Self Publishing vs Small Press: One Author’s Experience

 

Is the Risk of Self Publishing Worth It?

Cupcakes coffee & critiqueAnd even more importantly, will there be cupcakes?

I’m a scientist by training. And I want to open this post with the caveat that 21 days isn’t a great data sample in the whole scheme of things, but I wanted to share some things I’ve learned in the last 2/3 month about self-publishing as an encouragement to those considering going indie after traditionally publishing.

If you’re asking yourself:

Am I willing to take on the risk and expense of self-publishing?

Will the expense be worth it?

Can I trust myself to put out a product as high-quality as my publisher did?

Will I fall flat on my butt if I try this?

Then read on. This post is for you.

I am a traditionally published author who chose the self-publishing path

As you know if you’ve been following my blog, my former publisher, Lyrical Press, has been acquired by Kensington as a digital-first imprint. This is a great step forward for Lyrical. They’re gaining in marketing reach by moving up from small independent press to imprint with a good-sized New York publisher.

But was it going to be a great step forward for me? That’s the real question for a serious author.

For me, the answer was: No. After crunching some numbers and doing my homework, I decided that moving to a bigger, well-established publisher wasn’t necessarily going to be a good career move for me. Here’s the story of how I made that decision and what the results have been 3 weeks later.

My origins as an author

As I grew as a writer and added works to my portfolio, the responses I was getting from literary agents shifted from form rejections to personalized notes like, “I like this, but I don’t think I can sell it” and “This is good, but there’s no market for it right now.”

I took responses like this to mean I was getting closer to having publishable-quality work, but maybe I wasn’t quite there yet.

cupcake royale logoThen I got back in touch with a writer I hugely respect, and we became critique partners along with another author. We formed a three-woman critique group called the Cupcake Crew.

With the encouragement of these friends, who also happen to be awesome authors in their own right (Amy Raby and Julie Brannagh), I decided that maybe the problem wasn’t that I wasn’t ready to publish, but maybe traditional NY publishers weren’t ready for me.

A lot of you are/were in the same boat when you began considering self-publishing. You wanted the validity of going the traditional route, but the traditional route wasn’t working for you. Doors weren’t opening. You were tired of being told no. You just wanted to SHARE YOUR WORK with people.

I considered SP at this point, but craved the validity of having a gatekeeper say “yes” to me. I kept trying, but with a different strategy. I sent my work to small e-first presses. You know the names: Samhain, Entangled, Resplendence. It was one of these small presses, Lyrical, that gave me my first shot.

It started with a tweet I read where a Lyrical editor was taking tweet-length pitches. She requested WISHING FOR A HIGHLANDER based on a tweet pitch, and requested a partial manuscript. Not a full, like she was requesting for a lot of other tweeps. A partial. I didn’t get my hopes up. I’d been here before. But guess what?

She loved the partial and asked for the full. Soon after, I received a Lyrical contract in my inbox. I’d gotten my “yes”! And I didn’t look back. I signed that contract knowing this would be the start of something big for me. And it has been, just not in the exact way I had planned.

My experience with Lyrical

It took about a year to see WISHING FOR A HIGHLANDER finally in e-stores. Once that day came, I hit the promo hard and reaped the rewards. My book was selling! By the third month, I was selling 100 books per week and had hit the time-travel bestseller list on Amazon. I stayed on that bestselling list for 8 months.

Lyrical’s royalty rate (40%) was the most generous I’d heard of in the e-first world. NO other publisher was giving their authors that much. It was more generous by FAR than the 25% common with NY publishers. It’s one of the reasons I was so proud to be publishing with them. They understood that authors were the key to publishing, not publishing the key for authors. There were many, MANY other things I loved about working with Lyrical, including stellar editing, high quality, prompt responses to my questions, and a great network of fellow-authors to cross-promote with.

Six months after publishing WISHING FOR A HIGHLANDER with Lyrical, my contemporary romance ROAD RAGE came out. This one didn’t do as well as WISHING. It had a pretty different author voice. It was a totally different genre. It too got some good reviews, but it was only selling about 10 to 20 copies per month. Even that rate tapered off to maybe 5 copies per month by the time it came off sale when Lyrical sold to Kensington.

