Repetition IS NOT good for the soul pt. III and the author’s earnings

First off I’d like to make a quick clarification, Smeyer isn’t the only writing diva-bitch on the planet. Fanfiction.net’s author list on who’ll take legal action against FF.net and its members should they use their work in fanfiction says it all. Fair Use (with mandatory written disclaimers) are on the fic writer’s side, but according to them, it’s clearly copyright infringement. The truth, writers are afraid. Their books can’t stay on the NYT bestseller’s list forever. Their printing contracts will expire, thus ending their royalties. And these people like to live like royalty. The last thing they need is some young upstart taking their spot- they’d be fucked over, forgotten about. Even if their TV movie of the week adaptation is enjoying a syndication run on Spike TV, TNT, or Lifetime. What about their theatrically released adaptations recently got a Blu Ray treatment or a second (and possible third) SE DVD. Not to mention the manga publishers beating their doors down. How dare they steal my thunder?! Now I’ll have to deal with those geeky, unwashed jerks at comic-cons! Or do the university speaking circuit after I get my honorary doctorate! GRRRR!!!!! As soon as I get the crap with Relapse done, I’ll do my best to make an author’s earnings clearer for you.

Eclipse

1)Perfect – 40x/ 2)beautiful – 31x/ 3)murmured – 90x/ 4)hissed – 14x/ 5)hiss – 5x/ 6)stunned – 6x/ 7)stunning – 1x/ 8 )gorgeous – 1x/ 9)murmur – 4x/ 10)whisper – 16x/ 11)whispered – 137x/ 12)amazing – 6x/ 13)golden – 11x/

14)chuckled – 36x/ 15)chuckle – 3x/ 16)gold- 11x/ 17)chagrin – 3x/ 18)chagrined – 1x/ 19)smirked – 1x/ 20)smirk – 2x/ 21)snarling – 2x/ 22)snarled – 5x/ 23)snarl – 3x/ 24)whispers – 1x/ 25)amazingly – 2x/ 26)gracefully – 2x/

27)laugh – 22x/ 28)grace – 5x/ 29)graceful – 3x/ 30)laughed – 139x/ 31)perfection – 3x/ 32)perfectly – 13x/ 33)props – 2x/ 34)flawlessly – 3x

Yeah, it’s that bad. The Cullens really are the ideal Mormon family.

A couple of things pertaining to LBC: in ’06 Time Warner Book Group dumped LBC on Hachette media forming the company Hachette Book Group USA that lists LBC as one of their publishing companies. At this time Relapse was written and “leaked”. Even if TWBG still owned LBC, they still would’ve bowed to Smeyer’s demands. But this new company saw the potential profits- regardless of reception- and hungrily renegotiated. This also included the publication of The Host in ’08 at the “completion” of the Twifuck “saga” listing it as adult scifi. The Waste was in fact more LDS garbage about Melanie Mary Sue Stryder getting a spirit baby (Wanderer) from God’s planet Kolob to be grafted onto her brain stem to take a body of flesh to advance to godhood status and enter into celestial plural marriage with Jared-Jacob and live with him and a bunch of still plain ole humans in the caves of 1,000 year purgatory playing kickball and abstaining. Hey, you think that Xenu might’ve invested in some real estate on Kolob?

And now for what you’ve all been waiting for: the real life of an author!

Now mind you I did rip this off from a link on the Ellora’s Cave blog Redlines and Deadlines. EC’s owner Tina Engler (a.k.a. Jaid Black) is online romantica publishing’s Smeyer. She thinks she can trick us with R&D into believing that any quality control and editing exists at EC. Don’t believe me? Go to 4shared do a search on EC and you’ll find  GIGABYTES of digital EC books. 90% are shit. Plot, execution, editing, polish- that’s thrown out the window! My personal favorite is Lorie O’Clare’s vignette The Cop. It belonged on Adultfanfiction because it looked like a horny 16-year-old girl was scribbling about Don Flack (and I really enjoyed her Lunewulf series overall- the glaring exception was Man of Her Dreams).

Despite everything you’ve heard about advances, writers essentially make their money from royalties.  They do get advances, but those advances are against royalties. That means they don’t earn any royalties on the book until the publisher has recouped its advance. If the advance is really large or sales are really bad, they may earn only a few royalties or not even earn out their advance at all. But if they have wily agents and fabulous sales, they may get an advance bigger than any prospective royalties they will ever get on the book (Tom Clancy, for example). After all, it’s better for the publisher to keep an author like Tom Clancy generating millions of dollars even if he doesn’t earn back $60,000 of the multi-million-dollar advance it originally paid him.

And what is a royalty? A percentage of the retail price of every book sold.

