What I Get Paid For My Novels: Or, Why I’m Not Quitting My Day Job

29 January 2015

From author Kameron Hurley:

In the spirit of honesty and transparency that’s often sorely lacking in the literary world, here’s what I’ve been paid for my novels for the last 7 years.

Many of you don’t realize I’ve had writing contracts for 7 years! That’s because the first contract I ever signed was canceled. They paid it out anyway. But it was nearly three more years before those books saw print, so my professional writing career didn’t start until 2011.

Needless to say, I’ve had a day job this entire time because I like money and also paying for health insurance and food and paying off student loans.

This is the first year that book advances, royalties, and my day job salary will all combine to bring me up over the $100,000 a year mark (likely $105,000 or so, depending on outstanding items).  I was pretty much destitute in 2007 – laid off, sleeping in a friend’s spare bedroom, living completely on credit cards – so 7 years from penniless to $100k is a big milestone for me, and I intend to celebrate it by paying off a student loan.

The goal is to be debt-free (aside from the mortgage) in two years.

I also worked relentlessly to get here, and I’m aware it could all blow up tomorrow.

About 75% of that money I’ll make this year, still, comes from my day job. The numbers below show why.

15% of all of these amounts went to the agent who negotiated the deal.

Another 15-20% went toward taxes.

. . . .

[After listing advances and rights sales for various books]

You can see the advances there looking pretty grim after the 2008 publishing crash. Prior to the crash, there were a lot more people getting $20k advances and saying, “Hey, yeah, that’s OK,” instead of “Thank GOD.” They became harder to get after 2008.

. . . .

This is a tough business to stay in, especially if you don’t have a solid day job or a partner with same. I hear folks say that the 4-5 book place is where a lot of folks start to make money, and it’s true that this is the first year I could earn what I’d call a living wage if I quit or was laid off. But I know too much about publishing – and the changing tastes of the readership – to go all in making $30-40k a year when I’ve spent this long slogging to get to $100k through a combined workaholic income stream of novels, day job, and freelancing. You don’t give all that up just because you had one positive year.

If I’ve learned anything about publishing it’s that you should always hope that one great year is the start of an upward trend – but you should never count on it.

I was poor in 2007. I have no interest in going back if I can help it.

And that’s why I’m not quitting my day job.

Link to the rest at Kameron Hurley and thanks to Margaret for the tip.

Here’s a link to Kameron Hurley’s books

Oh noes, the sky is falling

29 January 2015

From Mad Genius Club:

On  one of the mailing lists I belong to, someone commented about how Publishers Weekly was basically declaring the imminent death of science fiction. According to PW, sales of SF were down 21% in 2013 and another 7% in 2014. In other words, SF sales were down approximately 4.14 million units and now is smaller than the graphic novel market. Needless to say, yours truly (as well as everyone else on the list including the person who posted it) met those numbers with skepticism. My concern about the accuracy of the report came not only because it was from PW but also because there was no breakdown as to whether this was talking print only, print and e-book sales and how those numbers were gathered.

So, yours truly went searching for more information this morning and surprise, surprise. It turns out we were right to be skeptical. It seems that those numbers come from Bookscan. You know, our friendly neighborhood sales reporter that doesn’t count every sale from every outlet but uses handwavium to figure out what title has sold how many units. Bookscan that doesn’t track every title, as in most indie titles aren’t included. Bookscan that is iffy at best when it comes to reporting e-book sales. But, if we are to take PW seriously, we are to worry about the decline in demand for science fiction.

Sorry, but no. If PW and those looking at the figures and wringing their hands would know if they simply took a little time to think about it, all these figures show is that people are tired of what is coming out of most traditional publishing houses when it comes to SF.

. . . .

I went to Amazon and checked the top 10 best sellers. It didn’t surprise me at all to see that, out of the top 10 in SF best selling e-books, only three were from from traditional publishers and one of those is a reprint. If you continue looking at the rest of the titles in the Top 100, you find that the vast majority of them are either small press or indie published books. That should say something. The lesson there is that science fiction is not dead. Far from it in fact.

That isn’t to say that the numbers PW posted are completely wrong or that those reading them see a decline in SF sales. Where they are wrong is in how they interpret the numbers.

Link to the rest at Mad Genius Club and thanks to Dave for the tip.

To light

29 January 2015

To light a candle is to cast a shadow.