With this sales feedback, I decided to devote myself to writing more Highlander books. Time-travel was selling, so that’s what I decided to write. And since I like writing it, it wasn’t a sacrifice. I kept writing contemporaries too, because I can’t NOT write what’s on my heart to write, but I made sure I was still producing Highlander stuff for my growing fan base.

In 2013, Lyrical contracted another Highlander book and another contemporary from me. I had 2 books on sale and 2 in the pipeline. I was on the rise as a career romance author happily publishing with a generous, well-run small press. Sure I was selling 95% in ebook and only a handful of POD hard-copies, but I didn’t care what format my books were in. I was earning royalties, and they were good. Things were good.

January 2014, everything changed. Lyrical sold to Kensington and became a digital first imprint for the NY publisher. I blog about it here.

Kensington offered all Lyrical authors the chance to sign with them for back-list titles and titles currently contracted but not-yet-published. I had 2 books published (one doing pretty good, even a year after pub date) and 2 more (another time-travel and another contemporary) in the pipeline.

Suddenly, I had an opportunity to sign with a NY publisher for a whopping 4 books! My dream realized! Great, right?

The reality was not so great. While Lyrical negotiated a generous royalty rate with Kensington that is unheard of in NY (Kensington should be commended for this), the Kensington contracts included some clauses and that would have limited me as an author and tied up my rights for longer than I was willing to part with them. Furthermore, there was no print deal guaranteed. And the advance for print if your book sells well enough to make print, was nothing to write home about.

I could either sign the contracts and become a NY published author or I’d get my rights back on all my titles, and my published books would come off of sale.

So what did I decide?

After doing a LOT of homework (Courtney Milan’s blog, reading lots of posts, some involving Steve Z, the CEO of Kensington, joining self-publishing Yahoo groups, etc), I decided to hold onto my rights with a death grip.

Why?

Well, WISHING FOR A HIGHLANDER was still selling around 200 e-copies a month on Amazon under Lyrical’s management. This is 10 to 11 months after initial publication! I was getting a decent little paycheck each month.

But, I did some calculations, and here’s what I found.

If I self-published and managed to sell on my own even half of what I was selling with a small publisher’s marketing machine behind me, I estimated I would make just as much. Because by self-publishing, I’d get 70% of the royalty from Amazon versus 40% of the publisher’s 70%. I could even set the list price for $2 cheaper and STILL make twice as much per book as I was making with Lyrical.

Before I continue, I must say this: PUBLISHERS DESERVE TO GET PAID. Just like authors do.

Publishers work hard to acquire what will sell, to polish books so they will appeal to readers, to promote books through partnerships with high-impact publications and review sites. All of this costs money.

The desire to take revenue out of my publisher’s pocket was in no way a motivating factor in my decision making. In fact, that is the part that pained me most. I value loyalty, and if things hadn’t changed, I would still be happily publishing with Lyrical. They did good by me.

Amazon (and other retailers) took their 30-40% cut of the pie. Lyrical took their 60% of whatever was left. And I got the remainder (40% of Lyrical’s take). Everyone who worked on the book got paid, and that is fair in my book. I was happy with this arrangement, and it was one of the most generous in the publishing industry, if not THE most generous to authors.

But through research and talking to a LOT of authors published through varied means, I learned that the larger the publisher, the more hands touch a book. Every hand has to get paid. Guess what that means for the author? A smaller slice of pie.

Though this wouldn’t have necessarily have been the case with Kensington, who seems to be trying more than any other NY publisher I have heard of to be fair to authors, it’s a general truth of the publishing industry. The larger the machine is, the more expensive it is to operate (in general).

If the large machine (I’m speaking generally here, not about Kensington specifically) can provide to authors benefits that out-weigh the cost to the author in terms of royalty percentages and advances, then I say GO FOR IT. Publish big. Let NY put the power of its machine behind your books and your author name and watch your books sell, sell, sell.

Why I worried I wouldn’t thrive with a NY publisher

Remember all those rejections I had been getting?

Yeah, those.

Those rejections were for the same books I had contracted with Lyrical. I went with a small press because I believe readers go to small presses looking for the quirky, the unusual, the boundary-pushing diamond in the rough. I know I do. I get some duds when I shop small presses, for sure, but I find some amazing gems as well. Some of my favorite authors are small press authors (or they were before they went indie…).

