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Fun with Numbers: e-Books November 17, 2010

Posted by nrhatch in Books & Movies, Word Play, Writing & Writers.

150px-Carlo_Crivelli_052I just read an illuminating article comparing the author royalties from e-books with those the author receives from traditional print publications.

Assuming the figures used are correct, e-books are something to consider.

With traditional publication, you have to land an agent in order to find a publisher.  If successful:

The agent earns 15% of the author’s royalties; royalties are most often around 8% of a paperback cover price.

So, on a $7.99 paperback book, the author earns 64 cents from which he hands over 10 cents to the agent, which leaves the originator of the book with 54 cents.

Now, enter the world of digital publication:

For now, if the author meets some easy-to-meet conditions, she uploads her manuscript at no cost to herself and reaps 70% of the cover price with Kindle, 65% with Barnes and Noble. (70% applies to books priced from $.99 to $9.99 at Kindle.  A $10.99 book earns 35% royalty.)

If the price, which the author sets herself, is $7.99, the royalty payment is a whopping $5.19. Wow.

In other words, you’d have to sell 10 traditionally published books @ $7.99 to earn $5.40 in royalties vs. selling a single e-book at $7.99 to earn $5.19.


But what about the number of sales?

Unless you land on the NY Times Bestseller List, there’s a good chance that your sales volumes via e-books will be comparable to the number you would sell through traditional print publication ~ especially now that that market is shrinking.

And, even if you sell fewer books, you may earn more in royalties:

If your $7.99 paperback sells 30,000 copies,  at 8% royalty, you’ll earn $16,299, after paying your agent’s commission.

If your $2.99 e-book sells only 10,000 copies, at Kindle’s 70%, you’ll earn $20,930.


To read the full article:  Sayonara, Auf Wiedersehn, Au Revoir, and Goodbye to Paperbacks

Related posts:  Self-Publishing ~ The American Idol of the Publishing World(Kristen Lamb’s Blog) * How to Make an E-Book Using Open Office * Why Today Is The Best Time To Be A Writer (Courage2Create)


1. Ollin - November 17, 2010

Hmm… intrigued.

nrhatch - November 17, 2010

Definitely worth looking into when you’re ready to unleash your novel on the world.

Cindy - November 18, 2010

I’m very interested!

2. Brown Eyed Mystic - November 17, 2010

Hmm. . .Interesting figures, nrhatch. However, there are horrors of e-books too (self-pub’bed ones, especially). The latest I heard was a guy uploaded a “Guide to being a pedophile” on Amazon. Holy Crap–there’s a whole freaking guide to THAT!?

I think they’ve taken it down now; but it was a shock nevertheless.

Of course this doesn’t necessarily apply to your post–it’s more to do with self-published digital books.

Still. Can you believe?


nrhatch - November 17, 2010

This article deals with self-published digital books . . . but from the writer’s side, not from the unsuspecting public’s view. 😉

Caveat Emptor. Buyer Beware.

3. Paula Tohline Calhoun - November 17, 2010

It’s bad enough that there are people who would write and publish such trash as BrownEyed mentions, but what appalls me the most is that there are even more people who would shell out money and buy it – regardless of the price! Boggles my mind.

But – the numbers sound good, Nancy, and it certainly sounds like a more than viable option for the “legitimate” writers out there. “Odes to the Everyday” will be a book in about 75 years or so (my great grandchildren will publish it as a novelty item). Lucky folks – they stand to make at least $5 on it (total!):-D

nrhatch - November 17, 2010

You never know, Paula. If you stop having hand surgeries, you might finish it in record time. 😉

As far as the book mentioned by BrownEyed, there are some sick puppies out there.

Of course, given my tasteless bathroom humor, some might say the same about me. 🙂

4. souldipper - November 18, 2010

You’ve just saved a few of us a whole whack of research. I’ve wondered about this very point. Is it true that book publishing numbers are falling? Are E-book sales truly going up? How do we find validation for those sales?

Very interesting, indeed.

Plus I love the fact that a few publishing houses are not dictating the literary diet.

nrhatch - November 18, 2010

Read her article . . . and the article she quotes/cites.

It looks like digital books will be 50% of book sales in the not too distant future.

5. Richard W Scott - November 18, 2010

Over the years I’ve been a staunch opponent to alternate publishing, and my discomfort/fear of eBooks as well has been rather high.

Eventually, however, one needs to see the musket on the mantle and realize that a writer, especially a new and heretofore unpublished writer has very little chance being discovered by a big name publisher.

Getting your work out to be read in any form is better than sitting on an ever-growing pile of manuscripts and waiting for the publish fairy to come and hit you with a wand.

Take a look at books like “The God Patent” by Ransom Stephens. He put his book out alternatively and on an e-book site. …and he was discovered by a serious publisher and is now found on the shelves of bookstores. Can’t beat that.

I can no longer oppose alternate and electronic publishing. I just want to get my work out there.

nrhatch - November 18, 2010

I agree with you.

If you’ve got a book and no agent or no publisher and you know the book is ready to be read . . . get it out there in whatever form you can. It’s the best way to be discovered.

And you can bet that, if you have a “bestseller” on your hands, a publisher will be happy to reprint it for you if they know it will be a money maker for them.

Self-publishing and e-books is a way to get your foot in the door . . . and your work out of the door.

6. Alannah Murphy - November 30, 2010

Great post Nancy, thank you for directing me to it. I have definitely seen the light about e-books and I’m rather excited about the possibilities.

nrhatch - November 30, 2010

As you pointed out in your post, we’re overdue for a change. I think that e-books are the “wave of the future.”

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