Published authors and percentage income

Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Brian Turner, Jan 24, 2012.

  1.  
    Brian Turner

    Brian Turner Brian G. Turner Staff Member

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    I'm curious - from the sale price of a traditional paperback, what actual percentage typically goes to the author?

    I'm under the impression it's quite a small sum - somewhere in the region of 5% after the seller, publisher, and agent, take their share.

    However, am having trouble finding out what tends to be the industry average for science fiction/fantasy/horror.

    Anyone any sources?
  2.  
    MemoryTale

    MemoryTale Future ruler of the world

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    It would depend on what the agent takes. Some take 10% of the royalties, some as much as 20%.
  3.  
    Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    The author usually gets 6-8% of the cover price. That's after the book has earned out on the advance. Sometimes the advance is larger than that 6-8% but of course the writer gets to keep that however the book sells.

    The agent takes his or her cut out of what the writer makes. That's usually 15-20%.

    Depending on the cover price and how many copies the book sells, that's usually a much better deal for the writer than it sounds.
  4.  
    Gary Compton

    Gary Compton King Harvey Basset R.I.P

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    Good post Brian. I'm also interested in this. Perhaps someone can expand on what an average advance is these days.

    I started my writing career after watching a BBC documentary about an author called Sheila Quigley who had £300,000 advanced on a 3 book deal.

    Random House won an auction ran by her agent Darley Anderson who also represents Martina Cole and Lee Child to name but a couple.

    Does the agent make the difference? Darley seems to get big bucks for his authors where others seem to get an average of 10-20K. Maybe I'm wrong.

    Please feel free to correct me:)
  5.  
    Brian Turner

    Brian Turner Brian G. Turner Staff Member

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    So the writer's share it about 6-8% of cover price for paperback, before the agent takes their cut?
  6.  
    iansales

    iansales Active Member

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    A typical deal for a genre novelist would be about £30,000 for 3 books, payment split over delivery of manuscript and publication of each book. Royalties, only paid once the advance has been earned back, are usually around the 5% mark for paperbacks, slightly higher for hardbacks. Print runs are generally small, though if a book sells well it can be reprinted - occasionally as early as only a few months after its launch.

    An agent will get your manuscript onto the desk of editors. They will try and sell your book to the publishers. Which doesn't mean the editor will buy it, of course. And even if they do, it might take years for them to make a decision.

    Most published writers can't afford to give up the day job. If you're expecting to earn a fortune as writer, think again - you'd have more success with a lottery ticket.
  7.  
    Gary Compton

    Gary Compton King Harvey Basset R.I.P

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    Thanks Ian, an interesting comparison is Scarfy on this forum. He's sold on average 1200 books per month on Kindle for the last 5 months. I think at £1.99 he earns £1.20 per book. If his sales hit 15,000, which they look like doing for the year. That'll earn him 18K before tax which is much more than the traditional route.

    That's one book and the revenues should continue if the book is good and if he builds a fan-base.

    Is the tsunami of internet publishing going to swamp traditional publishers?
  8.  
    Scarfy

    Scarfy Stephen J Sweeney

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    Surely it's more than that. Is that for a first time novelist, or in the main..? Maybe I'm in Cloud Cuckoo Land, but I would've thought a 3 book deal would net an advance of £50k to £60k..?

    We'll see how that goes. After a while, you'll have sold all that you're going to and the slow down will start. I expect that I'll slow to around 500 a month by the summer. Would be nice, though.
  9.  
    iansales

    iansales Active Member

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    The deals for first-time genre novelists I've heard about have all been around that figure, though some may be higher if the publisher thinks the trilogy will sell well.

