Earlier this year, I wrote three essays on Crunching the Publishing Numbers. Here are the links:

https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2013/02/24/crunching-the-publishing-numbers/

https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2013/05/01/crunching-the-publishing-numbers-part-2-money-and-power/

https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2013/05/05/crunching-the-publishing-numbers-part-3-wool-and-wired/

These essays compare the financials of traditional Big Publishers with the financials of self-publishing an ebook. I don’t mean to denigrate the value of an author’s exposure in the Big Media when you publish through a Big Publisher. That exposure is very valuable and difficult to approach for a self-published author.

That said, the rest of the financials of traditional Big Publishing don’t compare well with self-publishing numbers (see the prior essays). And whether you, the author, will get any exposure of your book in the Big Media is totally up to your Publisher. You have no control. Further, if the Publisher doesn’t give you media exposure and marketing support—which is the case for ninety percent of authors—they will still expect you, the author, to promote your work on your own via social networks. So you’ll be promoting the publisher’s 85% interest in your work at your own expense and no expense to them.

Due to the difficulty authors have these days retaining a recognized literary agent, all the Big Publishers (and several small independent publishers, as well) offer online imprints to which you may submit your work without an agent. They typically offer only an ebook, with some publishing a mass market paperback if your ebook numbers justify the expense.

Mostly these are various stripes of romance, which has its own numerous subcategories such as paranormal, Regency, New Adult, and so on, but increasingly there are non-agented ebook imprints for science fiction, fantasy, and mystery. Even if you’re not a romance fan (I’m not, myself) and you write in one of those other genres, you may be tempted to submit work this way.

The contractual terms of several ebook imprints at Big Publishers are so onerous for the author that professional writers’ organizations, such as Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America have condemned the programs as “predatory.” (I’m a member; that’s the SFWApro hashtag in this essay’s title.) In one instance, the Big Publisher had to offer alternate contract terms or risk being disqualified as a professional market.

Now, an affiliate of mine, Suzanna Moore, just finished an erotic paranormal romance called The Arbor (Book 1 of the Eon Trilogy). (She’s just getting started, so visit her on Facebook and on Twitter and show some support by Friending her.)

I thought it was a terrific little book, not formula romance at all, but more like a “real novel” about the New Adult struggles of Jenna Coltraine, the heroine. There’s a paranormal aspect that’s fresh and original—no vampires or werewolves—and the sensuality is red-hot in the vein of Jean Auel’s Valley of the Horses.

She didn’t want to wait three to six months for some literary agent to get back to her so Suzanne looked into submitting to a Big Publisher’s romance ebook imprint. In the July/August 2013 issue of Writer’s Digest the Publisher said they pay advances of $5,000 to $100,000. “Wow, that sounds great!” Suzanna said. Then she read their FAQs (on the website reported in WD) and told me what she discovered.

You won’t believe this.

They specifically state that they pay NO ADVANCE. None. Zip. Nada. They pay you a royalty of 25% of the net proceeds of the ebook price. What does that mean? Well, the Publisher has to pay Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and other retailers 30% of sales, just like a self-published author does, in exchange for a product page. So you get 25% of 70% of the ebook’s price. Further, the Publisher sets the price at its total discretion. You have NO control.

What do you, the author, receive in return? The Publisher will prepare an ebook cover, also at their total discretion. You have nothing to say about it. This is easy for the Publisher to do because they have a huge library of stock images they can and do reuse. That’s why romance books all look the same.

You will also receive “professional editing,” which means that an in-house editor will whip through your book in the afternoon after she’s whipped through another author’s book in the morning.

If you think that sounds cynical, you’re right. I’ve been professionally edited by traditional editors at Big Publishers. Then, when I went to prepare ebooks of my backlist, I was shocked to discover editorial errors all over the place—in traditionally published print books. That’s right. I myself worked as a professional editor at a law book publishing house for ten years, so I have the experience and expertise to edit my own work and I could not believe what I saw. You only have to cruise through readers’ reviews on Amazon to see tons of complaints about errors in print books.

