The book writing business is one of those where a very small proportion of authors make any money. The rest of us hope for pennies and must remember to stay focused on the day job if we are to eat. As of today, I have written some 27 odd books across a wide range of topics and my experience to date falls into several buckets as follows;
Published by a publishing Company
Some people prefer to be ‘properly’ published. I have several books that were properly published by a publisher and my experience is that for someone starting out, it simply doesn’t make much sense. Some publishers will ask you to help ‘pay’ for putting the book out and yes, I have done that. I will never recoup that investment. Others are probably struggling themselves and either fail to produce sales reports or delay any small royalty payments. Now, please don’t go looking at my books trying to figure out who I am talking about just take my word for it that unless you can and will sell thousands of copies, you will end up losing money. Not one of the publishers I used ever actually did much to promote the books they rather leave that to the author to do. So about the only benefit I can see is you can say I was published by a proper publisher… well, if that turns you on, be my guest.
Now, in one instance all the above is more or less not applicable. I published a book with a colleague several years ago via a business publishing house. We got paid a sizable fee up front and the book is probably selling well enough to generate additional royalties 7-years after it was delivered. On this book, I made money, I get proper and regular statements and royalty payments are always on time. It is the exception to the rule.
I now prefer this approach. You do all the work for sure but you DO anyway! I use Amazon and for a few books, Draft2Digital for broader distribution.
Let’s deal with Amazon first. It is relatively easy to use their tools to produce a paperback or ebook or even an audiobook. They offer a variety of tools also to help get the book going – free giveaways,m countdowns and so on. Royalties are 35% for certain priced books and locations and 70% for ebooks and you can set your own price and royalty for paperbacks although you are constrained by what the market will bear and I would say my royalty rates are 15-35%. On audiobooks, you get 40% for exclusive distribution and generally you will split that 50:50 with the voice talent.
Now, let’s think about this a bit. Let’s say I write an ebook and also put it out on paperback and audiobook and let’s say it charts in the top 10 of a category for several months. By experience, I would say this will earn you around $200-$400. Let’s look at a different way. I want to make $1000 per month and pitch an ebook via Kindle. I start out offering it at 99cents or 99 pence at a 35% royalty rate and, once it takes off a bit, I raise the price to 1.99 at 70% royalty. A little bit of math says that I have to sell between 2857 and 714 per month to make my $1000 in royalties. Let’s say 1000 copies at a mixed price.
Now, if I look at my sales for a book life My Haunted Life Too, a supernatural #1 hit on Amazon, it has actually yet to sell 1000 copies and it has been out over 12-months. Actually, the figure is 905 royalty generating copies and 1189 in total including give aways as of the end of March 2016. Sounds good. But…. about 35% of those royalty generating ‘sales’ were not sales but ‘rentals’ under the Amazon Unlimited program and it pays less than .006 cents per page read. Yes – they track the pages read and pay you on that. So even if someone read the entire book on Kindle as a part of that program, I get 37cents per book based on its 62 pages. So now we realize that to make that $1000 a month, we would need to shift many more books if you were in that program and then hope they were read cover to cover to the end.
Based on my calculation – 2500 ebooks sold or delivered via the Unlimited program might get you $1000 in royalties. Not a single book I have ever written has come close to selling 2500 copies over their lifetime.
Don’t quite your day job!
So why do I do it then?
I enjoy it. I enjoy seeing if a book will chart and that people bought and read my work.
I also keep hoping that with stroke of luck, one book will really take off but honestly – that would be like winning the lottery and has about the same odds.
You can help me a bit though – write a short review if you read one of my books and tell your friends….