Thursday, 11 December 2008

Cover Price, Gross or Net?

Royalties can be calculated in all sorts of ways. They’re usually calculated as a percentage of the selling price, which seems pretty straightforward: but there are all sorts of ways that things can get complicated, and it’s essential that writers check their contracts carefully and ensure that they understand all that it implies.

A percentage of cover price is nice and simple, so long as the cover price is set: a royalty of 10% of £10.00 will always end up with the payment of £1.00 per book sold.

A percentage of profits is not nearly so desirable: it might seem better initially, as the percentages given based on this calculation are often higher than those calculated on cover price. But so much depends on how the publisher calculates those profits: do they refer only to the profits made by your book, or to profits made by the whole company? If the latter, your book could end up subsidising the publication of other less successful books; and you’re always at risk of subsidising a feckless publisher’s fondness for new computers or business lunches.

Things are bad enough if royalties are calculated on gross profits: but if they’re calculated on nett profits, then your receipts are going to be even lower.

The problems are compounded by the non-standard contracts common with some of the less standard presses: YouWriteOn’s publishing arm promises a 60% royalty “after printing costs”, but defines neither the printing costs nor the retail price leaving their authors with no accurate idea of how much money they’ll earn from each copy sold.


Sally Zigmond said...

Speaking of YouWriteOn, has anyone heard how its offer to publish 5,000 books before Christmas is shaping up? It all seems to have gone very quiet, probably because YWO has refused to enter into any correspondence.

Jane Smith said...

The books are appearing slowly, and it looks as though there will be nothing like the 5,000 YWO was aiming for.

115 are listed on Barnes and Noble's website right now. I've seen several with spelling mistakes in the titles, one book with a different title on its jacket and on the B&N page, and one with different author names on the book jacket and on the B&N page, which is going to make it very difficult for anyone to search for those particular books.

Fewer have appeared on Amazon which perhaps isn't surprising as YWO called for a boycott of Amazon earlier this year, due to its policies regarding POD books. Might there be a whiff of irony in the air over that one?

Many of them have very poor jacket designs: there's one particular template that's been used on 24 of the 115 books, which uses shades of black, maroon and cream (there are, I think, two or three versions of this one, but they're virtually indistinguishable from one another); and another slightly more attractive clipart cover showing a section of a blue planet that's been used on 21 of the 115 books currently showing. Unfortunately the font that's been used on many of the "planet" covers is illegible when superimposed over the planet, which makes it even more difficult to distinguish between the different titles.

It looks as though the books won't all be available in time for Christmas, and the much-hyped 60% royalty equates to a royalty of 14% of cover price, when you look at the latest figures that YWO has provided. No sign yet, as far as I can see, of any author discounts, either. And several of the authors concerned seem to think that the ISBN is in fact a "distribution fee" and want to know when their books will appear in Waterstones.

It's sad. But nothing different to what I, and many others, expected. Which makes it even worse, in a way.