In other words, I heard over and over again from agents (who are the gatekeepers to NY publishing) that my work was a square and there were only round holes in NY. Now I had a chance to get these rejected books into a NY publisher’s hands, a NY publisher with no guaranteed print deal, industry-standard (aka kinda small) royalties on print if you’re books sell well enough to justify a run, and an advance if you make it to that stage that wouldn’t even pay my kid’s private school tuition for a quarter.

I wasn’t convinced a larger machine would translate to higher sales for me and therefore justify the potential sacrifices I’d be making (more hands touching my books and needing to get paid). As I did my homework, I became more and more willing to gamble that I could do for myself (or outsource at my discretion) most of what a small press did for me and some of what a large press could do for me and keep a larger piece of the pie.

I took the self-publishing plunge

I went for it. I borrowed a little money so I could purchase ISBNs, and a new cover for both my books that Lyrical had published and so I could publish these two books plus the two others that had been in Lyrical’s pipeline on my own this year. I calculated I could do all four books for under $3000, including 2 rounds of professional editing for the two in the pipeline.

Last year, I made just over $4k on WISHING with Lyrical. Remember my calculation that I could make the same amount even if I sold only half the books? Well, the income from WISHING alone could conceivably cover my self-publishing costs for four books, with enough left over to pay taxes next April. I went into the decision knowing this wasn’t a guarantee, but willing to take the risk. For ME it was worth it, because I had confidence WISHING would continue to sell well, and I had the support of my family.

I self-published WISHING FOR A HIGHLANDER Feb 1st. Hop over to my website or go to my books page for buy links:-)

RECKLESS (Blue Collar Boyfriends #1) will be out March 1st (retitled from ROAD RAGE)

THE WOLF AND THE HIGHLANDER (Highland Wishes #2) will be out May 1st

VIRGIN’S SACRIFICE (Blue Collar Boyfriends #2) will be out August 1st

COLE IN MY STOCKING (Blue Collar Boyfriends #3) will be out November 1st

This is a packed release schedule, possible because two of the books are technically backlist books and two others were already written before the start of 2014. Don’t expect 5 books from me every year. I would have a heart attack if I wrote that much! LOL!

Also note, it’s a release schedule that most likely wouldn’t have been possible with a large NY press. It certainly wouldn’t be in my control. I wouldn’t be able to state these dates with such confidence so early in the game. Another benefit to SP.

Fast-forward 22 days

Amazon prnt scr Feb 22 2014

With just my own power behind the marketing, a new website ($72/year with Godaddy), new cover ($135, a phenomenal value and wonderful work by Kim Killion of The Killion Group), new blurb, and the support of the SP community, I have sold over 300 copies of WISHING in 21 days. WISHING is currently ranked in the top 5000 books for sale on Amazon and is on the first page (top 20) of the time-travel best seller list.

So, I’m a bestselling self-published author! Again! Pinch me; I must be dreaming.

I’m pleased as punch that WISHING is still doing so well even after being out a whole year. I’m also pleased because my sales numbers this February are looking to be comparable with my numbers from my first release month, January 2013. So a comparison by a scientific-minded person was inevitable.

Lets look at some numbers

Following the trend set by many brave authors who have reported earnings, I’m going to post a comparison between what I made with a small press my release month (Jan 2013)and what I’m making as an indie author this February.

With a few caveats:

1. We’re going on 21 days here, people. There’s no way to predict what’s going to happen down the road. Maybe I’ll do another post like this in a year, after I have a year’s worth of data on indie publishing to compare with a year’s worth of small-press publishing.

2. Lyrical is/was a very generous small press to authors. And let me be clear and state again, they earned every cent of their portion of the pie.

3. Keeping this caveat to digital only, my earnings with Lyrical were likely nearly twice what NY-published midlist authors made on the same number of digital sales because of Lyrical’s generous royalty rate. (I’m not taking advances for print sales into account since I have no experience with author advances outside of dreaming of one day getting a five-figure one of those;-)).

4. Every retailer keeps a different percentage for their “piece of the pie.” And some retailers (ahem, Amazon) alter the price and give a discount that entices readers to buy from them, but they still pay royalties on the list price, so you get a better purchase-price to royalty ratio at some retailers than others.

So how many copies of WISHING FOR A HIGHLANDER sold in its first month out with a small press (Jan 2013), and what did I get paid for those copies?

