Money talk

I get a lot of questions, comments and suggestions about my money survey(s) so it finally occurred to me (duh) that it might be nice to have a place right here where I can answer them and where we can all have a candid discussion of money issues in publishing. I hope everyone will feel free to post questions, comments, critiques and suggestions, as well as share their own experiences and observations. If you hear about something in the industry that could have an impact on author earnings (positively or negatively), please share! And while you’re free to post anonymously here, it’s not the best place to share your own private earnings info (unless you want to), as this page will be available to anyone who wants to read and participate. To contribute to either of my surveys, e-mail is still best since I keep that info absolutely private.

 

50 Comments

50 thoughts on “Money talk

  1. Renee, it’s very, very hard for a writer to edit his/her own work. You’re too close to it. If you’re planning to self-publish it, I’d STRONGLY recommend having someone qualified edit it for you first. But this isn’t really the place to talk about how to self-publish. There are some great websites and blogs out there to help you navigate that process, though. One I’d recommend is http://www.juliesjournalonline.com/ and there’s another great resource page for writers at Laura Resnick’s website. ( http://www.lauraresnick.com ) Good luck!!

  2. This is a fascinating blog. Thank you. I just completed my first draft of my first Regency (Inspy) and have read hundreds of mainstream Regencies. There are a few Inspirational Regencies around, and I hope mine gets “around” too. Do you have an agent? Do you ever share that name;)?

    • I’m not agented now, Susan, though I have been in the past. At the moment, I’m focusing more on self-pubbing my backlist and sending my new work to a smaller press. (And if they decide against publishing it, I’ll do it myself–I just love having that choice now!) Good luck with your inspirational Regency, whatever path you take!

  3. Hi Brenda,
    Thanks for all the work you’ve been doing on this.
    I’m curious about the stats for Harlequin Mills and Boon where Medical is included – that category would include Presents, wouldn’t it? I’m curious because over the years I’ve “heard” Medical is one of the least selling lines where as Presents is the top selling line because they are so popular internationally.
    Have you got any idea what the earn outs are on the Presents books? Very intrigued.
    Kind regards
    Jane

    • Actually, Jane, Presents is one line I’ve never received ANY data for, so I’m afraid I can’t give you any info there…not even any guesses, except that I’ve heard (anecdotally) that Presents earnings have gone down in recent years, just like all the other lines. But yes, I’d heard it was Harlequin’s top selling line at one time, too. No idea whether that’s still true or not. (If any Presents authors see this and want to send me their figures, I’d love to include them in the update I’ll be doing soon–anonymously, of course!)

  4. Thanks, Brenda. I’d guess Presents would still be the top selling category internationally because the European, British, American and downunder readers love them so there’s a massive audience but Desire could be competition. Interesting. Yep, I hope you get some stats on sales for them.

  5. I’ve enjoyed your insightful information but I am very new to writing. I am writing about women doing time & their pain & struggles w/their attys.& what events led them to where they are. I’ve titled it First Names Only & believe it is a story tht needs to be told. Do you think there is a market for this type of material. My background is 20 yrs in the legal field so I believe my info is accurate & my stories are based on real people. Do I need an agent to get to a publishing co. & are self pub. all scams? Thank you for your time & consideration.

    • Victoria, one of the best resources I know for aspiring writers is Laura Resnick’s writer resource page ( http://www.lauraresnick.com ) My experience is in romance publishing, so I really can’t speak to the commercial marketability of your book(s) but I’d recommend steering clear of any “self publisher” who asks for money. You can always e-publish for free on Amazon and other sites (though it’s wise to have your material professionally edited and to have a professional-looking cover designed). I wish you the best of luck in your writing pursuits!

  6. Brenda, how can I get in touch with you about providing more stats for a publisher? It’s Whispers Publishing–a house known for steamy IR/MC romance. Thanks!

  7. Hi Brenda I’m a writing a novel about lesbian romance can you tell me if there would be a specific publishing house that I should send my manuscript too…..Thanks Deanna

    • Deanna, there definitely are publishers that specialize in lesbian (and other GLBT) romance, but I’m afraid I’m not really up on which ones they are. I’m sure a bit of online searching will turn them up, though. Once you find a few, DO make sure you do your research to make sure they’re legit, since lots and lots of “less than legit” publishers are out there–with more popping up all the time–in all genres. Thanks for stopping by!