Note the importance of each word in this statement. First of all, it’s a percentage. For most paperback authors, that percentage is 4 to 8 percent (4 is what is offered at the very bottom rung). So for a $7 book, the author gets 28 to 56 cents.

Secondly, it’s the retail price, the one stamped on the book. The wholesale price is what a bookseller or distributor pays, often about 50 to 60% of the retail price.

And finally, authors do not receive a percentage for every book printed, just for every book sold.  Since booksellers can return for credit any books they don’t sell, the number of books sold generally amounts to about half of the books printed (less if sales were bad; more if sales were good).

So an author’s earnings are figured from this formula:

Royalty percentage x number of books sold x price of book

At present, this covers the majority of romance authors being published in single title. There are authors who make more (those fifty or so I mentioned, plus maybe two hundred lead title authors,), but it’s a minority. The book prices are currently typical for this level, and the royalty rates represent the range still existing in the romance publishing world. This chart is meant to explain how people can make vastly different amounts of money for books of the same genre or sales. It should give you an impression of possible royalty earnings, not demonstrate exactly what an author can make for her books. Read it with caution. I hope it will enlighten.

To these earnings you can add other sales: foreign rights sales (advances range as widely for these as for the U.S. rights—they can be in the hundreds or they can be in the thousands), audio sales, in-house book club sales (generally accounted at 2.5% royalty for Harlequin/Silhouette), and out-of-house book club sales (Book-of-the-Month club, Doubleday, Rhapsody, etc., which offer advances plus royalties). This will probably add a couple of thousand to your earnings, unless you’re doing well, in which case it could add as much as several thousands to it. Of course, some people don’t get other earnings at all.

Royalty earnings + other sales = gross earnings. But gross earnings for a full-time author aren’t the same as for someone who works for a company. If you work for a company, it buys your supplies and it pays 7.5% of your social security tax. Anything related to the business is paid for (not work clothes and lunches, but paper, computer, etc.). An author who writes full-time has to pay all of her social security tax (15% total as opposed to a regularly employed person’s 7.5%), along with an agent’s commission, which ranges from 10% to 15% of the gross (most authors do need agents these days). She foots the bill for promotion (the author often pays out of her own pocket for those bookmarks and flyers and copies of galleys that you see), computers, supplies, research, etc. And she is responsible for her own health insurance, retirement fund, etc.

One more thing to consider is that an author has to cover her expenses while waiting for her royalties. And those take a long time to come, many times as long as two or three years after she sold the book. All the money doesn’t come in until a few years after the book has been published. I once had a friend tell me, “Yes, but the royalties come in forever, so the more books you have, the more little checks you’re getting.” That’s true—if your book is kept in print. Most midlist books are not. In fact, all of my Deborah Martina and Deborah Nicholas books are now out of print. So unless an author gets her rights back and resells the books (and reselling is only possible if she has established a fairly big name), the royalties do end eventually. That means that each book earns a finite amount.

Let me give you a concrete example of the earnings of a single title book. Rosalind Romancer has one of the top publishers and actually makes a living at her writing. She’s had four historical romances out. Her sales are fairly good. She has a good agent and has a track record, so her royalty rate is 8%. Her publisher prints 75,000 copies of To Live a Romance, 40,000 of which sell. Since she’s not at the bottom, but still midlist, TLAR is priced at $5.99. She makes $19,168 in royalties on it (remember, this includes her advance).

She sells TLAR to Russia for $1000 (her portion—the publisher has already gotten their percentage of the sale, too) and to France for $2000 (her portion). She makes an audio sale with a new audio company for $750. That brings her earnings up to $22,918. Sounds pretty good, huh? Wait, I’m not done.

Now she must subtract 15% for her agent’s commission ($3437.70) and 7.5% for self-employment tax ($1718.85 more). That’s a total of $5156.55 taken off that $22,918, which leaves her $17,761.45.

If you figure expenses for supplies, promo, etc., of anywhere from $1500 to $5000, then this author has made $12,000 to $15,000 BEFORE subtracting the taxes YOU pay generally, and that’s with no benefits. Is it any wonder that authors have to write two books a year to make a living? And remember that this is someone doing decently. There are plenty of authors out there making $5000 a year or less after all is said and done.

Thankfully, writers love what they do. It’s what makes up for the low pay and the long hours (I spend most of my day at the computer, believe it or not, and am writing this on a Sunday). The thrill of watching a character emerge or having a problem plot suddenly fall into place or capturing a feeling in words can be more rewarding than any paycheck. If it’s not that way for you, I’d think long and hard about becoming a writer.

I hope this helped a bit (to bring wannabes down to earth). So I suggest that you finish uni, get your degrees, a day job, and write at night, on your lunch, and have fun! Sometimes it just won’t happen, but you might turn out a better person for it.

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