Who deserves the money?

A few days ago, Jim C Hines released his yearly statement on pay from traditional publishers. In response, Michael J Sullivan made this statement:

I really applaud Jim’s commitment with sharing income information. Back when I was unpublished I remember getting incredibly depressed after seeing his posts and the survey done by Tobias Buckell[1] about income and science fiction/fantasy writing.

I think it is important for people to understand just what the economic realities of this business are…

Nowadays I have a bit of a different perspective…I’m angry. Angry that someone like Jim could sell not one, not two, but three novels in a single year and still make, why I consider to be an incredibly small amount of money for the amount of work required to do so.

I’m angry he has to fit his writing around a day job. I’m angry that after 18 years and nine novels with one of the major imprints he’s made $33,598.19 last year and $60,800.

That’s just a part of what he had to say, and I admit, I agree with him. The major reason I don’t plan to go back to traditional publishing is the fact tat the royalties suck. A lot of the time you get an advancement, and never actually earn out for one reason or another, so you never get another dime. Plus you can’t go to Amazon, or B&N and see how many books you sold. You have no control over price, or sales. And if you want your rights back… well that’s not happening either.

But, I think placing all his anger on the publishing company is out of place.

How long have we had self publishing available? 70% royalties from Amazon, and we get to see everything. We have complete transparency, and ability to adjust everything the way we like. Not only that, but it’s been proven that you can make money that way. That you can gain fans, and become a best seller. That it is possible to do well, and that a hybrid model (publishing books in both traditional and self publishing) is the most effective way of getting your name out there, and getting paid.

And Mr. Hines doesn’t bother with self publishing.

To expect traditional publishing to change very quickly, after it’s been growing in momentum for the last few hundred years, is unreasonable. It’s like a train barreling down the tracks at high speed. It has a lot of weight behind it, and it is going to take a lot of force to stop it.

We, indie publishers, have added a lot of force to at least get them to change direction a little bit. They are bringing down some prices. They are starting to offer better deals to some of their writers, like letting them keep ebook rights. But it’s going to take a while to figure out the balance between traditional publishing and self publishing.

Ultimately, the power is in the hands of the authors. We can choose to go traditional, or we can choose to self publish. We have to weigh the cost and benefits for ourselves. Being angry at the traditional publishers for their lousy deals is like being mad at a train that won’t stop on a dime. They have only as much reason to change as we give them.

I’d also like to say we will probably be discussing this on The Self Publishing Round Table this Thursday at , so if you are looking for an interesting discussion of this, and other relevant topics, you should check that out this week.


3 thoughts on “Who deserves the money?

  1. You forgot to add the time of the show.

    I agree for the most part. He likely would have made more self publishing. Then again, he probably wouldn’t have sold most of those books either, which were probably at least 60% paperback.

    Hybrid seems the best deal for genre fiction. Best of both worlds. Write two for them and maybe self publish a new series. Depending on what his contract says anyway.

    • Yes, but that’s why people have decide for themselves which makes more sense. For some they might be willing to sacrifice bigger royalties for free editors, and such. Others won’t.

      And I thought I did add the time of the show.

  2. Pingback: First Time Authors Normally Get a $10,000 Advance from a Major Publishing Company

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