Promise keeping

Back in, oh…October, I guess, 2012, a couple folks who are interested in the nittier-grittier part of our careers asked me to let them know if Dragon Ship earned out.  I agreed to do that, though they may have thought I’d forgotten about them by now.

In point of fact, Dragon Ship, by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, published in two hardcover editions in September 2012, has earned out.  I know this because we have received the royalty reports for January-June 2013, covering sales made during the six months prior to that period, aka July-December 2012.

Y’all didn’t believe me when I told you that the Wheels of Publishing Grind Slow, did you?

While I’m here, let me address a couple of other frequent questions.

A question that we’re asked frequently, with regard to all of our books, is “Where do you make the most money, from paper sales or from esales?”

Based on this batch of royalty statements, it looks like print still has a slim sales edge, for new books.  Books that have been out for awhile (I give you Mouse and Dragon, the gift that keeps on giving) seem to have stronger esales.

The third frequent question has to do with how well our indie ebooks, offered through Pinbeam Books, sell.  This is often part of a conversation about how it’s no longer in the best interest of authors to be yoked to a trad publisher.

So, the indie sales more than pay the mortgage every month, which is pretty good for something that’s a sideline, which we don’t promote, and only update the inventory sporadically.  We have seen sales fall off since early 2011, when we first started making the chapbooks available electronically.

I think there are two reasons for that.  One is that when the Kindles and the Nooks were Hot Items that everybody had to have, all those people with their new toys tried to make sure that all their favorite books were on the toys.  There was, in a word, a Great eBook Rush.

The second reason is that Steve and I are simply not bearing down and making new eChapbooks available every month or two.  See “sideline,” above.

Regarding the larger discussion of Trad Publishing vs. Total Author Control. . .our experience has shown — since 1995, when SRM Publisher published it’s first paper chapbook, Two Tales of Korval by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller — that a hybrid approach to publishing — some trad, some self-publishing — is the path that produces the greater rewards.

Anybody have any other nitty-gritty publish-y type questions?  Now’s the time to ask.

EDITED TO ADD:  This just in, from Forbes:  How Much Money Do Self-Published Authors Make?


3 thoughts on “Promise keeping”

  1. One question (apologies if you’ve answered before) that I wonder about is if you receive different royalties for different delivery methods? The extended question is also how to maximize Baen’s revenue from the transaction as a fan of both.

    I try to shop at my indie bookstores, but I live out in the burbs and can’t always make a trip into the city. I tend to buy ebooks directly from Baen.

  2. I would like to know if you will get the same net amount from an ebook as a hardcover. Is there any advantage of one over the other for the author. I always feel guilty if I cannot afford both the hardcover and ebook, but I can only read the ebook because of issues of weight on my wrists now. I have asked other authors before but have really only recieved the answer “whichever one is best for you”. Thanks

  3. Well, I’m certainly not going to insist that someone buy a book she can’t read; that just seems silly.

    Royalty rates vary by media, not by vendor, are set by the publisher, and included in the contract.

    Bookstores used to get a 40% discount from the publisher, which is to say they’d pay the publisher 60% of cover, sell the book in the store for cover, and earn 40% of cover. (Example: Cover price is $10. Store buys it for $6; sells it for $10; gets to keep $4 to cover their time, effort, and overhead.) This is not, I understand, true with Amazon, which has sought in the past to turn the equation on its head — i.e., they pay the publisher 40% of cover, and keep 60% for themselves.

    Regardless of bookstore shenanigans, we by contract receive: 10% of cover price for hardcovers. If we sell over 5,000 hardcovers, our royalty rate goes up to 12.5%.

    For paperbacks, our royalty is 8% of cover, going up to 10% if we sell more than 150,000.

    For ebooks, our royalty is 25% of cover. Again — the venue doesn’t matter to us in this. Buy from Baen directly, if you like to, or from Amazon, BN, Apple, or whatever — our royalty rates are set in the contract.

    The other important part of the equation is, of course, cover price. Hardcovers typically sell for $22-$26; trade paperbacks for $12-16; mass markets $6.99-$9.99; ebooks $6.99-$9.99. Trades and mass markets tend to sell more than hardcovers, hence the lower percentage — authors are assumed to be making money on volume.

    I think that answers both questions in one blow.

    Thank you for asking.

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