Well that only seems fair right? Does it? Lets see how that works, see I have tried not to use big words and confusing language, a luxury your publisher wont use, so lets see what you understand. You invested $2000 to start, that paid for many incidentals and all of what you thought the costs should be. But then they ask for an Authors photo, and no ,you can’t use the glamour shots from 10 years ago. So that’s another $500 sitting fee and portrait. Your book is ready for printing, how many copies would you like, after all your $2000 investment only prints 3 copies. So your publisher states that your printing cost for 1000 copies will be $4 each and they are recommending that you print 5000 copies for distribution. Although you don’t have to come up with $20,000 you need to know about it. While they were at it the publisher has determined that retail cost of your book will be $6.99, wait you mean someone ELSE dictates what you can charge? In many instances yes, its part of the contract, often times the publisher will use the reasoning that “they have the pulse of the market.”
When it comes time for marketing your publisher will typically present you with 3 options, I call them none medium and typical. None being, you pay them $500 and they allow your book to be sold online and made available to 10 regional retailers, for that you may as well throw the money in the street. Medium asks that you invest $1500 with them which will allow your book to be sold (at a predetermined discount) through the larger online sites as well as some smaller affiliate sites, read in libraries, and available to 1 national and 20 regional outlets. Typical requires an investment of $5000, includes everything in the medium plus submission for reviews in 10 national newspapers as well as availabilities to 10 national retailers and, here’s the bonus, making you available for audio interview by over 100 national radio programs.
Please note the language, “making you available for”, “submission to”, no one is saying you will receive interview one, but they will send your “promotion package” to a radio network who owns over 100 stations and see if anyone bites.
Having said all that lets look at the math and let’s even say that you sold ALL 5000 copies of your book. I’m not saying that’s unreasonable, but with built in discounts and shipping costs plus damaged items the math gets out of hand sometimes. SO you invested $2000+ $500 +$5000 (marketing) = $7500 you sold 5000 books at 6.99 each and you receive 50% of the profit = 5000 x $6.99 = 34950.00 – $20,000 (printing costs) = $14950 / 2 (that’s your half) = $7475 – $7500 (investment) = -$25.00. So you have your first book out on the shelves and ready for re order, you have sold all 5000 copies (which is actually very good), your mother is very proud, and it only cost you $25. Unless you want to factor in silly things like what your time is worth and whether that was your life’s work, than you are actually head and shoulders ahead of most authors today!
Now, let’s look at a self published model of the same scenario. You outsource your cover art because you’re not that creative and you invest $100. You print ONLY the copies that you need, it requires the same $4 investment, but you order those 20 at a time to defray shipping and handling. You spend $500 with a media consultant to create a media package for you that contains a photo, bio and audio interview, as well as media inserts for web and radio. However you decide that the retail cost should be $20 with $3 for shipping and handling if these are sold remotely. In the end you’re ordering 20 at a time plus giving multi buy discounts and the $3 shipping all wash out. So now your math looks like this: You invest $100 + $500 + $20,000 printing) = $20,600 investment. You sold 5000 books at $20 each that’s $100,000 – $20,600 = your profit of $79,400. Wow. While you digest that, I’ll let you think about the initial question of Should you self publish…
In the meantime keep on reading
And certainly keep on writing!