Well, after the non-event that wasn’t my book’s release on Friday (I still have no idea when it will be released), and after the non-event that was my chat on Saturday, in which I had to explain several times that I don’t know when the book will be released and be bombed by promos from other authors who hadn’t bothered to check the calendar and note it was a scheduled author day (which means you shouldn’t be posting your own promos, really), and after planning several contests relating to the book’s release which now must be delayed, and after realising that most ebook buyers check the websites on the first of the month, pick the new releases they want, and don’t check back until the beginning of the next month–which means the entire month is now effectively a wash as far as this book goes, and after the advertising I arranged months ago and paid for with two separate sites hasn’t appeared on either of them and my emails are going unanswered…
Let’s just say I’m a tad discouraged.
Which makes this the perfect time to answer another question!
But I’ve also wondered how ebooks earn compared to mass market ppb. What kind of sales does a good author get? The difference in the average royalty rate for ebooks (35-40%) and mass market ppb (something like 8-10% if you’re lucky) is quite glaring. Does that mean ebooks don’t sell well? I’m actually all for not having an advance–I’d always feel a little guilty if I didn’t earn it out, and woe betide the author who doesn’t and ever wants to be published again. I guess what I’m asking is what constitutes, in your words, decent monthly paychecks?
Probably really jumping the gun, but I am curious. Not about your numbers specifically, but just a general idea. Also, have you found that agents are at all interested in selling to epublishers? Are the earnings high enough to make it worth their while, especially with no advance?
Okay, I’m not an expert on this by any stretch. I can only report what I’ve heard. The EREC site (links to the right) is currently working on a survey for earnings and sales for epubs, so hopefully they’ll be a good resource in the months ahead.
No, ebook sales in general are nowhere near mass-market sales. But I believe the earnings can be close, and the reason is because of the much higher royalty rate. 10% of a mm paperback that sells 1000 copies for $7 each would be $700. 40% of an ebook that sells 1000 copies for $4 each would be (this is a total estimate and math is not my strong suit, okay?) $1600. So if you have an ebook that sells well vs. a mm paperback that doesn’t, you’re doing okay.
Of course, a mm paperback that sold that few copies would be a huge failure, whereas an ebook that sold that many would be doing pretty well.
In essence, though, you need to sell half as many ebook to make the same amount of money. So if you develop a loyal readership you can do very well from ebooks–one reason why my fantasy plan has me continuing to write ebooks, because the royalty rate is so much higher (I’d consider even $500 a month as “decent”, although not liveable, because my husband works so whatever I earn is gravy. For him to quit–our ultimate goal–we’d need to earn at least 8 times that–remember the lousy conversion rates for pounds & dollars just now–so don’t look for that one happening anytime soon). I’ve seen in several places that some of the top EC authors are earning about 80k per year, which is nice money no matter how you look at it. (That’s at EC though, which is still the highest-earning epub).
Really, epub is just like any other publishing. A good author can make good sales. A not-so-good author would make not-so-good sales. Get in with a big, reliable publisher whom the readers trust and you can do very well for yourself.
As far as advances, I think it’s pretty rare for a book not to earn out an advance, because publishers and agents are pretty good at guesstimating a book’s future earnings. I certainly wouldn’t feel guilty about accepting one, as it’s a sign of your publisher’s faith in your project. (Which isn’t to say pubs that don’t pay advances, i.e. epubs, don’t have faith in their authors. I’m not implying, nor do I ever think, anything of the kind.)
True, if you don’t earn out your advance you could have problems. But that doesn’t mean you automatically will. Another publisher might be perfectly happy to take on a different project.
And earning out your advance is no guarantee either–remember the girls who wrote The Nanny Diaries? Decent advance, huge best-seller, and their next book was so bad and their behavior so diva their publisher made them give back the advance for book 2 and cancelled the contract?
Every project is a new project, and every project could be the one that makes us or breaks us. The key is to keep going–and let go of the old ones when it becomes obvious they’ll never get where you wanted them to be, no matter how much you love them.
It’s all about letting go. At least today it is.