Lyrical’s online store: 4 ($4.79)
Kobo: 9 ($10.79)
Overdrive (e-distributor): 2 ($2.40)
AmazonUS: 158 ($217.32)
AmazonUK: 6 ($6.17)
Nook (B&N): 31 ($49.79)
iTunes: 120 ($201.60)
Total: 330 ($492.90)

In my first month of being published with a small press, I made $492 on 330 sales.

This works out to an average income per sale of $1.49 (list price was $5.99).

As an indie-published author, am I on track to make as much by selling at least half as many books, as I hoped?

Here’s what’s happening after 21 days of sales. I’m ONLY using Amazon numbers here, because that’s the data I have available. WISHING is up on other retailers as well, but Amazon represents the lion’s share of my sales, as in 90% or more if I can go by what other authors of similar works have reported to me.

For those sticklers out there, this isn’t a great example of a scientific study. I know. I’m just using the data I have available to try and understand whether it was a good or bad decision to go indie. I’m sharing what I’ve got for other authors out there grappling with this decision. If you want hard science, go to Courtney Milan’s blog.

In 21 days, I am up to 291 sales (301-10 refunds).

I’m selling WISHING for $3.99, $2 less than the its ebook list price last year.

Using the first 14-days of data across Amazon outlets (some, like AmazonUS & AmazonUK, offer the author 70% royalties. Others offer 35%), I estimate my earnings per unit sold will be $2.72.

For the 291 books I’ve sold so far this month, I should make $791.52.

Let me reiterate. That’s JUST for Amazon and only for 21 days of sales.

Note that 291 indie sales for 2/3 of Feb 2014 is comparable to the 330 sales I made across vendors as a small-press author in Jan 2013.

However, there aren’t many people who would call earnings of $492 comparable to earnings of $792.

In fact, by selling a comparable number of books, it’s fair to say, I’m earning nearly twice as much as an indie author as compared with when I was a small-press author. This is on par with my estimate that I could sell half-as many books as an indie author and make the same amount as when I was a small-press author.

Conclusions

Regardless of the number of units sold, I’m making almost twice as much per sale as an indie author than I was as a small-press author ($2.72 per sale versus $1.49 per sale).

Taking just WISHING FOR A HIGHLANDER into account, I will easily be able to cover publishing costs with my first royalty check.

This comparison is in no way meant to disparage small presses or Lyrical. I LOVED working with Lyrical, and I was happy to share the pie with them. Small presses take a piece of the pie, but they earn it.

Let me clear, by not signing with Kensington and by going indie instead, I wasn’t avoiding a big machine (NY publishing) in order to “go it alone”. Rather, I traded one big machine (NY publishing) for an even bigger, more efficient, more author-friendly machine (Amazon).

I’m a midlist author. I’m not the next Nora Roberts or Marie Force. I got on a bestseller list, yes, but not the NYT. It’s just a genre-specific, Amazon-specific bestseller list. For me and my unique situation, self publishing was the right decision. I knew it when I made the decision, but the numbers I report here help validate that decision.

Is it the right decision for you? Only you can answer that. Please don’t extrapolate from my data. But add it to the pool of information you’re gathering as you make this very important decision.

I hope some of you find this encouraging. Self-publishing isn’t for everyone. It requires a lot of work, and, dare I say, good judgment. For example, a new cover might be the thing that gets you better sales. It might also be a sales killer (amateur photoshop, anyone?). But if you’re open to critical feedback, have a good book to sell, and are willing to work hard, it could be a better deal in the long-run than going with a small publisher.

What do you think? Do you have any fears about SP? Do you have a story to share, positive or negative? I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for stopping by and reading this longa$$ post!

NEW INFO ADDED AS OF 3/10/2014. Please continue on to my Writing Updates post where I give my final salary numbers for February 2014.

Advertisements

About Jessi Gage

Jessi lives with her husband and children in the Seattle area. She’s a passionate reader of all genres of romance, especially anything involving the paranormal. Ghosts, demons, vampires, witches, weres, faeries...you name it, she’ll read it. As for writing, she's sticking to Highlanders and contemporaries with a paranormal twist (for now). A career student (aka indecisive and inquisitive bookworm), Jessi brings her love of research to her worlds and characters. Her guiding tenet in her writing is that good always trumps evil, but not before evil gives good one heck of a run for its money. The last time she imagined a world without romance novels, her husband found her crouched in the corner, rocking.
This entry was posted in Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to Self Publishing vs Small Press: One Author’s Experience

  1. Amy Raby says:

    Amazing post, and kudos to you for sharing numbers! Authors need to do more of this.