Ursula K. Le Guin

Big-Box Store Has New Life as an Airy Public Library

29 January 2015

From The New York Times:

The hulking husk of a vacant Walmart here in the Rio Grande Valley is enjoying an unlikely second act. When the big-box retailer moved to a larger location down the street, the building might have been destined to house yet another large chain or to fall into disrepair. But rather than let it become an eyesore, the city scooped it up and spent $24 million transforming the drab structure into a 123,000-square-foot public library that serves as a vibrant space for residents here.

The library, which the McAllen Public Library system says “may very well be the largest single-floor public library in the nation,” has a modern, cheery feel. Twenty-foot ceilings, combined with new skylights and windows, create a bright, airy interior. Large three-dimensional signs that mark the sections hang from the ceilings, creating cozy nooks below.

The building includes a computer lab, a cafe, meeting rooms with videoconferencing capabilities and a 180-seat auditorium. It is a major upgrade from the city’s old 40,000-square-foot main library, which had cramped shelves and limited seating.

“In the old place, basically every table or chair next to an electrical outlet was taken, and you had others glancing longingly at those seats,” said John Donohue, the library’s circulation supervisor, who has been with the system for 31 years. “Now, we have outlets at all tables.”

. . . .

Residents have flocked to the new library, which opened its doors in December. It now serves more than double the number of patrons it did in the old building — about 62,000 people visited in July, up from 28,000 in July 2011.

Link to the rest at The New York Times and thanks to Cora for the tip.

Why “Spotify For Books” May Not Be The Future Of Publishing. (Yet.)

29 January 2015

From The Economist:

“BEWARE of the person of one book,” said Thomas Aquinas, a medieval friar and author. The risk of encountering such unscholarly types is rarer in modern times. Digital devices can hold dozens of e-books, so people can carry around a whole shelf of reading material with them. Now a new crop of e-book subscription companies is offering bibliophiles the chance to consume as many books as they like, from a huge range of titles, for a flat fee of around $10 a month.

It is a bit like having a whole lending library in your pocket—but with no need to return the books. In America the main providers of e-book subscriptions include Amazon, Oyster and Scribd.

. . . .

The subscription model has already taken off in music and television, with providers such as Spotify and Netflix. Consumers have shown an increasing preference for such all-you-can-eat bundles, as opposed to buying each item separately. That worries book publishers and authors, who still make most of their money from sales of single copies. So far they have approached subscription services cautiously, holding back their newest and most popular titles from them.

. . . .

The record companies tolerate music-streaming services like Spotify, which pay them only modest fees, because the alternative is a continued rise in music piracy—on which they earn nothing at all. However, piracy of e-books is not such a problem: it is perfectly feasible for publishers to keep back some titles from subscription services and make money by selling individual copies of them.

Link to the rest at The Economist and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

Advertising for KDP Select

29 January 2015

From Amazon:

With advertising for KDP Select, you can use Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) to purchase advertising to promote your KDP-Select-enrolled books on Amazon.com. To get started, you can create an Amazon Marketing Services account directly on the KDP website. You set the budget you want to spend and the maximum amount you are willing to pay when a customer clicks your ad. Customers who click your ad will go to your book’s product detail page. You’ll only be charged when your ad is clicked if your ad is displayed, but if it is not clicked, you are not charged.

How It Works
First, choose the book you want to promote, and specify how you want your ad to be targeted. Then decide how much you’re willing to spend promoting it. You’ll also need to set a start and end date for when you want the ad to be delivered.

Targeting
You can choose to have your ad delivered to customers who previously browsed the Kindle Store for a particular genre, or to customers interested in specific products on Amazon.

Bidding and Budget
Your book’s ads automatically compete in an online auction. You’ll choose your maximum cost-per-click (CPC) bid when you schedule your ad. Your CPC bid is the maximum amount you will be charged when a customer clicks your ad. To advertise, you must place a minimum CPC bid of $0.02 and set a minimum campaign budget of $100.00.

Your actual cost-per-click is determined in an auction that takes place with other eligible ads. You will be charged $0.01 more than the second-highest bid in the auction for a click, up to your maximum CPC bid.

Paying for Ads
You pay only when customers click your ad. If they see it but don’t click, you are not charged. You’ll enter or select a major debit or credit card in your Amazon.com or Amazon Marketing Services account (not your KDP account), and you’ll be charged periodically in small increments as your campaign goes on.

