Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Some thoughts

Well, after the non-event that wasn't my book's release on Friday (I still have no idea when it will be released), and after the non-event that was my chat on Saturday, in which I had to explain several times that I don't know when the book will be released and be bombed by promos from other authors who hadn't bothered to check the calendar and note it was a scheduled author day (which means you shouldn't be posting your own promos, really), and after planning several contests relating to the book's release which now must be delayed, and after realising that most ebook buyers check the websites on the first of the month, pick the new releases they want, and don't check back until the beginning of the next month--which means the entire month is now effectively a wash as far as this book goes, and after the advertising I arranged months ago and paid for with two separate sites hasn't appeared on either of them and my emails are going unanswered...

Let's just say I'm a tad discouraged.

Which makes this the perfect time to answer another question!

But I've also wondered how ebooks earn compared to mass market ppb. What kind of sales does a good author get? The difference in the average royalty rate for ebooks (35-40%) and mass market ppb (something like 8-10% if you're lucky) is quite glaring. Does that mean ebooks don't sell well? I'm actually all for not having an advance--I'd always feel a little guilty if I didn't earn it out, and woe betide the author who doesn't and ever wants to be published again. I guess what I'm asking is what constitutes, in your words, decent monthly paychecks?

Probably really jumping the gun, but I am curious. Not about your numbers specifically, but just a general idea. Also, have you found that agents are at all interested in selling to epublishers? Are the earnings high enough to make it worth their while, especially with no advance?

Okay, I'm not an expert on this by any stretch. I can only report what I've heard. The EREC site (links to the right) is currently working on a survey for earnings and sales for epubs, so hopefully they'll be a good resource in the months ahead.

No, ebook sales in general are nowhere near mass-market sales. But I believe the earnings can be close, and the reason is because of the much higher royalty rate. 10% of a mm paperback that sells 1000 copies for $7 each would be $700. 40% of an ebook that sells 1000 copies for $4 each would be (this is a total estimate and math is not my strong suit, okay?) $1600. So if you have an ebook that sells well vs. a mm paperback that doesn't, you're doing okay.

Of course, a mm paperback that sold that few copies would be a huge failure, whereas an ebook that sold that many would be doing pretty well.

In essence, though, you need to sell half as many ebook to make the same amount of money. So if you develop a loyal readership you can do very well from ebooks--one reason why my fantasy plan has me continuing to write ebooks, because the royalty rate is so much higher (I'd consider even $500 a month as "decent", although not liveable, because my husband works so whatever I earn is gravy. For him to quit--our ultimate goal--we'd need to earn at least 8 times that--remember the lousy conversion rates for pounds & dollars just now--so don't look for that one happening anytime soon). I've seen in several places that some of the top EC authors are earning about 80k per year, which is nice money no matter how you look at it. (That's at EC though, which is still the highest-earning epub).

Really, epub is just like any other publishing. A good author can make good sales. A not-so-good author would make not-so-good sales. Get in with a big, reliable publisher whom the readers trust and you can do very well for yourself.

As far as advances, I think it's pretty rare for a book not to earn out an advance, because publishers and agents are pretty good at guesstimating a book's future earnings. I certainly wouldn't feel guilty about accepting one, as it's a sign of your publisher's faith in your project. (Which isn't to say pubs that don't pay advances, i.e. epubs, don't have faith in their authors. I'm not implying, nor do I ever think, anything of the kind.)

True, if you don't earn out your advance you could have problems. But that doesn't mean you automatically will. Another publisher might be perfectly happy to take on a different project.

And earning out your advance is no guarantee either--remember the girls who wrote The Nanny Diaries? Decent advance, huge best-seller, and their next book was so bad and their behavior so diva their publisher made them give back the advance for book 2 and cancelled the contract?

Every project is a new project, and every project could be the one that makes us or breaks us. The key is to keep going--and let go of the old ones when it becomes obvious they'll never get where you wanted them to be, no matter how much you love them.

It's all about letting go. At least today it is.


Anonymous said...

