Thursday, December 19, 2013

How Much Should Authors Earn?

What should authors receive as fair compensation for their works?

The industry norm dictates the following:

25% of the net e-book proceeds
10-15% of the hardcover net proceeds
7.5% of the trade paperback net proceeds
8-10% on mass market net proceeds

One might ask why different percentages come with each format, especially since each format has a different cover price.

There’s a lot of debate about the e-book royalty since so many copies of an author’s work are now sold in that format. One day it may become the dominant format.

Maybe the publishers should do away with the percentage scale and instead have a scale based on total revenue coming in. For instance, let’s assign a core cost for a book to be acquired, edited, sold, and printed at ,ssy, $12,000. Everything after that is pure profit.

So maybe of the first $12,000 in net proceeds, the publisher gets 75% and the author gets 25%. On the next $12,000, it’s a 50-50 split. Maybe on the next $12,000 or more, it’s a 60-40 split in favor of the author. What one tries to balance is a publisher’s risk and costs with the author’s efforts and creativity. Who should be rewarded for doing what here?

Authors can always self-publish if they choose to. There are pros and cons to publishing on your own, as there are with going with a traditional publisher.

Perhaps royalty rates should also be based on the marketing budgets/efforts of publishers. This goes back to the publisher’s fixed costs/risk and investment taken.

No formula will be perfect nor please all sides, but the goal is to reward success and to be fair to all those involved. It’s a collaborative effort between author and publisher, each needing the other in order to get what they want. 

Excerpted: The Humanist, January/February 1984, by  Frederick Edwords

“We humanists think for ourselves as individuals.  There is no area of thought that we are unwilling to explore, to challenge, to question, or to doubt.  We feel free to inquire and then to agree or disagree with any given claim.  We are unwilling to follow a doctrine or adopt a set of beliefs or values that does not convince us personally.  We seek to take responsibility for our decisions and beliefs, and this necessitates having control over them.  Through this unshackled spirit of free inquiry, new knowledge and new ways of looking at ourselves and the world can be acquired.  Without it, we are left in ignorance and, subsequently, are unable to improve upon our condition.

“We practice our ethics in a living context rather than an ideal one.  Though ethics are ideals, ideals can only serve as guidelines in actual situations.  This is why we oppose absolutistic moral systems that attempt to rigidly apply ideal moral values as if the world were itself ideal.  We recognize that conflicts and moral dilemmas do occur and that moral choices are often difficult and cannot be derived from simplistic yardsticks and rules of thumb.  Moral choices often involve hard thinking, diligent gathering of information about the situation at hand, careful consideration of immediate and future consequences, and weighing of alternatives.  Living life in a manner that promotes the good, or even knowing what choices are good, is not always easy.  Thus, when we declare our commitment to a humanist approach to ethics, we are expressing our willingness to do the hard thinking and work that moral living in a complex world entails.”


Here is my 2014 Book Marketing & Publicity Toolkit: Based on 20+ years in publishing --

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2013

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