Zombie Publishing Meme #4: Self-Publishing is Costly and Risky; Legacy Publishing is Guaranteed and Free.
From Joe Konrath:
Self-Publishing is Costly and Risky; Legacy Publishing is Guaranteed and Free
This meme takes a couple different forms. Sometimes it expresses itself as a comparison of the worst possible example of self-publishing to the best possible example of legacy publishing. Other times, the comparison is between the typical reality of self-publishing and the rare ideal of legacy publishing. Either way, the framework is misleading.
The meme is customarily introduced by someone claiming she explored self-publishing and was shocked to find it involved such high costs–$4000 just for editing, for example. The writer paid anyway, then was disappointed to discover that her ebook, which she was selling for $14.99, sold poorly and seems unlikely ever to recoup its costs.
. . . .
The writer then compares this unfortunate state of affairs to the possible ease of mailing out a few query letters, landing a six-figure deal with a Big Five publisher, and having all publishing services delivered smoothly and expertly.
In fact, many authors self-publish for nothing (both in ebook and pbook). They do it themselves, or barter for services (I’ll proofread yours if you proofread mine.) There are also many affordable freelance editors, artists, proofers, and designers.
. . . .But regardless of what a self-published author chooses to spend on publishing services, it’s critical to understand that the author keeps her rights and the majority of revenues (typically 70% in digital). In other words, the costs of self-publishing–whether the self-published author prefers to spend a few dollars or a few thousand–are generally upfront; the payout is over the long term.By contrast, the upfront costs of the legacy route tend to be relatively modest (if you don’t include time spent mailing out query letters and manuscripts, and waiting, perhaps permanently, to hear from an agent or editor). If you do land a legacy contract, you can expect some sort of advance (probably a few thousand dollars) and a promise that you’ll receive all relevant publishing services. In exchange, you’ll have to give up approximately 85% of revenues and you’ll almost certainly be surrendering your rights forever. The costs of legacy-publishing are therefore long-term; the payout, in the form of whatever advance you are offered, is upfront.If a writer is lucky enough to get a gigantic advance–which Joe guesses only happens in less than 0.1% of legacy contracts–royalties don’t matter because they won’t ever be earned out. The advance is the only money the writer will likely ever see. But any advance less than life-changing money functions as an ridiculously high interest loan.
If you were a genre author offered a $100k advance earning 17.5% royalties off of the digital list price, and your ebook is priced at $4.99, you earn $0.88 per ebook sold. You need to sell 113,600 ebooks to earn out your advance. And when you do, you’re stuck with 88 cents per sale, FOREVER.
The same ebook, self-published, earns the author $3.49 per copy sold. If they sell 28,653 copies, they made the $100,000. Every copy they sell after that, they make 4x more money than they do on a legacy ebook.
Which seems like a better deal for authors?Not only is the loan high interest, it’s also forever, because the author will never get those rights back.
Link to the rest at Joe Konrath and thanks to Stephen for the tip.
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