This week I met up with a group of authors for lunch. We talked stories, experiences, marketing, exchanged tips, and covered all kinds of publisher type things.
We looked at the publishers we were with, or who we had been with, and we discussed the vulnerability of those publishers in the current climate. The list of publishers we thought were safe was a short one, and Samhain was on that list. They have fantastic authors, excellent editing, wonderful cover art, and respect in the market.
So what happened? I was so sad to learn that Samhain have found it necessary to close their doors. I think they are doing it in a completely respectful way, talking to their authors, explaining that if they don't do something then it would become a situation where authors may be affected. Their market share is sliding and they are closing before they are closed.
I'm not here to discuss why, but anyone who writes now knows why publishers are struggling. It's a combination of a lot of factors, Kindle Unlimited, self publishing, pricing, costs of cover art and editing. It's no one thing; I couldn't point at KU, or Kindle in entirety, and say it was all their fault, and I certainly don't have the evidence to back up fixed cost analysis at publishers. I can't say it is entirely my fault as an indie publisher, but indie publishing is part of the issue.
So, how much does it cost *me* to get a single e-book out for sale?
Taking The Rancher's Son – the sequel to Crooked Tree Ranch, 62,000 words and placing it in financial terms that I can quantify – I don't count my time writing it, because let's face it a publisher doesn't incur the costs of an author writing the work to begin with (ignoring the concept of advances!).
Bear in mind I am self published, or independently published, however you want to label it. But I do write for my own publisher – Love Lane – who have fixed costs that I can try and apportion here as well.
All amounts in British Pounds
Cover Art – £85
Editing – £200 (estimated)
Marketing company – £90 *
Love Lane fixed costs (Hosting, software, accountant, etc) £50 (per book ‘ish')
So to produce this one book in financial terms is £425.
Okay, so taking this, how many books would an author have to sell to cover the up front costs?
As an example I will use selling a book on Amazon:
Ranchers Son will be $4.99 which is (at today's exchange rates) £2.88.
The Amazon cut (depending on region, VAT, blah blah) estimated to *even out* at 35% ish.
Which leaves £1.87 for the author.
To cover all kinds of wibbly bits I am rounding that down to £1.80 ish.
SO, to cover my £425 costs I am looking at having to sell 235 or so books.
Let's say, all things being equal that I have to sell 250 books to cover my costs.
That is just me, on my own, and incidentally, I thank every one of you who buys my books and allows me to cover costs and make a profit.
What about a publisher who takes on 6 books a week? Or ten? Multiply the costs, add on the overheads (staff, fixed costs like rent, utilities etc) and the costs on a weekly/monthly basis become more and more.
Which is fine, as long as the authors they publish sell books to cover the costs. Each publisher has the big names, the ones that bring in the money to cover costs, but what about only 1 out of the 6 new releases making money, what if the other five are new authors who may only sell 200 copies of their new book because they aren't established? Of course, these five authors may one day sell enough to cover costs, but maybe that is six months down the line when their brand is known and they issue book 2 and so on.
So, the title, I am part of the problem, what do I mean by that?
I am one of the authors who felt that they had a better handle on their marketing and brand than any publisher did for me. I am one of the writers who decided to go indie. I am one of the authors who have been burned by a publisher who wasn't honourable like Samhain are. I pulled away from publishers, I am still doing that with my remaining titles. I want creative control, I want independence, and it's working for me. It's a brave new world and one I love working in.
KU is part of the problem. I'm not in KU (Amazon is only 67% of my sales, and I couldn't bring myself to cut any of my non Zon using readers off). Still, going exclusively to KU is a good thing for newer authors who don't have the six years I have of building a diverse platform readership. So the KU effect is not my fault… promise… but it is an issue, a big one.
I'm not the only author to go indie. So, as the publishers lose authors who may statistically be more likely to cover costs, where does that leave them? Having to invest in more unknown stories, more unknown authors, ones who can't get seen in the market, and who maybe don't sell, and don't cover costs.
And eventually, new authors will lose out, because they won't have the platform to be seen, and hell, with KU, some authors who made nice sales are feeling the pinch.
What used to be an open market, this Kindle, ePub, PDF, thing where we could have people read our stories… is now becoming more difficult to get into.
I wish I knew the answer. I'm really shocked by Samhain, and saddened. And if any Samhain author needs help to get their books out self published, if that is the way they feel they want to go, then please email me and I am happy to help.
Hugs you all… RJ X
* Something I used to do myself but got overwhelmed!