  8. This is fascinating information. What I wonder is how much does it cost to get a book digitized and up for sale on Amazon or some other site? I have in mind a professional company that published authors use. The company does the digitizing of the manuscript, provides cover, etc. If you could give some ball park idea how much that costs, then we could figure out a profit based on sales figures. I guess my question is whether we are talking $200? or more like $3000? Or what? Thanks for the info you provide.

    • There are actual several services already doing this, though it’s not particularly hard to format a book for the e-book market if one already has a computer file. If not, there are people who will do scanning of the physical book for $50 or so. Personally, I’ve done my own formatting for Amazon, bn.com and Smashwords, and have hired professionals to do new covers (in the $100-150 range) since I have no talents in that area, though I know authors who have also done their own covers. From what I’ve seen, services that do all of the above, for authors who don’t want to learn or don’t have time to do any of it themselves, range from a couple of hundred to several hundred dollars, depending on the services needed. I’m sure as this market matures, more such services will be springing up.

  9. Brenda, you said compiling all the info for Indie authors’ earnings was a huge task, and I agree. Just trying to do it for my 10 books is more than I have time to do. Can I make a suggestion? Have the authors send in their info each month rather than ask them to try to come up with sales figures for several months. I can take my monthly reports (though Smashwords doesn’t make theirs easy to read) and come up with figures for each book, but to go back through 21 reports and try to get that info for 10 books for 7 months just makes me want to give up before I get started.

    • Tori, that’s a good suggestion…except I can’t imagine how I’d keep up, doing it that way! I’d have to remember to send out reminders all over the place (e-mail lists, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) every month, then do monthly updates on everyone’s figures. I know myself too well to believe I’d actually do that every single month, though I’m sure it would be easier in the long run than doing it in batches. I do know what you mean, though. I’m having a hard time keeping track of my OWN figures, much less everyone else’s. I may give up on trying to break the figures down by retail site–haven’t decided yet. While most have the bulk of their sales through Amazon, it’s not true for everyone. In fact, the results so far have been so varied, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to present the data in a chart or graph. For example, it’s hard to control authors sending me earnings when a book’s only been up a month or two, vs those whose books have been up for a year or more. I knew this wouldn’t be as easy to quantify as advances and royalties, but it’s even more complicated than I anticipated. Still, I plan to keep collecting data and sharing the results in as coherent a fashion as I can. I think we all need this info!

  10. Brenda, have you investigated putting up a Google docs form on your web site that lets users submit information which gets recorded into spreadsheet? That might be easier for you and authors as this project grows (I really hope to see you continue, but having taken on projects like this before I know how they can quickly consume too much time).

  11. Hello Brenda,

    I’m new to your site. Thank you for posting all of the lovely and useful info you have. I’ve always been curious about publishing a romance and assume that Harlequin would be the way to go if they’d take you. What do you think? I’m especially interested in the historical genre. Do you happen to know how bad their rejection rate is and what sort of rates they pay?

    • Hi, Bell! Things may be changing, what with so many writers now going the self-e-pub route, but last I heard, Harlequin’s rejection rate was well over 99%. That’s not to say you shouldn’t try, of course! As for earnings, I have Harlequin Historicals listed in my main survey, if you click on the “Show Me the Money” tab, above. Thanks for stopping by!

  12. HI Brend,

    A query on the report for Mills and Boon including Medical – no earn outs are mentioned – why is this? Really curious about the line as I’ve heard that of all the M&B lines, Medical was the lowest paying since they’ve never really taken off in America the way they have other places so I’d love to know what an average earn out on a Medical romance is. Many thanks in advance.

    • I can only report what authors send me, Joanne. I’m hoping some M&B/Medical authors will send me earnout numbers so I can update that listing. (Far and away the majority of the reports I get are from authors who have just sold. It’s much harder to get people to follow up later with earnout info, alas!)

