Author Royalties: Industry Standards vs. Self Publishing

Posted: July 18, 2013 in Uncategorized
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I have been asked by many aspiring writers how much they should expect to be paid for writing urban fiction. However, this answer is not cut and dry. There are a few things that needs to be taken into consideration before answering properly. Your payout for traditional publishing will be different from the payout for self-publishing. Depending on which route you take your results or royalties will be different. This post is dedicated to explaining the differences or giving you an idea of the amount to be expected from book sales.

Traditional Publishing: Industry Standards

Most publishers use a basic standard of paying out royalties to its authors. The standard is 10% on books sold up to 5k to 10k sold. After that amount it goes to 15%. I must clarify it is not 10% or 15% on retail price. An author’s royalties are calculated after the cost of printing and producing the books. Which in a quick example would look like this

Retail Price: $9.99 – Printing $5.99= $4.00  Author royalties is 10% of $4.00 which is about $0.40 per book sold. If your book sells 10k copies you are looking at roughly $4,000 in royalties same model at 15% is $0.60 per book sold at $6,000 for 10k books sold.

This doesn’t appear to be much however, it can be beneficial if you and your publisher promote your work effectively. That model is looking at the industry standard but if your book becomes a best seller or sales more than 10k copies which is obviously your goal than you can do well.

Author Royalties: Self-Publishing

Real self-publishing requires the author to foot the upfront cost of publishing. If using a printing service you will receive a discounted rate for buying copies of your book in bulk. This is beneficial simply because you can order large quantities and sell them yourself to your audience. An example of royalties under the previous example goes as follows.

Retail Price $9.99 – Printing cost 4.99 (on order of 100 copies) = $5.00 author royalty is $5.00 per book sold. On sells of 10k total amount payable to author is $50,000. In this example there is no need for 10% or 15% calculations because the difference after printing goes to the author.

Which is Better Self-Publishing or Industry Standard?

Obviously looking at the numbers self-publishing would be the better financial choice however, there are some set backs. Using a publishing company allows the writer to just write without absorbing the heavy cost of publishing upfront. However, it is evident in the lower payout on the back in. While self-publishing will allow you to sell your work directly to consumers it requires a lot of marketing to spread the word. Authors who are not dedicated to marketing or doing hard sales may be intimidated with that form of marketing. So 10k sales may seem unreachable.

When it comes to royalties or choosing traditional over self-publishing my best advice is to be sure to select the best option for you in the long run. If you are to shy to market or do any heavy marketing self-publishing may not be the best option. However, if you are able to combine your marketing efforts to that of the publisher you may want to submit to a traditional publisher. They may have more reach and can get you in many doors.

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