Can Everton Jones find out how his father stole Emperor Bokassa’s diamonds and, more importantly, where he hid them; before the world and his brother get there first?
Click on the picture link in the sidebar to read an extract of my first novel, which was published by Paradise Press in August 2012.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

What does a traditional publisher actually sell to an author?

Sunday morning saw a short interview on the BBC morning news with Mark Edwards, co-author of Kindle’s best-selling Killing Cupid. He’d just got a big publishing deal with Harper Collins and I have been wondering just exactly what they’ve bought or rather, and much more to the point, what he’s bought from them?

See the interview made much of the present practice of making authors promote their own books. As a result, the same authors, having become more secure in their ability to get their own sales, are progressively cutting out the publisher and self-publishing. Certainly it is widely voiced that traditional publishers have very small budgets for publicising the books they sell.

Mark put his book on the Kindle store as an e-book (priced, incidentally, at a very competitive 70p). He promoted his book agressively using social marketing on twitter facebook and via his blog. He became a best-seller and Harper Collins have snapped him up. They have paid him an advance, and they get the rights to his book.


But he’s still going to promote the book. He’s going to be giving HC a sizeable slice of the royalties. So now, whenever HC sell a copy of his book, he is paying them. And the more books they sell, the more he pays them. Now that’s what I don’t get.



If I self-publish my book, I’ll have to pay for an editor and a book jacket design and will have to purchase an ISBN. Mark has bought all of these services from HC. Increasingly publishers are outsourcing these services. Mark could have gone direct to the freelance editor and designer, paid once and gets to keep all of his profit.

Let’s say their slice is 20% of a £5 paperback and that they sell 10,000 copies. He has actually paid them £10,000 for editing and design he could have had for well under £3,000. And should he be lucky enough to sell 100,000 copies the bill goes up to £100,000.

OK, being with a big publisher says they think it will sell and make them money. It’s a badge of honour, so to speak. But the price seems unnecessarily high, given what they actually do for their money.

Contrast how Mark would do if he self-published the same paperback. £2,000 to copy edit and (say) £1000 for design etc. He gets 250 books printed (say) at £3 each with a digital book printer like Lightning Source. He’s spent a total of £3,750. Then he will have to sell at a higher price to cover his costs, which cuts down his market a bit, granted. Call it £8. After a 55% discount to the bookseller and £1.20 postage, he keeps £2.40 per sale. Compared with (say) 10% of the cover price royalty via HC: 50p per sale. And he’s actually giving HC £1 on each sale.

How does any of that stack up?

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