A Statement of Fact
*Sorry to be so late. I took an allergy pill last night, which acts like a sleeping pill and leaves me groggy and out of it. So doing the post for my blog and this post took FOREVER. Forgive me.*
Okay, many of you want to go traditional for the money, the security, the being on the shelves, the fact that someone else handles the money.
I want you to think of “someone else handles the money” and of the control you’re giving up.
No, I don’t mean control in keeping your cover, or your typos, or…
I mean control of the money.
I’ll start this by saying that 10 years ago my first editor told me “we no longer keep books in warehouses. We’ve gone print on demand.”
This makes sense because running say 100 books costs the same as running 1000. It also makes the idea of reprint a muddle. BUT it saves taxes on inventory.
Now, I don’t think Baen uses this system because I happened on a discussion between two editors on a book published years ago that they still had “a boatload in the warehouse.” (Not my book, but I still have a few too, I think.)
I don’t know why the difference, but the other SF/F publishers, my editor assured me, had gone all print on demand.
This makes a mockery also of the clause on the contract that says rights revert to you but they can sell the remaining books.
My Bantam books reverted more than a year ago (yeah, I know, but I need to line edit them before they go up, and you know what this year has been, with illness, move, house remodeling, moving older boy out to medschool, etc. This is the year of the changes.) Suddenly I’m getting shots of them on bookstore shelves, sent by enthusiastic fans. AND I’m getting fan mail specifically for Heart of Light at the same rate I got when it first came out.
Needless to say the edition tracker says first edition, and if I contacted them they’d tell me they’re just selling stuff from the warehouse. (In fact Lee and Miller said that Ace miraculously kept finding books in warehouses for up to eight years. Yeah.)
Now, I’ll point out that something odd must be going on with my back list across the board, because a friend bought Darkship Renegades at the grocery store. This month. Not sure what THAT means.
But Sarah, you say, it will surely be in your statements. So, yay, you’re getting money.
I bet you money (and will photocopy the statement and put it here when it arrives) that what I get is 10 sales (which is fewer than the number of fanmail I’ve got on this.) Bet you. Any money you care too.
Am I saying the statements are dishonest? Some, undoubtedly. For instance I find it interesting that my refinishing mysteries ONLY pay royalties when we ask to have the rights revert. (Because paying royalties – usually around $145 – resets the clock.) It MIGHT be a coincidence, but you know… So might a thrown coin landing on edge three times in a row be a coincidence. In real world terms, OTOH it’s called “A fricking miracle” that requires divine intervention. Or something.
But mostly what statements are is imprecise.
In the old days, print runs were impossible to estimate precisely. So people guesstimated. And of course, they guesstimated in the publishing company’s favor. Right now, from what I understand, some orders go directly to the printing plant and might or might not be reported to the publisher (they’re supposed to be, but things get lost, particularly small orders.)
And then there’s how many books sold. This is not exact (it could be, because computers) because there is no way to TELL how many books sold, even if all bookstores were (ah) well organized and reported perfectly (ah) there is no POS info.
So the royalties are calculated based on the Nielsens (which capture some of the bookstores in the big cities) and then the rest is extrapolated. (That means if you’re a publisher like Baen who does well in the South and comic bookstores and non traditional venues you take a hit anyway.)
I don’t know what formula they use. I know there’s something wrong with it, because I wrote for three publishers, across three houses, and sometimes they reported EXACTLY the same sales on different books and genres.
You see that coin? It’s on edge again.
Given uncertainty, companies, of course, deal in their favor.
Now there are many good things going for my books being on shelves years after publication, even if I see not ONE red cent. More people will discover me, for instance.
But it’s also a gross distraction, when I’m setting to bring out the author’s edition of those books (the editing wasn’t to my taste.)
And it means I have no control. And that I’ll never be “properly paid.”
So score another point against traditional publishing. It’s not worthless, but you will not get the bang you get from indie.
In my case, other than Baen, I’m not even bothering to submit anymore. And it’s not all for political reasons.