Link to the rest at Amazon and thanks to Robert for the tip.

This is basically the way that Google advertising works.

Sure, I Trust You

29 January 2015

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

Here’s the one sentence response that I expected to last week’s post  and didn’t receive:

I know some writers have had troubles, but my agent [editor/publisher] would never do something like that.

Am I optimistic enough to believe that writers—traditional and indie—are finally getting the message that they’re business people? And, as business people, they should operate under the trust-but-verify model?

Or have I simply trained the people who respond to my blog not to put that sentence on here? (And if that’s the answer, then how come I didn’t see that sentence in the comment threads on other sites?)

In the past, I’d put up a post challenging the numbers coming out of traditional publishing and half a dozen writers would defend traditional publishing, their agents, or their editors.

But so far, no one has—at least in the venues I’ve seen.

Does that finally mean that events of the last few years have proven to writers that traditional publishing does not hold a writer’s best interest at heart?

. . . .

It doesn’t matter how much you trust your editor or your agent, they’re not the ones handling every aspect of your career. You are. You are responsible for your career. And as such, you need to trust but verify.

In other words, you need to run your business as a business.

When I negotiate contracts, I always imagine that I’m negotiating with someone worse than the person I’m actually negotiating with. The easiest way to do this is to imagine that the person handling the other side’s negotiation gets fired or dies or moves to a better job, and gets replaced by a savvy spawn of Satan. That spawn of Satan will take every innocently drafted clause of the contract and twist it to his advantage.

My job, if I do it correctly, is to make certain that the clauses can only be interpreted as written.

. . . .

But there’s more to trusting and verifying than audit clauses or even a fiduciary responsibility.

There’s an attitude.

When I started in the publishing business, long-time professional writers told me that my relationship with my agent would be like a marriage. I was startled, because at that point, I had just come out of a divorce, and frankly, I didn’t want another. What I didn’t realize was that about six years hence, I would fire my then-agent and the experience would be lots worse than the divorce.

. . . .

Your editor might be nice, but the publishing company she works for is a corporation attached to a large international conglomerate. Whose attitudes do you think will triumph inside the corporation when it comes to dealing with your business relationship? Your nice, salaried editor’s or the corporate legal department’s? Your editor may be on the communication end of the contract negotiation, but you can bet cash money that she’s checking with legal before responding to your requests. She has to, or she’ll lose her job.

So, if something goes awry, your editor will not be able to help you. A lot of editors go dark when things go badly, and forward emails and paper communications directly to legal. Some editors try to maintain the relationship with their authors, only to lose their jobs in the process.

When it comes down to it, the business decision for the editor is pretty simple: Do I defend my author or do I keep the job that pays for my home and feeds my children?

. . . .

Imagining that these powerful people are protecting us is quite parental, isn’t it? And it’s flattering to think that our talent is so great that important people will do things for us so that we can concentrate on “what we’re good at.”

Only…they’re not doing these jobs for us. They’re doing the job for money. Agents get more than 15% for the work they do. Agents are only as powerful as their clients, so if they have powerful clients, the business grows. And many agents work hand in glove with publishers.

Agents run their own businesses, and again, that trumps anything they do for you. Given a choice between the good of the agency and the good of a single writer, they’ll choose the agency every time. (And so would you, if you were an agent.)

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch and thanks to Bruce for the tip.

Here’s a link to Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s books

An Oyster subscription now gets you the entire Harry Potter series

29 January 2015

From The Verge:

Ebook subscription service Oyster just increased its value in the witchcraft and wizardry community: the company has added the entire Harry Potter series to its library. The app, which offers users a buffet of books for a flat monthly fee, will add all seven Harry Potternovels, plus J.K. Rowling’s faux-nonfiction titles, Quidditch Through the Ages, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and The Tales of Beedle the Bard to its catalog.

. . . .

Last year, Oyster co-founder Willem van Lancker told us the company’s goal was to foster “a deeper sense of community around books.” With Harry Potter, that work has already been done for Oyster — the franchise comes with its own built-in community.

Link to the rest at The Verge and thanks to Jan for the tip.

Netflix’s Secret Special Algorithm Is a Human

29 January 2015

From The New Yorker:

On the opening night of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, two films, as usual, had their premières, gaining maximum exposure to reporters and critics. The first was “What Happened, Miss Simone?,” a documentary about the singer and civil-rights icon Nina Simone. It was funded by Netflix, based at least in part on data the company collects about its users: information about what we watch, when we watch, how highly we rate what we’ve seen, and even when we hit rewind.

