewer copies sold. <-- there's your headline, if it can be proven.

    We don't know the amounts that traditional authors make, but we could estimate some of them if we had the sales numbers. Of course, we rarely hear about them unless they sell a huge number of copies. I'd like to compare midlist or just barely NY Times bestsellers to our own figures to see how things measure up. That, though, might be a nail in the coffin, hastening the route to the grave.

    I'm going to cut it short here, but to end, I think that the ones who keep repeating the mantra ("There's no money in self-publishing.") will eventually get tired like everyone else and move on to more interesting topics. lol
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    Offline Barbara Morgenroth

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    I did a Complete Idiot's Guide for Alpha/Penguin.  I still "owe" them $16,000.
    They promised they would get it into the chains--they didn't.
    They promised publicity.  I didn't get any.
    But that was after they promised it would be published the same year which was
    why I had a 10 week deadline to do the darn thing and guess what?
    The editor took a runner and it was published in 18 months just like normal.
    So it missed the peak of interest on the topic.
    Which may I say a lot of other publishers managed to not miss.
    (I'm leaving out so much of the pain, torment and agita of the worst publishing experience of my life.)
    What did I get?  Blamed.
    So.  Tell me again why it's such a superior experience to be published by one of the Big 6 because I have a hard time remembering.

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    Offline Avis Black

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    Kris Rusch has said that the average trad royalty is about 2 dollars a copy for paper.  Another old figure (from 2004) says that the average trad book barely sells 100 copies a year.  People who sell well are statistical outliers.  If you do the math, that's 200 dollars average profit for a trad writer per year per book.  But that's only if you've already paid off the advance and have reached the point of earning royalties, and if you even got an advance, which hasn't happening much nowadays.  If you sell poorly, you're likely to be dropped by your publisher, and have no chance of getting another publisher to accept your second book.
    « Last Edit: June 15, 2013, 09:52:41 am by Avis Black »


    Offline DRMarvello

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    ...But that's only if you've already paid off the advance and have reached the point of earning royalties, and if you even got an advance, which hasn't happening much nowadays...

    That's a good point. Most trade authors don't actually earn any royalties on their sales. The advance is likely the only money they'll ever see, because only a small percentage of books earn out their advance. Most are taken off the shelves before they have a chance to do so. Even bestsellers can fail to earn out their advance, depending upon how big the advance was.

    If I were offered a trade deal, the advance would be the most important negotiation point. I know I'd effectively be "selling my book to them" for whatever amount we agreed upon. Actual royalties would be unexpected gravy.

    Offline Lisa Grace

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    Since there is little real data on the topic, I'll have to prance through the meadows of made-up figures. I hope you don't mind.

    The common belief is that 95% of books don't earn more than $500 in its lifetime. That's probably true. I mean, anything that stays above rank #100,000 is probably on that road, and there are millions of books in the system (on Amazon alone).

    Okay, so there are 99,999 books above rank 100,000. Of those, how many are traditionally published? We may never know, and I'm not going to count. Perhaps in my youth I might have....no.

    So, let's make up some random figures to make ourselves feel good.

    What would you say is the ratio of trad authors to self-pub authors in that top 100,000? 1 trad to every 1000 self-pubs? Maybe even more? There are a lot more of us than them. Of that we can be sure.

    The distribution of money earned per book is more on the traditional side, or so we're being told. Less authors generating books which earn more money per title than most of us will ever see. However, they get considerably lower royalty percentages. Many of the authors make much more than any of us, but it takes tremendously more book sales to achieve the same. (around 6-10 times as many, depending on several factors)

    And that last bit is based on plenty of anecdotal evidence. I've seen authors talking about royalties per sale in the area of $0.30-$0.70 per copy sometimes. If I pull ~$4.00 per copy, I have to sell 1/10th the amount to make the same money. That gives me a comfortable living if I sell 300 copies of three different books in a month, as opposed to the ~9000 I would have to sell to make the same kind of money. Isn't ~3,000-5,000 copies in a week NY Times status? I've heard that less than that can land you on the list in the slower months.

    So... many of us are making more than NY Times bestselling authors due to the royalty structure? On far fewer copies sold. <-- there's your headline, if it can be proven.

    We don't know the amounts that traditional authors make, but we could estimate some of them if we had the sales numbers. Of course, we rarely hear about them unless they sell a huge number of copies. I'd like to compare midlist or just barely NY Times bestsellers to our own figures to see how things measure up. That, though, might be a nail in the coffin, hastening the route to the grave.

    I'm going to cut it short here, but to end, I think that the ones who keep repeating the mantra ("There's no money in self-publishing.") will eventually get tired like everyone else and move on to more interesting topics. lol

    Lots of books below the 100,000 rank have made more than $500. I know, because one of mine that earned over $2k is ranked well below that. Remember, the 100K rank is just a snapshot of "now" and there are more than 3 million books with ISBNs available.
     