But let’s suppose you’re willing to let the Publisher produce your cover and give you a bit of editing. As soon as you start publishing your ebook, you’ll be earning money, right?

Wrong.

This Big Publisher PAYS NO ROYALTIES until you’ve sold 10,000 ebooks. What does that mean?

Suppose your ebook is priced at $2.99. After yielding 30% to the retailer (which is well worth it, by the way, because every book gets a nice product page and the retailer handles the details of managing receipts)—the Publisher takes $2.09. There’s no print book, there’s no paper, no ink, no warehousing, no shipping to stores. There’s the digital book with worldwide distribution after a stock cover and cursory edit job.

The Publisher then splits that $2.09 with you, taking 75% and paying you 25%. So they take $1.56 and you get $0.52.

Fifty cents on a three dollar book may sound good to a traditionally published print author. Under traditional contracts, the author gets 15%–or thirty cents—but only after the advance is “earned out.” Then the literary agent, who handles the money from the publisher, takes his 15%. And you, the author, only get paid every six months.

But I digress. I covered all this in the earlier essays cited above.

Remember, the Publisher pays you NO ROYALTY AT ALL until you’ve sold 10,000 books. In the meantime, they earn $15,600 in net receipts from the retailer and they keep your cut of $5,199.48. On your first 10,000 books, the Publisher will earn $20,799.48 before they pay you one cent!

No wonder all the Big Publishers are rushing to set up predatory no-agent e-book only imprints! Multiply $20K times just a thousand authors (and believe me, that’s how many they’ve got), and the Publisher has earned a cool $20 MILLION with a minimal outlay of investment.

I was outraged when Suzanna told me this stuff. I laid out the alternative. Yes, she’d have to edit her book herself or hire a pro editor. Yes, she’d have to choose and design a cover—there are tons of cover art websites offering thousands of free or very low cost covers on the Internet—or hire an artist. Yes, she’d have to learn how to format and upload an ebook or sell some of her rights to an indie ebook publisher like Bast Books. Yes, she’d have to promote The Arbor herself; but she’d have to do that anyway if she went with the Big Publisher.

Now let’s crunch the numbers. The ebook is priced at $2.99. After paying the retailer its percentage, Suzanna earns $2.09 per book (after whatever investment she made in editing and production). If she goes with an indie ebook publisher, she earns 50%, or $1.04. On her first 10,000 sales, she’ll earn $20,900 (or $10,400). And she earns that amount immediately. She gets paid every month.

Within three hours of publishing with Bast Books, a book sold and Suzanna earned money. She’s ahead of the Big Publisher’s contract by 100%!

So there you have it, my friends. Publish with Big Publishers without an agent at your peril. I personally think these imprints should be illegal. Don’t let Big Publishing pick your pocket. With dedication and hard work, you’re much better off publishing yourself or with a reliable indie.

And here—tah dah!—is Suzanna Moore’s new book, The Arbor

Erotic paranormal romance with sensuality, death, and environmentalism.

On the eve of what Jenna Coltrane believes will be Brett Becker’s marriage proposal, tragedy strikes her life again—not just once, but twice. In the midst of trouble, she encounters Eon, a regal young man unlike anyone she’s ever met.

With him, she enters the magical world of the Arbor, discovering sensuous love and dazzling beauty beyond her wildest dreams.

But Jenna cannot stay in Eon’s magical world for long–she’ll die. And Eon cannot stay in Jenna’s ordinary world—he’s a god. They can only meet for a measured time through the Gateway Tree.

When Jenna discovers that Becker Construction plans to destroy the Arbor and build an office-condo complex on the site, she becomes the leader of an environmentalist movement to save the Arbor. But Becker Construction will stop at nothing and Jenna is swept up in a struggle in which her love for Eon and her very life are at stake.

Look for The Arbor

On US Kindle http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00520CILW

On Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/342592

On Nook WAITING FOR THE LINK

On UK Kindle http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00520CILW

On Canada Kindle http://www.amazon.ca/dp/B00520CILW

This is Suzanna’s first book. Give her a try! She thanks you for your readership!

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