You love books, don’t you? Yeah, me too. Some authors and publishers are autobuys for me, because I know I’ll get the reading experience I want. A cover attracts me, the blurb entices and then I’m off to purchase.
Before I wrote, I had my go-to vendors. As a reflex, I went to what was familiar. Then, I had books accepted for publication, signed contracts, and the purchase of books took on an entirely different scope.
What motivates you to purchase from a particular site? Is it habit? Ease of purchasing experience? Sales? Incentives?
As an author, I have my clear-cut preference. Hands down, I’d rather my readers purchase from my publisher’s sites.
Why? Because I make more money and so does the publisher—for the same product the third-party vendors are selling.
Don’t think for a minute that I don’t appreciate sales on Amazon and other sites, but with those sales comes a price. While the reader gets my book for the advertised price, I earn varying amounts depending upon the vendor.
All authors are extremely grateful to their readers, support them in many ways. This piece will ask readers to consider changing their buying habits.
While we need as many vendors as possible to “get our books out there,” authors are paid most equitably when purchases are made through their publisher’s website. No third-party vendor lists books free, but the cost of doing business with third-parties directly affects the author’s and publisher’s bottom line.
Here is a typical breakdown. Amazon charges the publisher from 35 to 70%, depending upon the price of a particular book, to list books on their site and to take care of sales of titles. Under $2.99, Amazon keeps 70% of the cover price. Say the book is $.99 ($1.00 here for easy calculation.) The publisher gets $.35 for each sale. If the author’s contract reads 40%, at royalty time the author will get 14 cents. At 50%, the author gets 17.5 cents.
Consider the same book when purchased at the publisher site. The calculation produces a far different result. The royalty is calculated on the full cover price. At 40%, the author gets 40 cents and at 50%, they get 50 cents.
Say the $1.00 book sells 1000 copies in a month. On the gross sales of $1000, Amazon keeps $700 and sends the publisher $300. If the author’s contract is at 40%, they will get $120. If at 50%, they get $150. What did the third-party vendor do to earn more than the author or publisher?
Let’s boost the price of the book to $5.00. Amazon keeps 35% or $1.75 and sends the publisher 70% or $3.25. Of that, the author at 40% gets $1.30 and at 50%, the author gets $1.63.
Take the same 1000 copy example, sales total to $5,000. Amazon keeps $1,750 and sends the publisher $3,250. The 40% authors earns $1,300 and the 50% author gets $1,760.
Other third party vendors vary in their percentage, with most hovering around 50% cover price.
While publishers have myriad expenses to justify their percentage, third parties can’t boast the same. They do afford publishers and authors additional venues and exposure, but they can’t justify their percentage as firmly as the publishers can.
Some authors consider this exorbitant percentage a cost of doing business. It took me one royalty cycle to lose the starry eyes at “being on” Amazon. I don’t consider Amazon’s percentage a business expense. I consider it something else entirely. Some negative and I’m not the only author to feel that way.
Amazon houses our books, handles sales, and sends a check and report to the publisher. On balance, they do nothing but put our books up for sale. They don’t boost recognition for authors by marketing specific authors or their books. Each title is a very small fish in a very large pond. Third party sites, Amazon included, don’t offer any perks other than a space on their site and they handle the sale.
What is the difference between a $2.99 book and a $3.00 book as far as Amazon is concerned? Thirty-five percent. All things equal, it is a ridiculous distinction.
When authors sign a contract, we know that we earn from sales on the publisher’s site. I link every bit of promotion to my publisher’s sites. In other words, while I want readers to buy my work, I don’t openly encourage readers to buy from third-party sites.
I’d love to admit to altruism, but the reality is, I write to supplement our retirement income. I work very hard to produce stories my readers enjoy reading and I want to make the most money I can from the work.
To my mind, publishers earn their percentage. From taking on the risk of accepting the books to proofing the galley and all steps in between, they work to produce the best possible product. They work with authors to help them realize the book they imagined theirs to be.
Publishers bear the expense of editing, three rounds in most cases. They also pay promotions people, financial teams who keep the books and pay the royalties, IT staff, the contractors (editors, proofers, cover artists, formatters,) the person who uploads books to other sites, licenses, taxes, in some cases office space, and myriad other expenses. Publishers earn their percentage.
I’m published with Musa Publishing and Dreamspinner Press, and both are classy outfits that never forget that authors are at the heart of their businesses. Both work to promote their businesses online and at book conventions. By promoting their brand, they are promoting all their authors.
The purchasing experience on publisher’s sites is as simple as on any other site. Should you have any problems, a quick email to customer service will fix things. The buying systems are secure and provide for Kindle users as well. Before writing this piece, I purchased a book in MOBI format on the Musa site. When prompted, I sent the purchase to my Kindle email address and boom, done.
All publishers that I am aware of accept PayPal, an easy and secure way to shop online, without giving out your credit card information.
Many publishers offer incentives, which can only sweeten the pot. They run sales, some that coincide with holidays and others are a permanent part of their offerings. For instance, Musa Publishing offers 20% off all new releases and that sale lasts for one week. What a wonderful way of launching each title.
Dreamspinner and Musa often offer flash sales. To take advantage, you should subscribe to their Twitter feeds and I suggest you subscribe publisher’s newsletters, follow them on Facebook and Twitter, and visit their websites often. Click here for Musa newsletter subscription.
Follow the authors that write for your favorite publishers and join things like Musa’s Book Club. The book club promises great fun, where you can read excerpts from new releases, meet authors, win prizes during author chats and release parties, and become eligible for contests exclusive to the book club members. Musa will be giving away gift cards and free books during events. I expect the club to be in full swing after the holidays.
When you support an author by publisher site purchases, you help ensure the future success of both authors and publisher. Put publishers on your favorites list. Though you might have to retrain your mind to purchase from publishers, you will find the experience easy and user-friendly, and not at all time-consuming. Ultimately, you help everyone and can save yourself a few dollars in the process.
What do you think?
Here’s my latest releases:
Born in a small town in upstate New York, Brita Addams has made her home in the sultry south for many years. In the Frog Capital of the World, Brita shares her home with her real-life hero—her husband, and a fat cat named Stormee. All their children are grown.
Given her love of history, Brita writes both het and gay historical romance. Many of her historicals have appeared on category bestseller lists at various online retailers.
Musa Publishing has contracted many of Brita’s historical romances, including the rewritten and expanded, best-selling Sapphire Club series.
Tarnished Gold, the first in her gay romance Tarnished series for Dreamspinner Press, was a winner in the 2013 Rainbow Awards, Historical Romance category. The book also received nominations for Best Historical and Best Book of 2013 from the readers of the Goodreads M/M Romance Group.
A bit of trivia—Brita pronounces her name, Bree-ta, and not Brit-a, like the famous water filter. Brita Addams is a mash-up of her real middle name and her husband’s middle name, with an additional d and s.
Readers can find more information about Brita Addams at any of the following places:
Monthly column at The Novel Approach
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**Please Note: the opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Novel Approach and its staff**