  2. I’m so happy for you, Jessi! You know I’m one of those people who love and support you. Anything you need, just say the word and I’ll do it if I can. 🙂

  3. loniflowers says:

    Such a great and informative post, Jessi. Thank you so much for sharing all of this. I know personally, I’ve gone back and forth with wanting to be represented by a publisher. I don’t know why, but its always made me think it was the only way I could be considered a true author. Silly I know. I think maybe its the stigma the floats around the internet that your not worthy unless you are… even though I know deep down that is absolutely NOT true. I have self published two books on my own and feel like they meet the high quality and srandards of any other traditionally published books.
    I think what I struggle with most is getting noticed. As if my books are the needle in the haystack…. getting noticed seems so difficult! Do you think that will be more of a challenge in marketing now that you are self publishing? Or did you still have to do your fare share of it when you were with Lyrical?
    Congratulations on your new decision and welcome to the self publishing world. I wish you much success!
    Also… I cannot WAIT to read WISHING #2! Yay!!!

    • Jessi Gage says:

      Yes, getting one’s name out there is the HARDEST part. Definitely. Getting your work noticed is tough. And it doesn’t happen instantaneously.

      I had a whole year’s worth of fan base to help me as I re-released WISHING. I don’t think my existing fans bought many copies of the new edition, but they sure did help me get the word out. I didn’t even have to ask for the help.

      I think that kind of enthusiasm comes from (1) writing a book that resonates with people and (2) making yourself available on social media so you’re building relationships with your fans rather than simply trading a book for a few dollars.

      I think you’re already doing these, things, Loni. So hang in there. Keep doing what you’re doing!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Glad you decided to try the indie route. I think it’s the wisest thing most authors can do these days. And congratulations on how well you’re doing so early in the game. 🙂

    One of your titles sounded really familiar, so I did a quick search. As soon as I saw the cover, I realized why. One of my favorite holiday books is called Cole in My Stocking (by Julie McBride). Just thought I’d let you know in case you wanted something unique for your story. 🙂

    • Jessi Gage says:

      I saw that! LOL! When I choose a title, I sometimes do a search to see if the title is already in use. If it is, I try to make sure I’m different enough from the author so readers won’t get confused. I’ll definitely make sure my cover art is really different from hers so there’s no mistake. But I just HAD to go with the name. It has a wonderful double meaning that fits my story so well.

      I LOVE self-publishing. I think it’s the geek in me, but all the steps and the hard work, I love it. And seeing the results at the end gies me such a sense of accomplishment. It’s also a wonderful community here in the selfpub world.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Congratulations on your success, Jessi. I decided to stay with Lyrical/Kensington… I wasn’t totally crazy about the contract, but if they reject my next book which is book three of a series already with them, I’ll self pub it. But my dream has always been to be published by a traditional/NY publisher. And Kensington was one of them.

    You aren’t the only one who took their rights back to self-publish… And although I considered it, I really didn’t feel comfortable. I suck at promo. I hate it and do only what I have to. If I self pub, it’s all on me. No more publisher tweets, no more anything. My sales sucked to begin with, I can only imagine what self-publishing would do to what sales I made and the money I did make despite the sharing of loyalties. Because the self-published novella I do have out has not sold well–despite decent reviews. I’m hoping with the name of a bigger publisher behind me and at the lower price point that Kensington put on my books, they’ll sell a little better. At this point, I’m more about getting my name out there… The money will follow– At least that’s my hope.

    Good luck!

    • Jessi Gage says:

      I’ll be honest. If my books weren’t selling well, I would have stayed with Lyrical/Kensington. I would have clung to the hope that their repackaging paired with their marketing machine would work for me to increase sales.

      I made the decision to SP because I happened across a genre that has a built-in fan base. Time travel. If I ONLY wrote contemporary, a much larger market, and harder to be noticed in, or ONLY wrote paranormal, I would have stayed with L/K.

      I’ve got a unique situation, and for me, SP seems to be working well. Plus I really love the process. So it’s win-win.

      It sounds like for you, you made the right decision. Where I’m going to spend practically my whole 2014 on publishing and promo, you’ll be writing new books! There’s a ton of value in that. Good luck to you!