  13. Hi Brenda:
    You are so awesome! I’m just checking to see if you’re getting any new income results from Indie Authors, and if things have changed in results since so many authors are going self-pubbing and it might be harder to make a splash (and money).

    • Debbie, a few more authors have reported in with indie figures. I need to put out another big call for info before this summer’s RWA conference, for sure. Of course, one problem with totally self-reported figures is that I have NO way to know how representative they are of all authors out there. I can definitely say that SOME authors are making impressively good money self-publishing both new works and backlist books they’ve gotten the rights to. Others, not so much, though even the lower earners say things are improving, slowly but surely. It’s probably important to remember that when it comes to e-books this is a longterm proposition rather than the one or two months most paper books have to earn the majority of what they’ll earn. I expect the numbers will keep changing for quite some time (hopefully, mostly for the better–but it’s really too soon to know).

  14. Hey Brenda – I caught your workshop many years ago at RWA and just wanted to say thanks for keeping up with the data. It’s so great to have when making decisions about whether to stick with a traditional press or go with an e-press. I appreciate all your hard work!!

  15. I had asked you about Black Lyon Publishing. They evidentally have several stages an author goes through to be published through them:Query, First Chapter,First Three Chapters, and completed novel. I passed the first three and was rejected on the final. It was; however, one of the nicest rejection letters I have had so far, noting where the book was off and where it was right. Still don’t know much about what they pay as I didn’t get that far in their process to be able to pass that on to you.
    Karen Glennon

  16. Glad they were so nice, at least, Karen! I still don’t have enough data to include Black Lyon in my survey. (So if there are any Black Lyon authors reading this, send me your figures!)

  17. Brenda, I wasn’t at RWA national this year, so I don’t know if you were, but…just wondering if you are going to do an update soon. I know, I know, I’m a total brat to ask, when you do this ridiculously time-consuming project out of the goodness of your heart! But I was just wondering. If not, no problem! So glad to have everything you’ve already done!

    • Amanda, I was at RWA and my most recent update was in the handout packet (which may still be available via the RWA website). I got a flurry of last minute data, though, and wanted to incorporate that before putting a new update on my website. Hoping to do that within the month, as soon as I find the time!

  18. No problem–so grateful! RWA elected this year not to make the handouts available on the site. I complained, but they are sticking by this change, apparently. Will keep an eye out for the data–appreciate your desire to incorporate the new stuff.

  19. Oops, I sounded so grumpy about the handouts. I’m sorry. I do understand why they’ve stopped putting them on the site. I was just spoiled by the fact that they used to be there. I always get the conference CDs, so I get the handouts in the end–it just takes longer. Sorry to grumble!

  20. Hi Brenda. I made a push in back in June for authors to send you in numbers. Not sure it resulted in any information being passed along, but figured every little bit helps!. Love your site.

  21. One more question: how far back does your information go? Or rather do you only use ‘current’ (past five years? past three? past ten?) data? Given the changes in trends in publishing, I was just curious. Thanks!!

    • Hi, Ellie, and thanks! Currently I’m going back ten years for the traditional survey, but with the rate things are changing, I plan to drop off some of the older stuff. I just hope I get enough new data to compensate, and to keep the survey up-to-date. Keep spreading the word! :)

    • Michele, it’s the main “Show Me the Money” link, not a drop down. Maybe I should make it a drop down, too, to avoid confusion? (It was originally the only thing there for that link, and I added the drop downs when I added the indie survey and this page.)

      • I agree; it’s a little confusing. When I moused over the “Show Me the Money” link and the drop down menu showed, I didn’t realize “Show Me the Money” was one of the clickable choices available, and I wondered the same thing as Michelle–which will now send me scurrying over to my own website to see if I’ve done the same thing there! LOL

  22. Brenda, on your Show Me the Money” page, you write, “The second most influential parameter [affecting an indie author's earnings] at this moment appears to be how many total titles an author has available.” Can you break that down or add to that statement any further? Is there a number of books where the sales curve typically ticks upward, for most authors? A point at which the number of available titles reaches critical mass, driving sales to expand more quickly?

    I’m hoping you can help persuade my crystal ball to reveal some hints from my future, considering how many indie titles I should have available by the end of the year: eleven, five of them original, and six backlist.

