2011-03-03

All That Work For a Lousy $1.75

Holy crap, Batman!  I know I don't usually do posts on Thursdays, but this really got to me.

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/print/20110228/46289-waiting-for-a-fair-e-book-split--david-to-goliath-keep-the-advance.html

This is the url for a Publishers Weekly article that talks about a writer, Terrill Lankford, who was in the midst of his agent trying to sell books to one of the Big 6 publishers.

Do I need to tell you that he was having a problem with e-rights?

Mr. Lankford sent an email to his agent asking for what the split was between publisher and writer re e-rights. (Of course, the agent also gets his/her cut.)

Do you know what Mr. Lankford could expect to get for his writing efforts?

See the title of this post.

Mr. Lankford broke it down this way:
When Amazon sells the Kindle edition of a book for $10, it takes 30% off the top, leaving the publisher $7. The publisher's take is 75% of this: $5.25, leaving the writer $1.75 (then the writer pays his agents; in my case that's 20%). This is all without the traditional publishing risks of printing and shipping books to bookstores and sharing the revenues with them, to say nothing of the dreaded returns.
WTF? So, after he put in hours or days or whatever of writing, his entire take on this was a piddily $1.75?

Note: In the comments, Angie was right about the next line; makes no sense to include it in this discussion (but I'll leave it this way).
Why would anyone in their right mind want to do this for well under minimum wage? My goodness, this is probably what people worked for on an hourly basis back in the 1920s or 1930s.

Highway robbery.

Do these big publishers think people are going to stand for this? I’m sure some won’t care and others won’t even realize it. But at least Mr. Lankford had the smarts to ask (greeted by silence, at first, from his agent, according to the article), and then was given the paltry number.

And thank goodness he turned them down.

This brings to my mind the Victorian era workhouses. Get in here, little kids, and do this work. Or else.

Fortunately, there’s another avenue for writers to go, if they’re so inclined. (And let that be known: I’m not against traditional, or legacy, publishing. People should do the research and look within themselves and at their situations to see which works best for them.)

Disgusting. Shameless.

Mr. Lankford’s blog is here.

6 comments:

Angie said...

Saw that -- linked through Dean Wesley Smith. The big publishers are insane if they think this is going to last. I think they know it's not, and they're scrambling to sign as many books to that crazed contract as they can before the writing community collectively wakes up and smells the bullshit. :/

That said, I don't think it's valid to compare the $1.75 royalty per e-book sale with minimum wage, or any hourly rate. How much you make per hour as a writer depends on how many hours you spend writing a book, and how much you make -- in total, across all sales -- on that title. Divide the second by the first and there's your hourly wage, although it'll change as soon as you sell another copy. The individual amount of the royalty for each book sale tells you nothing about the hourly rate.

That's still a ridiculously low royalty, though, and I think Mr. Lankford was absolutely right to turn it down. [nod] Hopefully enough other writers will bail on these larcenous contract offers and force the publishers to pull their heads out.

Angie

Kay Theodoratus said...

I'm glad I never expected to get rich from my writing.

[Does this come under the subject of "The rich get rich, and the rest of us get sc**wed"?]

Nicholas La Salla said...

That is absolutely ridiculous. $1.75 is not worth the dubious recognition one gets as a traditionally published writer. You can price the book at $2.99 and pick up $2.00 in royalties per book if you do it on your own. Sure, you have to make your own cover or pay someone else to do it, and you have to work on formatting, but if you truly care about your work and want to see it in people's hands, there's no excuse for doing anything but self publishing if that's all you're going to be getting in return.

You're making next to no money but charging 5 times the price so that a bunch of publishing execs can afford new coffee beans.

Screw that.

- Nick
One More Day

Nancy Beck said...

The big publishers are insane if they think this is going to last. I think they know it's not, and they're scrambling to sign as many books to that crazed contract as they can before the writing community collectively wakes up and smells the bullshit. :/

Yup, they're scrambling all right. And you're probably right that I shouldn't compare it to the minimum wage; I think sometimes when I get really pissed off, I go off on weird, inexplicable tangents.

We can only hope these contracts will change.

Nancy Beck said...

[Does this come under the subject of "The rich get rich, and the rest of us get sc**wed"?]

More like the rest of us get f**ked.

Nancy Beck said...

@Nicholas,

You're making next to no money but charging 5 times the price so that a bunch of publishing execs can afford new coffee beans.

And can afford the Manhattan rents, employee salaries, and so on.

Beers you can get on tap elsewhere for around 5 bucks you can't get any cheaper than about 7 bucks (I'm not talking Bud Light here; I'm talking microbrews).

Manhattan is one expensive place!