Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Where the book money goes.

The topic of getting paid for books, and how much you get as an author, and how much you make if you sell books came up again in one of my conversations this weekend - need I mention that I talked about the Beast a lot?

The conversation, however, reminded me that this is something not everybody knows, and probably a good thing to blog about.

Anyone who has ever heard something about authors and royalties knows that you will not get rich by writing.* From the cover price of the book, about 2-15% end up in the author's bank account.** So where does the rest go?

A good chunk of the money is consumed by the actual printing of the physical book and related costs - storage, transport, shipping, logistics involved with that. Then there's the people working in the publishing house who have to pay for their lives as well. About half the cover price is deducted for booksellers (which can include authors, if they choose to sell their own book as well). And that's it.

Since book prices are more or less fixed***, that means you can decide where your book-buying money goes to, with no difference (or very little of it) to your own bank account.  The publishing house and the author get a fixed amount for every book sold, but then there's the seller's profit, which is about 30-50% of the cover price.

Your choice of where you get the book decides who gets this money. Want to support a certain publishing house because you just love everything they turn out? Order your books directly from them - it means they get their profit plus the bookseller's profit. You have a favourite bookstore, online or brick-and-mortar? Buy your books there. (Since price differences are rather small, buying books not in the Big River Store, but from other companies, is a rather pain-free way to curb the monopoly of Amazon, too.) Your most beloved authors are selling books themselves? If you buy directly from them, they will get their royalties plus the bookseller's profit (which is usually a multiple of the royalties). I can't say how things will work out for the Beast yet, but for Kleidung im Mittelalter, I get about six times as much money if I sell it myself than if the publishing house or a bookshop sells it (and I'm getting a good royalty rate for this, so it will probably be an even bigger difference for the Beast).

So if you are ever wondering where to buy a book in the future, now you know that your decision will actually make a difference to the bookshop, publisher, or author. The most important thing, though, is that the book gets out there at all - to be read, enjoyed, talked about, and used in all the many possible ways that a book can be used. (Including as a doorstop or plant press, if necessary.)

*The very few exceptions to this are what proves this rule.
** If you google stuff, there are quite a few web sites that will tell you a standard royalty rate is 10-15%. This, however, is not true for all genres or types of books and all circumstances; if you are not writing a novel, things may be very different.
*** Book prices are completely fixed in Germany and Austria - books printed by publishing houses here have a price that you must ask when selling said book, or else. Prices are more fluid where this system does not apply, but a newly released book will sell for more or less a similar price wherever you buy it.

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