So you just finished a great novel. It’s well-researched, well-edited, and well-written. Well, well, well. That’s just three holes in the ground. How does that land you a publisher? It doesn’t, it just gets you a one-way ticket to Selfpublishland, where you’ll do your own marketing and rise and fall based on your ability to attract buyers. Well, that and the strength of your story. Why?
Because more than a million new books hit the market every year. You’re just one author, do the math. Traditional publishing houses and editors don’t have time to look at everything, and when they do find the time, it’s usually for a known author. That doesn’t mean you will never find a publisher, but it’s easier to find an agent and have them shop your book while you start on your next great novel.
The Quarter-Million Dollar Example
So let’s just suppose I have a book that’s sold, hmm, 20,088 copies in a softbound style at bookstores and online. I figure that’s pretty good, right? The publisher is generous and pays me 12% of the $11.99 cover price. That’s also pretty good. And, that means I’m responsible for $240,855 in commerce. I’m adding to the GDP, yeah me.
I’m excited to have sold so many copies of the book, but even more, I’m excited to have received $28,903 in royalties. If I wrote a book every six months I’d be set, so life looks good for me.
For my publisher, not so much. I won’t merit a three-book deal because they sell my book at 35 to 40 percent of the cover price to the distributors, so 37.5 % of $240,000 is $90,000 in gross profit and they paid me $29,000 and spent $15,000 on pre-press expenses and marketing, leaving just $46,000. Oh, and they actually had to pay $2.16 per copy to produce and ship my books, which totaled $43,390 and left them a net profit of $2,610. Yikes. No wonder they won’t return my phone calls.
On the plus side for the publisher and myself, the book will sell online and in ebook form forever, so the money will still add up to a tidy sum, eventually. For now, my book really just broke even, and it took some time to do even that.
So when you mull over your manuscript at night wondering if it is good enough to submit somewhere, don’t be disheartened, it might be great, but don’t be afraid to keep smoothing it out. You only get one chance to impress a prospective publisher or agent – make it your best!