I did scantly glance over the sums when I first checked out Print on Demand (honest), and my general impression wasn’t particularly rosy. More a sense of unease, immediately pushed to one side, along the lines of ‘how does ANYONE make money in publishing’? And I mean anyone, including traditional publishers. Maybe even traditional publishers top of the list – after all, they’re the ones to fork out advances to authors, and money for whatever marketing and promotion is going to happen.

Without beating around the bush, the sums for createspace break down as follows:

– For a 250-page book, printed in black and white (interior) with a trim size of 5.25”x8”, cover price set at £5.99, the per book author royalty works out to £0.39. That’s selling direct through amazon – the figure drops into the red if you use distributors who take a higher share (and they all do!).

– If you push the cover price to £6.99 (ouch), the per book author royalty goes up to £0.99.

The question is: does ANYONE pay full price on amazon books? Isn’t the whole point to walk away with a discount? The choice seems to be: either promote your book in such a way (how?) that people don’t mind paying full whack on amazon or … you guessed it – take a hit.

There is a third choice for anyone writing YA or otherwise able to use the e-book format, because the per book author royalty jumps to $3.34 (with a retail price of $8.99) … now that sounds like business … when you ignore the fact that – you guessed it! – e-books are usually heavily discounted.

[In case you think I’m really clever being able to work those sums out, createspace have a handy little ‘royalty calculator’ …

If your insides are churning (and mine are) then stop reading now or reach for a double Scotch, because it does get worse …

For a start, you’re not actually in profit until you’ve covered your upfront costs. Assuming (and I think this is a real feat) your book cover, editing, proofing, marketing and platform costs come in around £500 as Diana Kimpton managed to do (see last week’s post “The Colour of Grass”), then at £0.39 per book, you would have to sell 1,282 books before you made your first 39p profit. You may want to read that piece of information a few times and take a few slugs of Scotch.

The other point at which it gets worse is once you start selling through bookstores (assuming they’re willing to stock your wonderful work). They expect anything between 35-60% discount off the cover price (their margin, of course). Go on – knock it back and refill your glass.

Suddenly I grasp why publishers have such a reputation for being into the booze … and I TRULY UNDERSTAND the difference between vanity (or self, or indie) and traditional publishing. Traditional publishing is a business, trying to stay afloat and make money. Vanity publishing is about getting your work out there, whether or not that involves making money or, in fact, throwing some cash after it …

Is there any hope? Honest answer: I don’t know. E-publishing seems like it could be profitable (you know, in the long run, with lots of hard work and a string of titles). But what about middle-grade writers still dependent on paper books? Well, I’m hoping for a little ray when I check out offset publishing next week … but I’m not holding my breath.



More like Kerplunk.

Larisa x

PS: next week will be my last post until September, as I’m heading off on holiday (via the Duty Free Scotch aisle, of course)


2 thoughts on “Kerching!

  1. Well, I guess one advantage that traditional publishers have is volume. From looking at CreateSpace, there are no volume discounts, because they’re printing every copy on demand (hence the name). Whereas, a traditional publisher can print a couple of thousand copies and drive considerable savings on manufacturing costs.

  2. I’ve been somewhat sceptical about the “self-publishing revolution”, but prepared to be convinced otherwise. As well as the cost issue you raise, there is also the issue of marketing without a budget. Yes, social media marketing, websites, tweaking can be free, but that market place is very crowded now. Selling even 500 self-published books is very ambitious, let alone over 1,000.

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