. . . .

Studios and television networks have long made decisions about what to produce based on the intuitions of a limited number of executives. Television studios have Nielsen ratings, and movie studios have box-office sales, to help guide them. But those are relatively simple metrics, and notoriously unreliable.

. . . .

Netflix and its chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, have been the most outspoken proponents of data-driven programming, which they say was behind the company’s biggest successes, such as “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black.” Soon after the début of “House of Cards,” David Carr, writing in the Times, pronounced that “Big bets are now being informed by Big Data.” In 2013, Kevin Spacey, the star of the show, said that Netflix had come to him and said, “We believe in you. We’ve run our data and it tells us that our audience would watch this series. We don’t need you to do a pilot. How many do you wanna do?”

Over the years, however, I’ve started to wonder whether Netflix’s big decisions are truly as data driven as they are purported to be.

. . . .

I presented Sarandos with this theory at a Sundance panel called “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Trust the Algorithm,” moderated by Jason Hirschhorn, formerly of MySpace. Sarandos, very agreeably, wobbled a bit. “It is important to know which data to ignore,” he conceded, before saying, at the end, “In practice, its probably a seventy-thirty mix.” But which is the seventy and which is the thirty? “Seventy is the data, and thirty is judgment,” he told me later. Then he paused, and said, “But the thirty needs to be on top, if that makes sense.”

. . . .

Even Google, the champion of algorithms, employs substantial human adjustments to make its search engines perform just right. (It cares so much about this that Google claims First Amendment protection for its tweaks.) I do not doubt that companies rely more on data every day, but the best human curators still maintain their supremacy.

Link to the rest at The New Yorker and thanks to Sarah for the tip.

January 2015 Author Earnings Report

28 January 2015

Executive Summary

  • AuthorEarnings reports analyze detailed title-level data on 33% of all daily ebook sales in the U.S.
  • 30% of the ebooks being purchased in the U.S. do not use ISBN numbers and are invisible to the industry’s official market surveys and reports; all the ISBN-based estimates of market share reported by Bowker, AAP, BISG, and Nielsen are wildly wrong.
  • 33% of all paid ebook unit sales on Amazon.com are indie self-published ebooks.
  • 20% of all consumer dollars spent on ebooks on Amazon.com are being spent on indie self-published ebooks.
  • 40% of all dollars earned by authors from ebooks on Amazon.com are earned by indie self-published ebooks.
  • In mid-year 2014, indie-published authors as a cohort began taking home the lion’s share (40%) of all ebook author earnings generated on Amazon.com while authors published by all of the Big Five publishers combined slipped into second place at 35%.

. . . .

U.S. ebook sales have plateaued — or are even declining, relative to print — declare some widely-cited industry statistics. Publishing pundits opine that readers’ Kindles are all “full” now, and talk about the “glut” of ebooks. News articles imply that consumers are abandoning ebooks and are returning to print books, and then those articles speculate about whether ebooks were “just a fad.” Other pundits assert that indie authors will no longer be able to compete with the Big Five traditional publishers, now that those publishers have begun to price some of their ebooks lower.

Lots of speculation. Lots of flawed studies based on 2008 methodologies. Lots of inaccurate statistics. And very few facts.

As always, we turn to the data for real answers.

This is our fifth quarterly Author Earnings report. It is based on a data snapshot of 120,000 of the best selling ebooks on Amazon, giving us a deep cross-sectional data sample comprising roughly 50% of Amazon’s daily ebook sales. According to the publishing industry’s most oft-cited estimate, Amazon controls 67% of the U.S. ebook market. Thus the title-level data used in our analysis includes roughly 33% of all daily ebook sales in the U.S. No other industry survey or ebook market-size estimate comes close to this level of accuracy or detail.

. . . .

The increasing prevalence of lower-priced Big Five titles has had no measurable effect on the Big Five’s share of titles on Amazon’s daily-sales-based ebook bestseller lists.

Similarly, the agency-pricing control afforded by the new contracts Big-Five publishers Macmillan and Simon & Schuster have signed with Amazon.com now allows them set their own final retail prices for many ebooks. Both of them have done so for the majority of titles we captured:

  • 81.6% of Simon & Schuster titles in our dataset were tagged with “This price was set by publisher”on their Amazon.com product page.
  • 94.4% of Macmillan titles in our dataset were tagged with “This price was set by publisher” on theirAmazon.com product page.