  6. Stacy McKitrick says:

    I’m glad it’s working out for you. But do you think you would have made the same decision if it was your first book and it hadn’t been released yet? That’s where I fell in. I want the experience of being with a publisher. Maybe it won’t get me rich, but I didn’t expect to get rich with only one book, either. I’m hoping with the experience behind me (and possibly fans!) I’ll eventually self publish, but until then, I’m learning all I can and just trying to get noticed.

    • Jessi Gage says:

      Hi Stacey. Nope. I wouldn’t have ventured into SP without any publishing experience. SP took me a long time to warm up to. I think you’re smart with your perspective of working hard, gaining experience, and taking advantage of a publisher’s reach. This is exactly what I did and where I was when I started with Lyrical.

  7. Jessi,
    Thanks for this honest look at why you made your decision. I decided to stay with Lyrical. My first book comes out in April and I know I can’t pull off self-publishing. At least not until I have a little more experience with the whole process.

    I wish you the best of luck with your books, however they are published.

    • Jessi Gage says:

      Thanks, Kristin. Yeah, it definitely took me a while to develop the confidence to pull this off. I was very intimidated by the idea of SP at first. I’m glad I made the choice, but it wasn’t an easy one, and it’s not for everybody.

      Good luck to you too! I still think being with L/K is a great career opportunity!

  8. Janie Chang says:

    Thanks for applying data and reasoning to a topic that seems to be driven too often by emotions.

  9. Jessi Gage says:

    Just saw Courtney Milan has a new blog post today that has a lot of great info to add on this topic. Swing by her post to check it out! http://www.courtneymilan.com/ramblings/2014/02/23/traditional-versus-self-publishing-official-death-match-2014/

  10. Jennifer Chance says:

    Fabulous post–thank you so much for sharing this! A wonderful break from my writing today 🙂

  11. Great post and congrats with your success!

  12. Cathryn Cade says:

    Jessi,

    thanks for sharing your experiences and doing it so completely.

    You and I have much in common. I was first pubbed with Samhain in 2008. My first book was sci fi rom and an Amazon best-seller, then got the additional boost of going free for 2 weeks when I had the whole series out. Those were the glory days of epubbing when Samhain had huge market share. I am so very, very glad I started with them, as I received stellar editing, formatting and 40% royalties, and the checks were big.

    Then I tried my hand at contemporary Hawaiian paranormal and although it received great reviews, incl Library Journal, the series drifted on Amazon and the other big sales sites.

    The same seems to be happening with my new contemp erotic series. The readers who read it love it, but I can’t live on the numbers. So while I’m glad I wrote both series, and love the artwork etc from Samhain, I’m also glad I have tried self-publishing.

    Reasoning that I already have a fan base for sci fi rom, my first self-pub series is that. And happy days, it’s selling very well, boosted by a Free Read that hovers in the top 25-50 on Amazon Sci Fi Romance.

    For new authors, I think it is wise to start out with a publisher, whether trad or epub. I’ve learned so much about writing at Samhain and gained traction in the market (even if not in all my chosen genres, darn it!). And like you, it was really, really difficult for me not to send them my new series. I felt guilty. My husband, my biggest supporter, reminded me this is a business.

    best,
    Cathryn Cade

  13. Jessi Gage says:

    Thanks for linking to that post, Eddie. Very interesting. And yes, the non-compete and option clauses can be difficult because they tie up an author’s work for months that they could otherwise be published and making money for the author.

  14. Eddie says:

    “Lyrical’s royalty rate (40%) was the most generous I’d heard of in the e-first world. NO other publisher was giving their authors that much. It was more generous by FAR than the 25% common with NY publishers.”

    I believe Amazon Imprint offers an even higher royalties rate. Though it is still half of the royalties rate of self-publishing:

    40% of 70% = 28% (Lyrical)
    50% of 70% = 35% (Amazon imprints like Montlake Romance, Thomas and Mercer, 47North)
    Self-publishing: 70%

    If true, it’s 50% of the 70% to the author, 50% of the 70% to the Amazon imprints. That’s how Amazon is able to get some top selling indie authors to sign with them despite the fact that the ebook won’t be for sale elsewhere. Of course, Amazon might do a promotional push can’t hurt.

