Collaboration, economics and a general grump

So I just got what to my enormous relief is the last of edits for the three way Heirs books (I write the first drafts and they go to the co-authors, before coming back to get a final edit). It’s a relief that its the last, but I really don’t even want to look at the unpleasant vast amount of work I know will be involved.  I have one more book to do in this universe, but it’s with Eric, who is a good structural editor,  and knows a great deal about writing.  He also is meticulous about his homework – you won’t have to fix myriad continuity errors and he gets the history right.  He’s also really good about consulting.  Obviously I want to do books on my own,  firstly because they’re mine, and secondly for financial reasons. Eric and I split the advance 50:50, but Mercedes took 50% and we got 25% each — which doesn’t actually reflect the work (by word count I’ve done 75-98% of the books, and for the all bar the first had barely any prior outline above a 1/4 page – which I wrote) or by adding another 50% onto the sales.  It’s not worth it, and to get 2% of the cover price of a paperback I won’t do it again.  Well… not unless someone came up with a truly vast advance. I suppose for  1/4 of a million dollars – which would replace (it’s a lot more expensive here) the home and farm we had to sell to emigrate and to move ourselves and the dogs and cats.  That would leave me in a position to say that I will only self-publish e-books thereafter, and if people want to read my books, well and good. Right now, it’s take a full-time day job (there is a possibility) and cut back on the writing hugely, or continue to try and build the e-books and make a little from traditional publishing. Traditional publishing and distribution and bookselling have certainly made enough from me, for which, partly because of collaboration, and partly because of  authors getting a very small share of gross, I haven’t seen much.  For example, Shadow of the Lion has paid royalties, but my advance was $7500.  In the end I have about doubled that… Not bad for a book that grossed  more than 2/3 of a million – for the rest of the chain. I worked out the other day that by now ‘my’ books have grossed over 3 million dollars. For the last ten years of average 14 hour days (to take out the advances and books that are still forthcoming)… I’ve earned 124K.  I know.  That’s  their gross earnings. They still have costs, you say… Yes, that’s what is usually  ignored in these assessments:  it’s their gross, against my gross.  And when you look at their costs a small part of that is paper and print. The rest is premises, staff and equipment… which are my expenses too.  I know. If it hadn’t been me, it would have been someone else. I chose to become an author, and I enjoy doing what I do.   I still love it, but this can’t continue.  I need to start earning a living, or start doing something else and writing as an occasional hobby.

Which is why I am pushing hard to sell some e-books.  To make a web presence. Because I want to write, and I want to be able to.

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6 Comments

Filed under books, economics, publishing, Writing

6 responses to “Collaboration, economics and a general grump

  1. I think putting some shorts up for free as you have just done on here, your website, Facebook and Amazon was a great idea as far as self-promotion goes. You might also think of having a contest to win a free signed copy of one of your books or something. Make it something that people have to do on a social network (sharing posts on Facebook, retweeting your tweets on Twitter, etc) and then draw a random name out of a hat from all those who took part. I’ve seen people doing that on their blogs and it can generate a lot of hits.

    So, given your experience, what would you say to someone ready to take that first step towards publication? Is it still worth going the traditional route to start with, for that little extra publicity (and from what you’ve said here and in other posts, it seems to vary how much backing a newbie would get), or if you were just starting out with The Forlorn now would you go straight to ebook?

    • Cheryl, I’ll be doing the goodreads giveaway, and probably the facebook thing in the next while.
      Career paths vary. If you HAVE a say 1K or larger following on social media (and I mean following, not facebook friends) then straight to e-book is what I’d do. If you don’t I’d look on it as a publicity loss-leader and try for traditional publishing. And if you don’t succeed there, go to e-book. Just DO get it out. And do push it.

      • Thanks, Dave. In that case I will probably try the traditional route first. Currently editing/revising but plan on sending out some queries after that is done. Will see how that goes.

        Goodreads giveaway is a good idea. I won a signed Terry Brooks book recently on Twitter for retweeting (once) a Del Rey tweet. Thought it was a neat thing to do and if the followers who retweet have plenty of followers then it might garner some more interest. A bit like a game of ‘pass it on’.

        I don’t have a massive Twitter or blog following, but if you’d like a plug/interview/guest post or anything anytime, let me know, I’d be more than happy.

  2. 12.4k$/year? No offense, but that is gross. IIRC almost all your books are collaborations with Eric Flint, which might be one reason it is so low – but even 29k$/year is abysmal.

    • Years vary, Ori. My best was 34K. My worst 5K. generally it’s gone from very bare to somewhat better, with a few nasty dips. This year (I’ve just done my taxes) was 26K. Most of the time I had the exchange rate and purchasing power in my favor (for example at best, it multiplied my income to effectively 4 times, and it is only in the last 3 years reaching rough parity in South Africa.) It does make slow payment and the endless nagging and pleading to get even that out more annoying. Authors have de facto been subsidizing the publishing industry. Which of course has a selective effect on which authors can afford to write.

      I did the collaborations not because I didn’t want to do solo work, but because I couldn’t sell it. Despite the fact that the books I co-authored (and effectively wrote) did well, I found it incredibly difficult to sell solo books to Baen, and impossible elsewhere. Without Eric I would not even have sold AMW.

      But saying ‘greedy author’ to me is red rag to bull 🙂

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