But what effect has Macmillan and Simon & Schuster’s return to agency pricing had on the overall ebook market? Apparently not much.

The return to agency pricing by two of the Big Five has had no measurable effect on the Big Five’s share of titles on Amazon’s daily-sales-based ebook bestseller lists.

. . . .

At least a third of all paid ebook unit sales on Amazon.com are Indie self-published ebooks.

But the 33% shown is an extremely conservative lower bound on the true indie market share. The real number is almost certainly several percent higher, because the vast majority of the Uncategorized Single-Author Publisher ebooks are also self-published titles — we simply didn’t have the time (or energy) to check all ten thousand of them, one by one. And what we’ve labeled as Small or Medium Publishers — a designation we use for all publishers that are not the Big Five and not Amazon Publishing Imprints  — includes a significant chunk of multi-author collectives and tiny indie micropresses publishing through KDP. Many in the industry would classify that fraction under self-published ebooks as well.

In our past reports on Barnes & Noble’s ebook sales, we found the ratio of ebook sales by publisher type to be roughly the same on Barnes & Noble as on Amazon, and together Amazon and Barnes & Noble command at least 75% of the U.S. ebook market. The large indie ebook market share is not an Amazon-only phenomenon. It’s safe to conclude that at least a third of all paid ebook unit sales in the U.S. are Indie self-published ebooks.

But publishing industry pundits usually prefer to talk about dollar market share instead of unit market share. They point to the higher average price of traditionally-published books and say that publishers bank dollars, not numbers of books sold. So what about gross consumer dollars spent on ebooks?

. . . .

The Big Five publishers as a cohort still command just over half of consumer dollars spent on ebooks. But this website is titled Author Earnings, not Publisher Earnings. Our focus is always on authors and how much they take home in earnings, rather than how much money is spent on corporate publisher overhead. We are primarily interested in the portion of that gross consumer spend that goes to authors in the form of traditionally-published ebook royalties or self-published ebook revenue share.

. . . .

40% of all dollars earned by authors from ebooks on Amazon.com are earned by Indie self-published ebooks.

A quick aside on Kindle Unlimited (KU). The indie share of author earnings includes 8% from KU borrows of indie books. In our last report, KU was a brand new part of the author-earnings landscape. To account for it accurately, we crowdsourced borrow-versus-buy ratios from hundreds of indie authors participating in KU, and found that they averaged 1:1 (half KU borrows, half full-price purchases). We used that 50% borrow ratio as a baseline in our author earnings calculations, although we found that plugging in any other ratio instead, even 0% borrows or 100% borrows, made little difference in the overall numbers and pie charts. In November, when Amazon.com announced the size of the October KU “pot” at $5.5 million and the indie per-borrow payout at $1.33, we could now double-check our crowdsourced KU-borrow ratio of 50%. So we did:

$5.5 million / $1.33 = 4,135,338 indie KU borrows in October

Which is exactly 48% of the 8,561,293 paid monthly downloads (purchases + borrows) of Indie & Uncategorized books in KU shown by our data — quite close to the 50% we originally crowdsourced. Perhaps the wisdom of crowds is a thing, after all.

. . . .

Only seven months ago, the idea that indie self-published authors and their ebooks were outearning all authors published by the Big Five publishers combined was jaw-dropping heresy. Today, it’s boring — a widely-acknowledged fact among knowledgeable authors, if not industry pundits. Many authors who publish both ways point out their earnings disparity in favor of their self-published titles, and so this data is no longer surprising.

But what is surprising is how consistent each of our quarterly snapshots has been. And because of that quarter to quarter consistency, we can discern a few broader trends…

. . . .

The most notable change over the last few quarters is the continued progressive growth of indie market share at the expense of traditionally published ebooks. Here, we can see it in unit sales terms, in gross consumer dollar terms, and in the all-important metric of author earnings.

a1 a2 a3

Somewhere between May and July of 2014, Indie Published authors as a cohort began taking home the lion’s share of all ebook author earnings generated on Amazon.com, while authors published by all of the Big Five publishers combined slipped into second place.

Link to the rest at Author Earnings

« Previous PageNext Page »

WordPress SEO Manager Powered