The last time I was here at Novel Spaces, I mentioned that my book, Guarding His Body, had made it to print. Among the many congratulations that brought a skerrick of warmth to the frozen cockles of my heart, was a comment from Jewel that really got me thinking. She said: "I'm assuming it's available on amazon.com".
Here's what you should know about sites like Amazon and Fictionwise. You have to pay to play. It's fairly well known in the industry that a 50% discount to such sites is not unknown if your publisher wants to add your title to their catalogue. What do I mean? Let's make it simple and say you have a book out that costs $10.00. Also to make it simple, let's say your epub royalty is 40% of net and your print royalty is 10% of net.
If you want your book to be available on Amazon, your book may still sell at around the $10-mark but it would only cost Amazon $5.00 per unit using their usual requirement of a 50% discount. So, say Amazon sells at full marked price, the breakdown is as follows for each ebook sold:
Amazon gets $5.00 (that 50% discount thing I mentioned earlier)
Your publisher gets $3.00 (60% of the remainder)
You as author get $2.00 (40% of remainder)
I'm simplifying a whole lot here, so bear with me. If a print book of yours sells on Amazon, the breakdown is:
Amazon gets $5.00
Your publisher gets $4.50 (90% of net)
You as author get 50 cents (10% of net)
Now, say you don't go via Amazon (or Fictionwise). E-publishers and a lot of small presses also sell directly from their website. So, assuming the same sale price of $10, this is the breakdown for ebooks:
Your publisher gets $6.00 (60% of net)
You as author get $4.00 (40% of net)
With print books, it's:
Your publisher gets $9.00 (90% of net)
You as author get $1.00 (10% of net)
I'm putting all this maths down for a reason. It's convenient to go to Amazon, for example. You have a huge range of books available and you can just shop till you drop and have everything delivered to your door with very little fuss. On the other hand, it's INconvenient to have to hunt down every small press your favourite author is published through, and buy through a multitude of shopfronts, each of which demands that you re-enter your personal and financial data.
HOWEVER.... As you can see from my quick and dirty calculations, you are actually supporting an author more by going direct rather than by going through one of the convenient book portals. It's completely up to you, of course, and I'm not going to stand here and lecture you. (I buy a lot of my print books through The Book Depository, for example, and I'm sure they have a similar model to Amazon's.) But for small presses, I do go the extra kilometre and try to buy direct from the press. In this way, I know the author is getting just a little more than they probably expected, and I know that it will be very much appreciated come royalty statement time.
ADDITIONAL: If the maths above hasn't deterred you, and before you go thinking that publishers are also making money hand over fist, please have a look at a related post from literary agent, Nathan Bransford. It also makes for very interesting reading.
POSTSCRIPT: And a Happy Hari Raya Haji to all!