Money Earned from Selling Books

In our modern world of Word being able to output to PDF, and people putting those PDFs on their websites for zero money, they begin to think that as the author they should get ALL proceeds from their book sales. This becomes an emotional claim for many. "I wrote the book, labored over it for months. Don't I therefore get all the income?"

However, let's say you paint landscapes, or you fold origami, or you craft jewelry, or you stitch beautiful clothing. If you take any of those into a retail store to sell, the typical commission that store gets just for placing your item in their store is a full 50%. That is the "place it in a store" price you pay.

Why does a storefront get so much?

The answer is that it is very challenging to run a store. This is true both for brick-and-mortar stores as well as online stores. There are the many costs of running a business - electricity, legal fees, employees, insurance, and so on. There are the costs to draw people TO the storefront. An empty store doesn't last long. There is marketing, the continual redesign of the store itself to keep people coming back, the customer service, the exchanges, the coverage of loss. I know many people who own stores, and they barely break even. This money is what they need to stay alive.

So in the world of books, you first have that "store front" fee, that any store will charge to allow your book to take up their valuable shelf space and inventory.

Now in ADDITION to that let's say you also want the store to print your book for you too! Printing costs are not cheap. That is an entirely separate layer of costs that - most definitely - have to be paid to the printer. It is really impressive, when you look back to the old days before print-on-demand, just how cheaply you can now have a book printed! It used to be it cost a LOT of money and you had to print books in batches of 500 or more to get an even close to reasonable price. Now the prices are far cheaper. It is the economy of scale in action - they can charge you less because they're printing for thousands of people all over the world, rather than thousands of books for one person, in a given day. So it's good to be aware that this is actually a great deal, that they charge so little.

Let's not forget the cover and content layout! Often in real publishing situations the graphic designer gets a 5% share of the book price for their efforts. After all, you know the "judge a book by its cover" mantra. A well done cover can have a huge impact on a book's sales! Many content websites now handle these tasks for you, which is quite a treat.

When an average author arranges with a real publishing house to publish their book, handing over their manuscript to their process, they often get only 50 cents per book sold, out of a sale price of say $8. That's a 6% share for the author. This is actually a quite reasonable deal! The book store gets half of that amount. Of the remaining $4, much of that is taken up in raw printing and binding costs. The publisher has to recoup money for their efforts. The author has a great deal of incentive to make sure a LOT of books are sold, so that they can get some money for their efforts!

I know a woman who worked for a year working on one of the Lonely Planet books. In return she got a payment for $1,000. On one hand, you could be thrilled about $1,000! That's a lot of money! But on the other hand, if you work for a year to earn that, suddenly it's less than the minimum wage.

When a writer was asked to write three books by a publisher, the writer got no money up front. When she presented the three books, the publisher liked them. But then the industry changed and the publisher could not publish the books. She was very fortunate - the standard contract had a $1,000 each kill fee. So she did get that payment. The author then found another publisher for the books and - once again - got no up front payment. She only got a payment per-book. The book sold for $17 each - and the author's share was $1.50 each. That's a 9% share.

It's like anything else in life. You start out earning the bare minimum for your efforts, until you build up a reputation or happen to catch the public's imagination. Only then do you start getting the figures quoted for famous figures like J.K. Rowling.

It's the same in every industry. A new painter might get $10 for his painting. We all pay attention when the Picasso gets sold for $106 million - but we need to be aware that it's a long road to get to that point.

Getting the Most Money
So, now that you realize just how small a part a new writer typically gets amongst all the printing costs, store costs, cover creating costs, and other costs involved in creating a book, how can a new writer work to maximize their earnings?

Earning the Most Money

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