Writers’ Rates by Type of Publication

This is big, guys. I got to attend a lecture on the “Economics of Publishing” led by agent Evan Gregory while at DFWCon. His talk was great, but this one slide was earth-shaking for me. I think I’m still quivering.

I’ve had to replicate it, as the photo I took with my phone illustrates said shaking.

Royalties By Edition

Publisher Book Price Royalty Author Receives
Amazon, self-pub $2.99 $2.05
Nook, self-pub $2.99 1.76
Smashwords, self-pub $2.99 $1.49-1.74
Hardcover, traditional pub $25.00 $2.50-$3.75
e-book, traditional pub $7.99 $1.40
Trade paperback, traditional pub $14.99 $1.12
Paperback $7.99 $0.64-$0.80

That’s a estimated breakdown of what an author will get, per book sold, using different publishing options.

Pretty sobering, isn’t it?

Now, I realize some people are going to look at this and instantly cry foul and say self-publishing is definitely and always the right way to go, because there’s a big difference between $2.05 and $0.64. And I don’t disagree. But Mr. Gregory had an excellent point: sure, you get more per book, but you are likely to sell fewer–because you have only whatever marketing efforts you personally can generate, without help–and you have a lot more up-front costs, like editing and cover art, and a huge amount of your time, so while this compares the profits you stand to get, it doesn’t accurately reflect the time-and-money investments for each arrangement.

Still, knowledge is power, and learning this figures really changed my perspective.


Filed under Publishing

4 responses to “Writers’ Rates by Type of Publication

  1. As you aptly pointed out, this data is all about interpretation, because you also have to take into account how much larger your sales can be with a publishing house. Thank you for sharing this!

  2. Also important to note: with a publisher you’re probably going to see two if not three of those editions simultaneously, or concurrently available and sold at price points higher on average than self-publishers are able to sell. i.e. a mass-market paperback and e-book both available simultaneously both at $7.99 as opposed to a just an e-book available at $2.99-$5.99 OR a hardcover + ebook priced at $14.99 followed a year later by a mass-market + ebook priced at $7.99

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