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    Offline SBJones

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    Re: One of my pet peeves: slanted comparisons between self and traditonal
    « Reply #10 on: June 15, 2013, 10:39:21 am »
    Well.  $500 for a lifetime is just a joke since the advent of self publishing by uploading to the retailer.  Even if your book is in the 100k-250k range for ranking on Amazon you will pull in $500 in a year at a 70% royalty price range.

    Now if you changed that number to say that most self published books don't earn $5,000 a YEAR (not a lifetime), then I would be inclined to nod my head in agreement.  However that doesn't mean we are poor and broke.  Five to ten books making $4,000 each is still $20-40,000 a year.

    I too have made well over $500 this year on books that are below the 200,000 mark.
       

    Offline Lisa Grace

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    Re: One of my pet peeves: slanted comparisons between self and traditonal
    « Reply #11 on: June 15, 2013, 10:55:32 am »
    Now if you changed that number to say that most self published books don't earn $5,000 a YEAR (not a lifetime), then I would be inclined to nod my head in agreement.  However that doesn't mean we are poor and broke.  Five to ten books making $4,000 each is still $20-40,000 a year.

    I too have made well over $500 this year on books that are below the 200,000 mark.

    This. Many of us realize our books may neve be an outlier, but we will settle for ten, twenty, or more books pulling in $500 to thousands each. You can make a nice living on quality books if you have quantity.
     
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    Offline D.L. Shutter

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    Re: One of my pet peeves: slanted comparisons between self and traditonal
    « Reply #12 on: June 15, 2013, 11:12:13 am »
    Quote
    People can't wrap their brains around this. They think if you go traditional, your book is going to sit on store shelves for the rest of your life.

    I know a number of writers' from groups to friends who insist on pursuing traditional and don't want to hear a lick from me or anyone else about self-pubbing. They claim they still want the "paper" dream and I'll admit that still makes sense to me: becoming that lottery winning breakout author who get's engineered by the big machine into a mega seller. It makes sense to want that. To my knowledge no indie has sold ten million of anything, let alone a single title, let alone a hundred million. And until a certain indie sci-fi story get's its Hollywood treatment completed no indie has had a blockbuster "A" list, tentpole movie made from it either.

    The traditional side can lay claim to dozens of these wickets. Fine. Go chase that dream if you believe in yourself. Great.

    But I never hear those justifications. I only hear about needing "validation", needing the "marketing", needing the "collaborative team", needing the "agent management"...and on and on.





    Offline JRTomlin

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    Re: One of my pet peeves: slanted comparisons between self and traditonal
    « Reply #13 on: June 15, 2013, 11:38:01 am »
    This. Many of us realize our books may neve be an outlier, but we will settle for ten, twenty, or more books pulling in $500 to thousands each. You can make a nice living on quality books if you have quantity.
    Exactly. A book in the 10 to 40k range priced at $2.99 to $4.99 is going to bring in a nice yearly income and multiplied by 10 that is what a lot of us do to make a living. You don't need to be an outlier to do well as an author these days.
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    Offline Vivi_Anna

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    Re: One of my pet peeves: slanted comparisons between self and traditonal
    « Reply #14 on: June 15, 2013, 11:51:06 am »
    Kris Rusch has said that the average trad royalty is about 2 dollars a copy for paper.  Another old figure (from 2004) says that the average trad book barely sells 100 copies a year.  People who sell well are statistical outliers.  If you do the math, that's 200 dollars average profit for a trad writer per year per book.  But that's only if you've already paid off the advance and have reached the point of earning royalties, and if you even got an advance, which hasn't happening much nowadays.  If you sell poorly, you're likely to be dropped by your publisher, and have no chance of getting another publisher to accept your second book.

    That 2 dollars I'd say is HIGH and not average. Not when the average royalty is 10%.  So 1 dollar is more like it.


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    Offline Michael_J_Sullivan

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    Re: One of my pet peeves: slanted comparisons between self and traditonal
    « Reply #15 on: June 15, 2013, 12:31:29 pm »
    P. S. I agree with your article and tweeted it.

    Hey, Lisa thanks for helping to spread the word.  I think it's an important issue that needs addressing.
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    Offline Lisa Grace

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    Re: One of my pet peeves: slanted comparisons between self and traditonal
    « Reply #16 on: June 15, 2013, 12:52:45 pm »
    Hey, Lisa thanks for helping to spread the word.  I think it's an important issue that needs addressing.
    I also tweeted it directly to @passivevoiceblg I'm hoping he'll link to it. It's an excellent article.
     