    From Hugh Howey Author Earnings 50,000 Fiction Genre reports:

    For Amazon Published Imprints:
    http://authorearnings.com/reports/the-50k-report/

    Imprint titles: 3%
    Daily Unit Sales: 9%
    Daily Gross of Money: 10%
    Daily Gross of Money to the Author: 11%

    • Jessi Gage says:

      At the time I signed with Lyrical, Montlake wasn’t quite around yet. I’d started hearing about them by the time I was ready to submit my contemporary series. I heard their royalty rate was 70%, so I sent my series to them, but they rejected it. My next stop was, of course, Lyrical, and they loved my contemporaries. I think Samhain was doing 35% at the time, and I’ve heard some authors say they’re getting 40% from Samhain now. Other publishers might be offering 40, but when I signed with Lyrical, 40% was unheard of. I think Lyrical started that trend. And it’s a very good trend. 50% to the author would be even better!

      I think (I could be wrong) when authors talk royalty rates, they typically speak in terms of their percentage from the publisher. We all know publishers don’t get the full price of the book…the retailer gets a cut. So a NY publisher that offers a 25% royalty rate on ebooks actually pays the author an even smaller percentage of the overall unit price, even-even smaller if the book goes on sale, which is happening for one of my critique partners right now. She’s getting just a handful of cents per sale.

      Thanks for stopping by and keeping the discussion going!

  15. Great, informative post for writer! Kudos! Congrats on your success.

  16. Pingback: Counting My Blessings | Jessi Gage…A Time to Love

  17. Pingback: One Indie Author’s Debut Year Income | Jessi Gage…A Time to Love

  18. Shadowolfdg says:

    I also believe in Self-publishing over traditional, and I self-published my epic fantasy series (the print through a self-publishing company, and the ebooks myself on Amazon). I can’t quite get the exposure or get my head around the marketing, as a I expect I would obtain through a traditional publisher though. There are so many self-help articles out there (free books, social media, blogging, advertising campaigns), and I’ve tried a few ideas. I’ve been getting great reviews from those that have read it, but I just can’t get as many interested as a suspect a traditional publisher could with their list of clients and their know-how.

    You seemed to have obtained the client list and ability to market by having a independant publisher first, and then self-publishing thereafter (please correct me if I am wrong). Do you have any sage advise for authors who have only self-published on marketing without a traditional publisher?

    • Jessi Gage says:

      Hi Shaun,
      It’s great to meet you!

      Okay. I have a lot to say. First, please know these thoughts are just my opinion.

      First: things I think you are doing well (after I cyberstalked you a bit).
      1. You have a decent looking website/blog
      2. You’re interacting with other authors. These connections will be huge for you as you develop your brand.
      3. You have some fabulous reviews on your website, showing you have potential for a fan base.
      4. You’re using Kindle Unlimited. That limits your exposure (no B&N, Kobo, iTunes, etc., but it also gets your hands into readers hands as part of their KU subscription.

