Archives for 7 June 2012

The cry of the highbrow

‘Ah, Shakespeare. Quite a promising poet in a minor way, when he was writing those sonnets and sucking up to Queen Elizabeth’s courtiers. All very proper. Pity he squandered his talents by going into that low-brow theatre business.

‘I wonder what ever became of him? He could have been somebody if he’d stuck to proper literature.’

Wasserman vs. Resnick on genre publishing

[I]n certain genres (romance, science fiction and fantasy) formerly relegated to the moribund mass-market paperback, readers care not a whit about cover design or even good writing, and have no attachment at all to the book as object. Like addicts, they just want their fix at the lowest possible price, and Amazon is happy to be their online dealer.

—Some idiot named Steve Wasserman, in The Nation

OMG! This is such a relief! I’ve been so misled.

I can finally stop editing and taking pains to package my romance backlist well! NO ONE CARES! They’re just addicts!

I can finally stop editing and taking pains to package my fantasy backlist well! My readers don’t care about quality!

I can tell my dad, a science fiction writer, to relax and stop sweating over Hugo-quality material! No one cares! Science fiction readers are just junkies!

I can tell my publisher to stop spending all that money on my award-winning cover artist! An LA Times book reviewer has declared that it’s pointless! My readers are indifferent to brilliant cover art! We could probably just package the worthless sh*t that I write in a brown paper wrapper!

Whoa! So GLAD Mr. Wasserman enlightened me. The pressure to write well, the pressure on my editors to acquire and edit well, and the pressure on my cover artists and designers… Gone! It never mattered! Our readers our brain-dead junkies! Yay! What a RELIEF not to have to behave like REAL writers, editors, artists, and publishers, after all!

Laura Resnick

Publishing: self, trad, and the gross

One reads a lot about the different percentages that writers receive through self-publishing vs. traditional print publishing: for instance, this piece in Forbes about Mark Coker and Smashwords. I prefer to break down the numbers in a different way, by looking at grosses rather than percentages. With your gracious permission:

If I, as an unknown writer, do somehow sell a book to a traditional publisher, I’ll probably receive a $5,000 advance, take it or leave it, with no significant prospect of its ever earning out. So how much do readers have to fork over at retail to earn me that money?

In MMPB from a traditional publisher, I’m getting 8 percent if I’m lucky (assuming that sales and returns are reported honestly); lower rates from some houses. That means that readers have to spend $62,500 for me to earn that $5,000; which equates to 7,822 copies of a $7.99 paperback.

With a self-published ebook, I’m getting 60 percent on sales through an aggregator; more than that on direct sales through Amazon, but a bit of that will be lost to their bandwidth charge, so we’ll simplify the math and assume 60 percent across the board. I’ll need $8,333.33 in retail sales to earn my $5,000 nut. If I’m charging $3.99 for that book, I need to sell 2,089 copies.

I make the same amount of money from a quarter of the number of readers, and charging half the price. It’s a lot easier to find buyers for 2,000 widgets at $3.99 than for 8,000 widgets at $7.99. Of course books are not widgets; but different cheap editions of the same book are essentially fungible.

Looked at another way: if the reading public spends a million dollars on traditional print books, it provides a living wage for approximately two full-time writers. If it spends a million dollars on self-published ebooks, it provides the same wage for 15 writers. Gee, I wonder which is better for the writer.