    But don't forget, even if it's £60k, that's split over as many years as it takes the books to get published. Say, £5k on signing of contract, £5k on delivery of ms for book 1, £5k on publication of book 1, £10k on delivery of book 2, £10k on publication of book 2, £10k on delivery of book 3, and £10k of publication of book 3. That final payment could be 3 to 4 years after you've signed the contract.
  10.  
    iansales

    iansales Active Member

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    Unfortunately, the actual "tsunami" is the tidal wave of poor-quality fiction being self-published. There is some good stuff out there, and there is some non-commercial stuff that would otherwise not see the light of day. But Sturgeon's Law is truer than ever for self-published ebooks, and that 90% of semi-literate scribblings will make it increasingly hard to find the good stuff.
  11.  
    Scarfy

    Scarfy Stephen J Sweeney

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    Gosh. I'd heard mention of that before, but always thought that that might be one particular publishers' policy. Well, I guess that's fair enough and it makes sense to pay it that way. And there would be additional royalties to come, so long as the advance is earned out.
  12.  
    Gary Compton

    Gary Compton King Harvey Basset R.I.P

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    Isn't that what the 5 star ratings are for on Amazon - to sort the wheat out from the chaff?
  13.  
    HareBrain

    HareBrain Lagomorphing Staff Member

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    In theory yes -- the trouble is, you have to try to work out if they were all placed by the author's mates. Five-star ratings of self-published books by people with no other reviews tends to make cynical old me very suspicious.
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    psychotick

    psychotick Dangerously confused

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    Hi Harebrain,

    The stars are a problem, but not just because of those who get family and friends to write reviews and rate their books. There are also trolls out there, who've of late started going through some of the discussion fora, marking down threads and also writing, or should I say cutting and pasting, reviews. One star reviews of course, often with the same couple of lines for different books.

    Your best bet is to see a book you like and then download a sample using the 'look inside' button on Amazon, then decide if it's your sort of thing.

    Cheers, Greg.
  15.  
    iansales

    iansales Active Member

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    Word of mouth still remains one of the best ways of finding good books that will appeal to you, irrespective of whether they're self-published or on a major imprint.
  16.  
    Null_Zone

    Null_Zone Member

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    Have a look at the Kindle Self Publishing forums, it's all about authors swapping books to get good reviews or just simply asking for good reviews. Through in freinds & family automatically giving a book 5 stars and the reviews are pointless.
  17.  
    HareBrain

    HareBrain Lagomorphing Staff Member

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    This is true, and when I can (which isn't often enough) I do. But if you can't trust the star ratings (and Null Zone's point seems to reinforce that) then there's no point sorting by them, which brings back the problem of how to identify the potentially good ones. There are just so many that pulling them out at random and using the "look inside" function is too time-expensive: I'd rather browse in a bookshop. I guess you can sort by sales rating, but if no one else can identify the good stuff either, that might not be very relevant.

    I've hoped for a while that the explosion in self-e-publishing would mean someone would develop a more trustworthy ratings system, or at least one that could be filtered to taste (eg, only count ratings from reviewers with >20 reviews, and/or reviews > 200 words); otherwise, as Ian says, you're back to word of mouth.
  18.  
    Null_Zone

    Null_Zone Member

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    It's not all that scientific and doesn't always work but I found the professionalism of the cover, the blurb. the "About the author" and basics such as book being listed in the correct sections in to be a good guide on the quality of the self published material.

    Caring about the little details says a lot about an author.
  19.  
    Gareth Lewis

    Gareth Lewis New Member

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    Apparently some people have even started offering 5 star reviews for $5 (it was mentioned on another board I'm on, mainly populated by other self-published authors, where they're wondering how long till someone starts selling 1 star reviews for your competitiors :). But while initially funny, if there's money to be made, it may just be a matter of time :(). So even if someone has written lots of other reviews you can't be sure they're valid.
  20.  
    HareBrain

    HareBrain Lagomorphing Staff Member

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    True, it would be extremely difficult to design a system not open to corruption. Next on my wish-list (and this might already exist, but I haven't come across it) would be a highly trusted site with staff reviewers for self-published books. This might even be a commercial proposition if it gained a wide enough following to generate significant advertising revenue.

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