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    Offline Michael_J_Sullivan

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    Re: One of my pet peeves: slanted comparisons between self and traditonal
    « Reply #17 on: June 15, 2013, 12:54:15 pm »
    Kris Rusch has said that the average trad royalty is about 2 dollars a copy for paper.  Another old figure (from 2004) says that the average trad book barely sells 100 copies a year.  People who sell well are statistical outliers.  If you do the math, that's 200 dollars average profit for a trad writer per year per book.  But that's only if you've already paid off the advance and have reached the point of earning royalties, and if you even got an advance, which hasn't happening much nowadays.  If you sell poorly, you're likely to be dropped by your publisher, and have no chance of getting another publisher to accept your second book.

    That sounds like a Hardcover number  average royalties are:

    • 10% - 15% list on hardcover
    • 6% - 8% on paperback

    So a $25.00 hardcover is $2.50 - $3.75,  $14.95 trade paperback = $1.12, and a $7.99 mass market about $0.64
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    Offline JRTomlin

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    Re: One of my pet peeves: slanted comparisons between self and traditonal
    « Reply #18 on: June 15, 2013, 01:08:36 pm »
    I tweeted it and blogged about it. Michael, thanks for writing an article I was much too lazy to tackle, and no doubt doing it better than I would have.
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    Offline Rykymus

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    Re: One of my pet peeves: slanted comparisons between self and traditonal
    « Reply #19 on: June 15, 2013, 01:39:33 pm »
    I believe Hugh Howey mentioned it before (in a different thread) but I'll say it again. Those that still want the traditional deal are probably more likely to get it if they sell well digitally. A smart publisher sees the profit potential in a mega digital seller crossing over into paper. It has already happened on several occasions. And again, in the meantime, you're making money instead of waiting in a slush pile.

    Sometimes people refuse to believe the obvious until it runs over them with a vengeance.

    Offline DRMarvello

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    Re: One of my pet peeves: slanted comparisons between self and traditonal
    « Reply #20 on: June 16, 2013, 07:22:40 am »
    I know a number of writers' from groups to friends who insist on pursuing traditional and don't want to hear a lick from me or anyone else about self-pubbing.

    Yep. I've met them.

    That's cool. More readers for me.  8)

    Offline Lisa Grace

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    Re: One of my pet peeves: slanted comparisons between self and traditonal
    « Reply #21 on: June 16, 2013, 07:44:31 am »
    I know a number of writers' from groups to friends who insist on pursuing traditional and don't want to hear a lick from me or anyone else about self-pubbing. They claim they still want the "paper" dream and I'll admit that still makes sense to me: becoming that lottery winning breakout author who get's engineered by the big machine into a mega seller. It makes sense to want that.

    I agree. I've stopped trying to convert. I tell them, "That's great. Enjoy the journey."

    I'm here if people want to know how. I'll direct them to Dean Wesley Smith's Think Like a Publisher, David Gaughran, Guido Henkel, and here.
     
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    Offline ElHawk

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    Re: One of my pet peeves: slanted comparisons between self and traditonal
    « Reply #22 on: June 16, 2013, 08:18:42 am »
    One thing that drives me a bit crazy is that stupid Taleist Survey which says self-published authors only make $500.  The reason it bothers me is it fails to do an apples-to-apples comparison. If you consider the entire pool to be books written - some of which go through the query go round and some of them that go self-publishing. I think the chances of success is pretty much equal...and those that fail on the query-go-round won't make ANY money.

    Anyway, I wrote a post about this for Amazing Stories, and thought I would share it here.

    I saw this on Hugh's blog last night.  You made some truly excellent points I've never thought of before...and it was really gratifying to see how my rankings compare to some popular traditionally published authors' rankings, too!  For some dumb reason I never thought to check on that myself.  Turns out I consistently out-sell my secret traditionally-published NEMESIS, so I feel super awesome now, all thanks to your article.  :D


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    Offline ElHawk

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    Re: One of my pet peeves: slanted comparisons between self and traditonal
    « Reply #23 on: June 16, 2013, 08:31:10 am »
    Lots of books below the 100,000 rank have made more than $500. I know, because one of mine that earned over $2k is ranked well below that. Remember, the 100K rank is just a snapshot of "now" and there are more than 3 million books with ISBNs available.

    Definitely.  Baptism for the Dead putts along at a very low ranking most of the time, but when it gets talked about on certain blogs or podcasts, it gets crazy peaks in its sales and has jumped up as high as #10,000-ish in the past.  I'm too lazy to look up its total earnings now, but it's probably around $1,000 since I published it this past October. 

    On the whole, though, I think looking at the right-now snapshot is the most reasonable means an observer has for judging performance.


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    Offline Mike Dennis

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    Re: One of my pet peeves: slanted comparisons between self and traditonal
    « Reply #24 on: June 16, 2013, 11:47:25 am »
    I too have made well over $500 this year on books that are below the 200,000 mark.

    SB--
    When you say "below" 200,000, do you mean numerically higher than or lower than 200,000?


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