      Things I think you could change quite easily that might have an impact on your sales:
      1. Build your brand. Are you on #mywana on Twitter? Do you visit Kristen Lamb’s blog? She is a huge advocate for self publishers and my favorite piece of advice of hers is how to build your author brand. Even though you commented on my blog, I didn’t know your name until I visited your website, and even then, it was just a tiny subheading. Edit all your social media accounts so SHAUN JOOST is what people see when they spot your avatar (not all caps, lol, but just make sure your name is getting out there).
      2. Make an author page on Amazon. Here’s mine for reference: http://www.amazon.com/Jessi-Gage/e/B00AVMEPH6/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1454351792&sr=8-1 This should be what comes up when people click your name on an Amazon page for any of your books. It’s a central spot where someone can see all your books while they’re visiting a site that puts them in a shopping mood.
      3. While you’re at Amazon, visit your KDP publishing pages and enter your series name not in the title field, but in the series box. Use the drop-down to select which number a book is in a series. If you have 3+ books in a series (and use exactly the same series info with each book), Amazon will gift you with a series grouping to show all the series-related books when a customer visits one of your pages. It takes up to 2 weeks for Amazon to do this, so don’t freak out if it doesn’t happen right away.
      4. Also while you’re at Amazon, drop your non-KU price immediately. James Patterson can charge $9 for an ebook. A no-name indie author cannot (and expect sales). $2.99 or $3.99 would make you competitive. Your royalty would be between $2 & $3 per book.
      5. Also while you’re at Amazon, change your categories. Folk Tales doesn’t fit with your work. You are fantasy, maybe sci-fi? Take a good look at the available categories and pick ones that suit your series more faithfully.
      6. Browse this guy’s books on Amazon’s customer site: http://www.amazon.com/Jack-Souls-Knight-Fantasy-Unseen-ebook/dp/B00QI98ZZ4/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1454360256&sr=1-1&keywords=stephen+merlino Steve is a friend of mine. I have watched him go from talented but undiscovered to award winning author to bestselling indie author in the eight years I’ve known him. He writes in your genre and has found a good fan base. AND HE ONLY HAS ONE BOOK! It is extremely hard to maintain sales rank with just one book, but he’s doing it. You have THREE! Tinker until your Amazon product pages look like his Jack of Souls page. I’m talking blurb, categories, nice cover. Be like Steve. Or pick another indie author you like on Amazon to emulate. I did this, and it helped me gain a stronger presence on the retail sites.
      7. A note on blurbs. Definitely look at Steve’s blurb closely and rewrite yours to (a) eliminate explanations and (b) prominently feature the protagonists goals, motivations, and conflict (GMC). I read your blurb for Windfarer, and wasn’t drawn in. By mentioning Celenic Earth first instead of a character, you are missing an opportunity to grab a reader’s interest. A planet’s plight is oddly not nearly as captivating as a character’s plight. Start there and use Steve’s blurb as a guide to make yours more gripping. I’ll peek at your rewrites if you want a blurb critique. I like blurbs 🙂
      8. Get on FB. I did a search and didn’t find you. There were a few Shaun Jooste’s but none of them looked like author pages/profiles. It is a must to be on FB if you want to start getting reader reviews. There are groups you can join JUST for authors seeking reviews and readers seeking free reads in exchange for reviews. I’ve gotten tons of reviews this way.
      9. Have a giveaway. But I would recommend establishing a stronger web presence first, or no one will be around to share your giveaway and help you get people who want to enter. Offering a free book, or the entire series is great, but you usually need to include a gift card or something unique to you/your brand. For instance, I see you have Dragon in the title of book 2. You could find a cool coffee mug with an artistic dragon on it and offer it along with the book.

      More intensive (and expensive) things you could do.
      1. Hire a content editor to see where your stories could be strengthened. This is a possibility if you notice you’re not getting reviews or not getting positive reviews. A good content editor will give you ideas to hone your story better to your market.
      2. Covers. Your background images are nice, but they don’t relate to each other. The font colors and placements look amateur. There’s no shading or attention to detail that shouts THIS IS A QUALITY READ! A good custom cover will run you between $300 and $700. A pre-made cover can run $75 to $200. You might get a deal with a cover artist if you have a series, because there will be elements of the covers that stay the same. It never hurts to ask.
      3. If you have print copies (Createspace), you can do giveaways on Goodreads. The drawback to this is the expense. You need to buy your own books to give away (there is an author rate, which is about half retail). AND you need to pay for shipping. But by giving away 10 books, you might get 2 to 4 reviews.

      Whew. Am I longwinded or what? I’ll see you next year, after you’ve had a chance to do all that, lol!

      Best of luck!

      • Jessi Gage says:

        Oh! A second look at your Amazon product pages showed you DO have an author page. For some reason, it doesn’t come up when I click your name under the title of your books. It should, I think. You might contact support about that.

  19. Shadowolfdg says:

    Oh I only saw your second comment now… yeah, I was wondering why it was not showing up (Amazon page). Yeah, will be sorting that out for sure.

    • Jessi Gage says:

      Thanks for your response, Shaun. I have a huge heart for authors and love to see people with talent succeed at indie.

      Wow, South Africa! How cool. I’ve never thought about how the marketplaces available to authors outside the big US & UK markets might limit exposure.

      I think I didn’t find you on FB because you’re using the name of your world instead of your author name. “Building your brand,” essentially means taking advantage of EVERY opportunity to shout your name to the world. That is Kristen Lamb’s first and biggest point on building your brand. It’s about making sure your name is recognizable and easy to find.

      Best of luck with your writing and any changes you take on. Of course, feel free to email me (jessigage “at” gmail “dot” com with any questions.

      I’m off to go friend you 😉

  20. Carmine Dass says:

    I gotta favorite this website it seems very helpful very beneficial

  21. Pingback: What Indie Means to Me | Jessi Gage…A Time to Love

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s