To E or not to E?

(Because this post has become a bit longer than I’d intended, I’ll divide it in half, with the first part All About Laurie, and the more important bit tomorrow.)

Twice a year, publishers send their authors a royalty statement (and, with luck, a check to go with it.)  These are daunting documents, page after page of columns designed primarily to intimidate the author into not worrying her pretty little head about what it all means.  And because they’re comprehensive statements, with columns that reflect earnings back to the beginnings of time for each book, much of what they say is meaningless.  Do I really need the figures every six months for the To Play the Fool hardback, which hasn’t been available since 1997?

However, as you can imagine, the addition of columns for eBooks some years back has made for some interesting reflections on the nation’s changing interests.  Which amounts basically to: The eBook is here to stay.

From time to time, well-meaning readers have asked me which earns me more, a print book or an eBook.  And although my answer tends to be, They’re pretty much the same, since I’d rather people make their choice by what they like rather than what they think it places in my wallet, there’s another question that I personally find even more interesting, concerning bookstores.

By way of a quick (hah!) answer to the readers’ question, I’ll say that the author’s royalties on a $25 hardback like Pirate King are in the neighborhood of $3.75 (they were $2.50 for the first 5,000 sold; $3.13 for the second 5,000.)  Royalties for the Pirate King eBook, priced at $12.99, are slightly lower, at $3.25, will drop (to $1.95) as soon as I earn out the advance Random House gave me, then go lower if (when) they reduce the price of the eBook.

On the other hand, royalties for a $15 trade paperback such as The Beekeeper’s Apprentice are $1.13, whereas for its $9.99 eBook I get $1.50.

These figures don’t begin to touch on the questions of deep-discounting (when the publisher sells at a greater-than-standard discount to big-volume outlets, and narrows the author’s percentage accordingly) or Rights sales (Do I get royalties from large-print and Mystery Guild sales, or a flat rights sale?) and audio books (which have both rights and royalties) and how one publisher’s eBook royalties are 15% while others are considerably more generous.

You see why I tend not to answer the question of relative earnings?

However, believe it or not, this blog post is not All About Me.

What I started writing about with this post was the question of eBook sales in Independent bookstores.  And I will post more fully on that tomorrow.

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  1. Leslie on February 13, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Yet another thing to add to the whole ebook debate is the variation of royalty rates depending on the price chargedf. For Amazon Kindle ebooks the royalty rate for books priced from 2.99 to 9.99 is 70%. For any other price point it is 35%. both also have a small delivery fee depending on the size of the file. Obviously your publisher takes a cut I don’t know how Amazon Kindle deals with publishers.

    When I saw the price point of your ebook I wondered whether you were aware of this policy.

    Cheers – and tahns for creating such a great character in Mary and bringing new and wonderful levels of character to Holmes.


  2. Linda on February 13, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    I had read elsewhere that the royalty “game” was complicated, but never had it broken out in such detail before. It really is amazing that an author has to keep up with all this when all they want to do is write a great book! I know, Laurie, that you would read these reports, but I do hope that you have someone who takes on the burden of analysis and then gives you a summary. What a pain! This has to be exponentially more complicated than it was just a few years ago.

    As a (HUGE) fan, I’m grateful that you are willing to explore all the publishing avenues. I have both print and ebook (Kindle) versions of your books. If I’m home, it’s likely print I’m reading (well, actually re-reading now), and if I’m away from home, it’s Kindle. I can take your entire collection with me easily, which I really appreciate.

    I’m sure, for some authors, this is a more difficult issue, especially when they are not as established. Navigating the intricacies of all this must be daunting. While there are self-publishing guides, it would certainly seem worthwhile for a newer writer to have advice and counsel.

    Thank you for sharing all this. It’s fascinating!
    PS: My small and full sized Pirate King posters look FABULOUS!

  3. Roy Segal on February 18, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    Uploading a book to sell via Amazon Kindle is a relatively simple process. I originally charged $0.99 cents for the book, but I paid a graphic designer $270 to make a nice cover and thought I would be bold and go all the way and start charging $2.99, to try to recoup the price to make the cover. It remains to be seen if that will be accomplished.

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