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Ninc Newsletter

June 2013   •  Vol. 24, No. 6   •  Download pdf version

Show Me the Money:
Observations & Trends


As many of you probably know, for the past dozen years or more, I’ve been conducting surveys on author earnings and sharing the results on my website. For the first ten of those years, I just did one survey, breaking the results down by publisher (whether large, small, or e-only) in terms of average and median advances and earnouts, along with typical royalty rates for each publisher.

A couple of NINC conferences ago, several people pestered me to add indie e-published books to my survey. I agreed that would be extremely useful information, but it wasn’t easy to come up with parameters for such a survey since my usual questions obviously wouldn’t work. With some input from other authors, I finally came up with a list of questions, put out my first call for data, and in December 2011 I shared the first, very preliminary report on my website. (For those who’d like to contribute to future surveys, both traditional and indie, please see the lists of questions at my website:

Now that I’ve continued with both surveys for another year and a half, I’d like to share some of the trends I’m noticing, along with a few actual numbers.

As more and more readers buy tablets and other e-reading devices, sales of fiction have gravitated more and more from print to electronic formats, as has been trumpeted all over the place for the past year or two. At first glance, this might seem to be good news even for traditionally published authors, since electronic royalty rates tend to be at least a little bit higher than traditional print rates. The so-called “industry standard” of 25% of net receipts still adhered to by the biggest publishers is of course only a tiny bit better than 8-10% of cover, not to mention highway robbery . . . but I digress. Most smaller publishers, at least, are paying substantially higher e-royalty rates, varying from 35% of cover to 50% of net receipts.

Table of Contents

Eye on Industry: Retro-Progresso
NINC 2013 Conference:
     A Word about First Word
The Writing Life during Life’s Greatest Challenges
Forensic Files:
     Q&As on Delayed Death, Shaken Baby
Writing Is Taxing:
     Putting your Spouse to Work
Not Your Usual Writing Advice:
     Creating our Markets
The Mad Scribbler: Overhead

Given that, one might think that author earnings from traditional publishers would be rising . . . but the opposite seems to be the case, when one discounts the occasional newsworthy huge advance (nowadays, often when an already mega-selling indie author is courted by traditional houses). Print runs have fallen drastically across the board (not unexpected, given the rise of e-books), but, at least on royalty statements, electronic royalties have by no means risen enough to make up the difference in most cases reported to me. Whether this is a function of inept marketing, shady accounting, or other factors, it’s bad news for       Continued on page 3


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