    Here’s a huge THANK YOU for compiling your SHOW ME THE MONEY reports–I’ve been following them avidly for years–and I’d like to add that I’ve also been a big fan of your work since your traditional HQ Regency days; I still own the original “Gabriella.” :-)

    • Melynda, I’ll take a more careful look at my raw data when I do my next update for predictors like that, but I’m pretty sure I just don’t have a big enough sample size yet to really answer your question. There are SO many outliers, and no one seems to know what makes one book or author take off while another creeps slowly toward success. What I’ve reported so far are general trends I’ve observed, but I wouldn’t necessarily advise anyone to base a career plan on them! That said, the sooner you can get more QUALITY work out there, the sooner you’re likely (LIKELY, not guaranteed!) to see greater returns. Good luck, and thanks!!

  23. Brenda, I just wanted to say “Thank You” for all the time and effort you take to compile these stats! It’s very much appreciated and always helpful. Love that your doing indie stats now too!

  24. Brenda,
    First of all…GREAT site. Very helpful!

    My wife and I are diving into indie-romance writing headfirst. She is a teacher with a flair for writing, I am a former ad agency owner, and current Internet broadcast services provider who loves to write. We are leaning toward spicier modern day romance, but the question of spice-vs-successful income comes into play, and it appears to be next to impossible to find data on sales between romance and erotica. The situations, and the graphic nature of the writing seems to be the break point for determining erotica -vs- hot romance, but I have to assume that if it is too spicy, you lose audience.

    Amazon’s Best Seller list for romance has a category for erotica, but what we are trying to gauge is HOW hot to write? What are the numbers for erotica -vs- more traditional romance.

    Jasinda Wilder started by writing much racier stuff… her latest books, not as much. There are other authors more of the Janet Evanovich side, with keep the romance light, funny, but still spicy.

    Are there any industry stats regarding titles from graphic erotica -vs- erotic romance?

    Thanks for any help you can give us…we are ready to edit the hot stuff if it kills sales…but willing to leave it in if it doesn’t hurt!

    P&D

    • Great question, Patric, and I wish I had an answer for you! The terminology (erotica, erotic romance, spicy romance) is a little slippery, with different people using the same terms for different things, which makes it very hard to gauge. Certainly I haven’t asked people to specify a “heat level” when reporting their stats to me, so I have no way of knowing if there’s a point at which “too graphic” sells fewer books (or more books!) My best advice is to watch the bestseller lists and do some sampling to see if you can figure out current trends. Good luck!

  25. Brenda,
    Thanks so much! I figured as much, but it was worth a try! We’ve been sampling, and it does seen to be a “word thing!” A word here and there and it gets beyond the Fifty Shades threshold.

    Thanks so much!

  26. Thanks for all your hard work, Brenda. Your dedication to the task of collating real information on earnings is amazing. I’ve been reading Show Me The Money for more years than I care to think about, and I always recommend it to other writers. Again, thanks :-)

    • You’re very welcome, Sarah! I do this because I feel it’s incredibly important for writers to have this kind of information, so they can make informed choices about their careers. Thanks for spreading the word!

  27. I believe you said in your blog that you don’t have enough information to break these statistics down by genre. I’d be interested in seeing this information applied strictly to YA indie earnings, as that is the direction I’m headed. The industry professions are telling us that teens don’t like e-books, so I’m wondering if it’s even worth it to indie-publish if half of my audience won’t download the books. Even if I make a print-book available on Amazon, if they have no credit cards they might not buy them. So, yeah, if that info becomes available I’d love to see it. Thank you – thank you! — for all your hard work in gathering this information.

    • I’ve recently indie-pubbed my very first YA, so I’m dealing with this right now, actually! I think the majority of the ebook YA market is adults who read YA, though I’ve had some teens buy the ebook, too. Libraries are really important for YA, which is why a print version is more necessary in that genre. Then there’s the fact that ebook penetration into YA is growing… and MG readers seem to be even more into ebooks than older teens, and of course they’re the next YA market coming up. For the record, I only have a small number of YA respondents so far, so it’s probably too soon to make any generalizations on expected earnings–sorry!

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