Monday, 21 November 2011

Are You Satisfied with Your Package?

There's much debate about royalties and contracts for ebooks at the moment. The Jackal tried skipping publishers to keep royalties higher for writers. Amazon offers a 70% (or 35%) royalty for self-published writers. But is there more to book contracts than royalties? As a writer we also have to ask what we're getting, beyond money, in any publishing contract.

A 70% royalty is great, if you manage to get it from a publisher who will handle editing, production and distribution for you. That's a great royalty, matched with a good level of support from dedicated professionals. But how much input will you have in the cover design, editing and marketing of the book?

Similarly, a 70% royalty where you have to do all the work yourself is perhaps misleading. Why do I say this? Well, to produce a book of the same standard and quality as the mainstream publishers, you have to pay for editing, proofing, layout, etc. That's also overlooking marketing and promotion. So even though you're earning more per ebook sold, you've already forked out a grand or two. If your book sells less than 100 copies (as 80% of all books do), you won't make back your investment. The amount that a self-publisher can actually consider profit for themselves, after all other costs have been paid, might work out lower than a 35% royalty deal with a major publisher.

I would also add time into the cost for a self-published ebook writer. A writer with an indie or mainstream publisher will spend time writing their work and then editing it with the publisher. They may also do some marketing. But they will have support from the publisher which a self-published writer will not have.

The level of support between indie publishers and major publishers, however, is also different. An indie press might dedicate more time to a one-on-one relationship. A major publishing company may have a huge marketing department, but you may find your work passed over to their promotions machine without much input. Budgets will vary from book to book, author to author, publisher to publisher. It's worth asking what budget (if any) a publisher will allocate to promoting your book.

So ultimately a higher royalty might not, in itself, be the best thing for you. You as a writer have to work out which option fits your own needs. Some writers cannot fathom the idea of doing anything but writing. Others are happy to self-promote every minute of the day. Most are somewhere in between. Decide what it is that's important to you, and stand your ground. But don't just get sucked in by great royalties.*

*This is also why agents may still be useful for some writers, since they will argue the details of the contract for you.

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