Self-Published Author Caught in a Squeeze Play: Costs up, Royalties Down

I’m caught in a squeeze play and it isn’t even opening day! That’s how I feel because the cost of my book has gone up 27 percent while the royalty payment has plummeted 30 percent. This financial debacle has taken place since December.

What’s the reason? Ah, that’s a great question. There’s no straightforward answer. It’s evolved as I’ve exchanged emails and phone calls with the publishing company. I rarely converse with the same person twice. My account manager, who was supposed to be my go-to gal, seems to be AWOL much of the time. When she does respond her answers don’t specifically address my question. She merely replies with something easily found under the company’s FAQs. Frustrating? Hell YES.

Bottom line, the company I signed with in October to publish my book, announced soon thereafter that it was morphing into another company to better serve ME. My costs were supposed to go down, my royalties up. When the one company became the other, the transition didn’t move seamlessly. The responsibility fell to me to reauthorize the distribution of my book. This is why it has taken so long for distributors to show my book title among their listings. Many things were unstated prior to the transition or even now. My account manager who was supposed to work FOR me is anything but proactive. I’d say she’s inactive. More characteristically: UNRESPONSIVE.

As to the financial squeeze play let’s look at the numbers. My book sells on Amazon.com for $15.99. The printing of the book NOW (it was less in quotes back in December) costs $4.71. The publishing company takes $5.68 and gives me a royalty payment of $5.60. (BTW it takes them an extra month to pay this to me. I don’t get a royalty payment until March for books sold in January) I’m not upset about the 50/50 split since the publisher is in charge of shipping and handling. Just for the record it’s going to take a lot of book sales before I break even. I’m talking more than a 1000 books. That’s means recouping prepublication and promotion costs, not time and expense for researching and writing.

Here’s the shocker: If the book is sold through a bookstore or any organization that buys through the “ independent distribution channel” my royalty is only $1.68!!! I’ve been tearing my hair out to get my book listed on this channel without realizing that while there is potential for additional sales, there is a veritable cliff from which returns plummet.

Here’s the math. The book buyer gets a 40 percent discount. Their cost is $9.59. The printing cost remains constant at $4.71. The value left in the book is $4.88. The publisher takes $3.20 leaving me with $1.68. There’s been no explanation why the split is 50-50 when the book is sold on Amazon and only 65/35 when sold through other channels.

Obviously my earlier posts that tell people to write because they love to write and not because they expect to make money are on target.  I am aware that mine is but one experience. I’d like to find a self-published author who can relate a success story.

People tell me to be patient. After all, my book only made its debut on January 11. Let’s see what happens. There may be a success story down the road. I’m certainly working hard enough.

I’ve got a friend who’s just beginning her own indie published journey.  I’m going to ask to relate her experiences in a future blog post.

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5 Comments

Filed under book, cost, distribution, frustration, on demand publishing, pay-to-publish, publishing, royalty, self-publishing, success

5 responses to “Self-Published Author Caught in a Squeeze Play: Costs up, Royalties Down

  1. Hi Pamela,
    It’s hard to offer much advice without some specifics. Who’s your publisher? Also I see that you book is available on Amazon and their Kindle store, but where else is it available? What are you doing to sell it everywhere possible and as ebooks at other venues? I don’t see it at Barnes&Noble, so is that in the works?
    I recently discovered that I could make and sell ebooks at no cost. I’ve even just written a book on that though my first 2 books are novels. You can see more at http://ebooksuccess4free.wordpress.com or http://ebooksuccess4free.webs.com
    My philosophy is the more avenues people have to read your book, the better. Good luck.

    • Pam

      Thanks for the response. I used BookSurge which has morphed into CreateSpace. I chose the company because it is an Amazon.com company. I assumed I was automatically going to get the benefits of being into the resources of an Internet titan. However, publishing through Amazon has not provided an on their coat tails success. Yes, the book is available on Amazon and Kindle. If you scrolled through this blog you’ll see that the book is also supposed to be available through Baker and Taylor and Ingrams – distributors that are supposed to cover bookstores, libraries, colleges, etc. For some reason it takes nearly two months for a title to show in their listings. The book is also available at CreateSpace.com but as the bookseller in Washington State found, their is an extensive sign up process for first time users. I wanted to sell through Books A Million but they require authors to submit their books to American Wholesale Booksellers for a review. I did this without success. Selling books is a process, and for one woman going it alone I am doing what I can on a day to day basis. I am working on book signings, with the media to get coverage, etc. I agree the more avenues the better. That’s why I’m also using SM. It’s just a process which can be a drain on personal energy and attitude especially on days where there seems to be NO forward movement.

      • I know exactly how you feel. I’ve written two novels and have dropped my house painting business to market them. My heart says do it, but my bank account is starting to get seriously concerned.
        My advice is don’t put too much effort into selling at bookstores. Without a traditional publisher you’ll be unlikely to get any kind of location that actually sells in amounts that matter.
        I would target women’s groups and do everything possible online. You might even give some copies for reviews wherever possible.
        Do you have ebooks that you sell from your own sites? You know, it’s really easy to set that up. You can even charge low prices like 99 cents just to get the ball rolling.

      • Pam

        Thanks again for you comments. Yes, I am actively targeting women’s groups. I have a Web site http://www.livingintheheartland.com which features new stories of women and provides a link to Amazon for softcover and Kindle purchase. It’s a process contacting and obtaining a two way dialog with women’s groups, but I’m working on it. I think my book would be a great read for women’s departments at universities as well as diversity centers and even freshman book reads. I am looking for reading groups, and other groups. As a one woman, PR agency, it all takes time. I appreciate your comments. When you suggest something I’m doing that provides me with feedback that I’m on the right path, and when you suggest something I haven’t done I say, “I ought to look into that.” I haven’t looked into esales on my own site. I need to protect my copyright, and have no way to do that from my own site. Maybe the next book I write I’ll do that.

        Please keep sending ideas, and feel free to contact me at livingintheheartland@gmail.com. I’d love to continue a dialog about what you are doing and what we might do to help each other. My suggestion to you is keep a day job. I’ve been a freelancer with a newspaper for more than 15 years and I know unless you work 80 hrs a week you’ll never make the wages of a 40 hour job.

      • Pam

        You might also want to follow me on twitter @intheheartland3 or FB friend me.

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