Following yesterday’s post about the cost of publishing with YouWriteOn, I’ve been asked how writers can work out for themselves whether or not this is a good deal.
Because we don't know how YouWriteOn will define the "printing costs" it mentions in its contract we don’t yet know what share of the revenue will be used as a basis for royalty calculations; and we don't know where YouWriteOn will set its retail prices. This makes it impossible to provide an exact breakdown: but I can make some rough comparisons.
Last year, I put a small book together using Lulu. The book was text-only and 28,000 words long, which came to about 110 pages: Lulu’s printing costs came to £3.92 per copy. I’ll set a cover price of £5.99, and will assume that YouWriteOn isn’t going to ramp up its printing costs over the actual figures.
I shall now play around a little with the numbers with the help of my lovely assistant (who is aged 13 and is top of his year in maths, clever boy). As you read along, though, do remember that longer books will have higher printing costs; and if YouWriteOn sets its printing costs higher, or its retail prices lower, the returns on its scheme will be lowered significantly.
Let’s start with the cost of the ISBN, because this seems to have tempted quite a lot of you. An ISBN costs £39.95 if you publish through YouWriteOn compared to £105.75 if you buy your own block of ten ISBNs direct from the UK ISBN agency (you can’t buy ISBNs singly). YouWriteOn does offer an immediate saving of £65.80 over self-publishing if you are only interested in publishing one book: but in return, you’re paying 40% of all future profits on the book to YouWriteOn.
A printing cost of £3.92 and a cover price of £5.99 leaves £2.07 potential profit, of which I would receive 60% (£1.24), with 40% (83p) going to YouWriteOn. If I published the book myself, I would receive 100% of that £2.07.
Using YouWriteOn, I’d have to sell 33 copies of the book to bring in £40.92, which would recoup the cost of the ISBN and get me into profit by a whole 97p; by publishing the book myself, I’d have to sell 52 copies to earn back the cost of the ISBN and bring me a very slightly larger £1.89 profit.
If I published more than one book, though, things get a little more interesting. By going through YouWriteOn I’d still have to sell 33 copies of each and every book in order to recoup that initial cost, because YouWriteOn offers a per-book price only, whereas by buying that block of ten ISBNs my break-even point is reduced. By publishing two books myself, the break-even point comes at 26 copies each; by publishing three books myself, that break-even point comes after I’ve sold 18 copies of each of the books.
After that break-even point is passed, each book published by YouWriteOn will still only earn me a royalty of 60% of income after they’ve deducted their printing costs, whereas I’d keep 100% of it from each book I self-published. In the projections that follow, I’ve deducted the cost of the ISBNs for the sake of simplicity.
If I sold 75 copies of a single title through YouWriteOn I’d earn £53.05, but by publishing it myself I’d bring in £49.50: in this instance, YouWriteOn is a better option by a narrow margin of £3.55.
If I sold 75 copies each of two books through YouWriteOn I’d earn £106.10, but by selling 75 copies each of two self-published books I’d earn £204.75. In this instance, self-publishing is a better option by a rather nice margin of £98.65.
If I sold 100 copies of a single title through YouWriteOn I’d earn £84.05, but by publishing it myself I’d bring in £101.25. In this instance, self-publishing is a better option by a margin of £17.20.
If I sold 100 copies of two books through YouWriteOn I’d earn £168.10, but by selling 100 copies each of two self-published books I’d earn £308.25. In this instance, self-publishing is a better option by a very nice margin of £140.15.
Remember that this model is based on a smallish book with low comparable printing costs, and I’ve assumed that YouWriteOn is going to price the books fairly, and not ramp up those undefined “printing costs”. A legitimately self-published book has a much better chance of getting into the bookshops than those which go through the YouWriteOn scheme, because of the problems with discounts that I outlined in my post yesterday. And very few self-published books sell as many as 75 copies, without these obstacles in their way.