Its funny this is (at least a little) about money. I got a $200 check for the article I sold and told the wife I could quit my job if I could just sell 5 of these a week. The point is most of us write because we love to and that’s the bottom line. Heck, the only reason I even submitted the article for publication is as a surprise for my son (on the chance it would actually sell –it’s sort of a father and son thing). Being in print is cool and getting paid for it is icing on the cake, but the reality is very few make a living at it. In my case, the real payment was the look on my son’s face when I handed him the magazine with his picture in it.

"It's all about letting go. At least today it is." -December

I was getting ready to encourage and console you about the bad luck you've had until I read that. You've got it right and your head's in the right place.

Go have a drink (or three) and toast your talent. -JTC

Anonymous said...

"The key is to keep going--and let go of the old ones when it becomes obvious they'll never get where you wanted them to be, no matter how much you love them."

This is so totally right.

I know so many writers who have one project, one baby, and they hug it to their breasts, refusing to give up even after 100 rejections from agents and/or editors. Perseverence is a great quality, but it can warp into blind obstinacy. I'd never advocate giving up on writing, if that's what a person wants to do, but sometimes you have to move on, tell another story and accept that this book, however amazing you first thought it was, just isn't the big winner. Maybe it's the market, not your writing. But maybe it actually is the book.

I can also relate to your frustration. I tried out the ebook market myself, back in 2002. My first historical, published with a small press (since gone under) was nominated for a RT best small press romance award. I sold them book two as well and I was merrily writing book three when everything exploded, the CEO vanished, leaving all the authors owed a bunch of royalties. Sucks to have stuff go pear-shaped despite all your hard work.

Anonymous said...

Oh and maybe I just like to look on the bright side, but for any book that doesn't sell right now, I figure when I hit it big, publishers will be asking, "What do you have??" just so they can capitalize on the name. ;)

Jenn on the Island said...

Well, December, from what I understand what just happened to you is par for the course.

My CP had the same thing happen to her. Release dates changed, ads paid for and never appearing, no replies to emails. And those other authors (IMCynicalO) knew good and well it was your day and were just hoping for exposure at a scheduled chat. And then the publisher went under. Just like Annie's.

As for pay: I would just about kill to get real numbers from people. "Email authors privately, they'll be happy to share" How many times have I heard that? Not a one was willing to up the digits.

That said, I'm still writing and planning to submit. I'll just take nothing at face value unless I have a hard copy contract in my hand.

December Quinn said...

Thanks, JTC. I'm sure hoping I have talent to toast! :-) And a huge congrats on the article sale, that's awesome!!

Yeah, I've seen some of those, too, Annie. Just because I adore a specific character or book...I still have to let it go and accept that sometimes it just doesn't happen.

December Quinn said...

I'm trying to be kind re the other authors' motivations, Jenn--but rest assured I know who they were. :->

The worst part about the ads not appearing is that the admin for one of the sites is a writer herself--so she really shouldn't be doing this. Mmm-hmmm. I think YOU know.

And I'll up the digits. Email me. decemberquinn AT gmail. (Which goes for you as well, kis. I'll share what I know.)

kis said...

They say "Don't give up your day job," but for $500 a month, I could actually consider it. You don't need a huge earner to quit when your job is slinging chow mein twelve to sixteen hours a week. I'm not in it to get rich, but I would like more time for my kids and my writing.

You do it because you love it. The seeds of that were planted in me in high school, and began to really germinate ten years ago. I suppose if none of my stuff ever sees the light of day, that's fine. But it would be cool to be able to say, "I'm published." Or, in the immortal words of Sally Field, "They like me! They really like me!"

Thanks for the info and the insider's POV, December. It's a bummer about your book--I even went looking for it, and it was nowhere to be found. And you give those interloping authors too much credit, if you ask me. They know what they did. I'd have been there to bitch-slap some of them, but when I went to the site, I found out you have to sign in. My husband being utterly and ridiculously paranoid about this here interweb thingie, I was reluctant to do so on his computer. It's what you get when you marry an older man.

Annie, that's my plan, too. I'll get famous, then they'll want my baby.

And JTC, I do believe you've just put the lie to your oft-posted disclaimer that you're "not really a writer, you just hang out on writer's blogs cause it amuses you." Now we all know the horrible, sordid truth.

Anonymous said...

