Thursday, March 15, 2012


I like to think I'm a glass-is-half-full kind of guy. I love to write, enjoy the act of composing and creating a book, and never suffer "writer's block." It's the business of writing I don't much care for. And this week I want to point out something that makes very little sense and, to me, borders on outrageous.

Discussing e-rights at Sleuth Fest with a bunch of fellow writers, I was astonished to hear the currently industry standard among the New York publishers is to give authors 25% royalties on e-books.

Now it’s a truism that writers attend conferences to whine about the injustices of the industry. But I have to ask, On an e-book, where is the other 75% going? (A house considering one of my novels currently offers an "author-friendly" 40 percent. Um, someone please define “author-friendly” for me.)

I have heard more than once that it costs between $4 and $8 to produce a hardcover book, and according to a New York Times article, “Steal This Book (for $9.99),” by Motoko Rich, the figure is roughly 12.5 percent of the $26 hardcover list price. Major retail chains typically purchase the product for 50 percent of the unit cost. Recently, bestselling e-books have jumped into the $15 range as publishers claim many of the production costs—author advances, editing, and marketing—remain a constant whether the book is published in electronic, paper, or hardcover format.

What’s the upshot of a $15 e-book? We’ll soon see. But consider this from Rich’s article: “‘I love [David] Baldacci’s writing,’” wrote one reader, who decided not to buy [“Last Family”]. “‘Sorry Mr. B — price comes down or you lose a lot or readers. I’ll skip your books and move on!’”

I grasp the constant costs related to publishing, but it remains hard to swallow a 75%-25% split.


Rick Blechta said...

You’ve got this one correct, John. I do think we’re being hosed on this. Having self-published my first two novels, I know what the costs are. The offered splits are outrageous.

Is anybody interested in finding out what “hidden” costs are for print versus e-books? I may post on this subject in my spot next Tuesday if the interest is there.

Timely post.

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Charlotte Hinger said...

Rick, John--I hope there's lots of discussion on this topic. It's a good one to be talking about.