I have promised myself that I'll never be evil-hag bitter about it, though. In a review on Bam's site, she did a LKH anthology, where Ms Hamilton wrote a short intro to each story like:

"Before I was famous, nobody wanted this piece, it was rejected 437 times, even once on Thanksgiving and I cried and burnt the turkey and thought about killing myself because nobody wanted my writing. But hey, enjoy it now!"

So even if they buy my stuff like twenty years after I wanted to sell it, I'll just like, "Sweet!"

Robyn said...

kis, I'm so with you. $500 a month would have me doing backflips after earning $6.50/hour part time.

I find the exposure hounds horning in on your time a little amusing considering the post you did about how we all have to seem sugary sweet and supportive to each other. "Yes, I'm so GLAD December may or may not have a book coming out. But let me tell you about MINE!" Gad.

Bernita said...

The other author's behaviour is sickening.

The lack of hard figures on e-books makes some of us reluctant to pursue it as a venue. I've heard average sales of 300 books. Period. That is not encouraging.

I am so sorry about the delays and betrayals, December, because you are a damned fine writer.
With style and originality and a certain something extra above the herd.

December Quinn said...

Yep, JTC, I agree with kis. Too late to pretend anymore. You're a writer, buddy.

Thanks for looking for the book, kis. Trisk does do releases on the 15h sometimes, I'm hoping they've simply delayed it until then...and yeah, Robyn and kis, $500 is relative. As I said, it would be great for me, because it's just extra money. Unfortunately (or, well, fortunately) we have two kids, so the hubby's gotta keep slogging away.

BTW, chow mein...mmmmm...it sounds awful and I know I'm a Philistine, but the only Chinese you can get here that isn't cardboard tasteless is really, authentic Chinese. Which is good, but I admit I'd love to have some honey garlic chicken and crab rangoon right about now. We used to order from a place in Ft. Lauderdale that had the best crab rangoon in the world...sigh.

December Quinn said...

Good for you, Annie! Stephen King's made some comments among those lines himself ("they didn't want it once, now they do") but being Stephen King, he's so gentlemanly and self-effacing about it, it's rather sweet. I don't understand the bitterness...but then, some writers do tend to get too nig for themselves, don't they, and want to take revenge on those who "rejected them"...including, it seems, their readers. :-)

December Quinn said...

Bernita, it really depends on the publisher. I believe the average EC book sells in the mid-to-high four figures range (although of course that's a median.)

But I know friends of mine with other publishers report disappointing sales. I never expected much, so I wasn't disappointed...but while I think 300 is lowballing as far as the "average" ebook, it's certainly nowhere near an unheard of number.

And thanks so much...*feels all glowy inside*...I needed that.

Anonymous said...

Oh man, I'm sorry to hear about all that, December. It's totally rude for authors to just promo themselves when another author has the DAY. Not very polite!

But don't be thinking the whole month is a wash! In the past few days I've seen a number or readers comment to the effect they check an epubs site every week to see the new releases!

That's not cool about the advertising though. I have been trying to decide who I want to advertise with and I must say that's a bit discouraging!

But go back and look at that post you made not long ago, in which you remarked on how much progress you've made with your writing.

That overshadows any of this, really.


Anonymous said...

In my defense I would like to point out that I did say I only submitted as a sort of gift for my son. Besides, my secret is safe with y'all, right? -JTC

December Quinn said...

Thanks Isabella!

One of those sites has now coughed up. My ad was on the front page when I looked this afternoon.

Oh, sure, JTC..."Oh, no, I only did it for my son!" Nonono. We'll keep your secret, though...for a price.

Anonymous said...

I have no money but here's an IOU:

I hereby owe December Quinn and her December-ites a motorcycle ride (trust me, it'll be worth it) in payment for their silence that I actually submitted something for publication. -JTC

cyn said...

i know it will all come together for you, december. hang in there!!

S. W. Vaughn said...


I am so sorry. I've been here. It's not fun.

On the bright side... you're IN to EC!!! WOOT!!! I hope you make 80K! :-)

Ah, publishing. We love to hate it. Or something like that...

Anonymous said...

Hey, you placed a book with EC??

How'd I miss that news?? Congratulations, December!! Woohoo!!

December Quinn said...

It was a couple of months ago, Isabella. Thanks!