The Truth About Publishing

Australian novelist Ian Irvine has written a fantastic article on the life of a book… from selling it to finding it amidst the stack of remainders at Barnes & Noble…and all the steps in-between.

The biggest problem for beginning fiction writers is that no one tells you how the system works. Becoming an author, and even
a successful one, is therefore a series of shocks as your assumptions are punctured one by one. So here, distilled from my
experiences with a dozen publishers all over the world, and conversations with many professional writers over the years, is the
truth about fiction publishing..

He also includes a very handy chart on how the royalties typically break down:

Shocked that the sales on your royalty statement don’t translate into
nearly as much money as you expected? Here’s what you can actually
expect to get, in your hand, for the sale of a single book in various
countries. It’s calculated on the pre-tax retail price, for typical
royalty rates, after your local agent has got her 15%, and your
overseas agent her percentage. If most of your foreign deals have been
done by your publisher, it’ll take around 20% agent’s fee. Sometimes,
eg for sales in Eastern Europe or Asia, there could be a local agent
involved as well, so after they’ve all got their share you’ll only end
up with 50-60% of the advances and the royalties earned. I’ve used the
current exchange rates (June ’04). If you sell enough copies to jump
into the higher royalty rate category, you’ll get more, of course. The
dramatic difference in your share of the overseas mass market editions
is due to lower price and/or royalty rates. In Australia you’ll
generally get 10%, in the UK and US more likely 7.5-8%.

Table 1: What you get in your hand after agents’ cuts, per book
































Pre-tax Price Your share ($A) Pre-taxp Price Your share ($A) Pre-tax Price Your share ($A)
Australia $A40.50 $3.44 $A27.33 2.32 $A18.13 1.54
Britain £17.99 3.21 £12.99 2.32 £7.99* 1.07
USA $US25.95 2.52 US14.95 1.45 $US7.99# 0.62

* Exch. Rate 0.38, royalty 7.5% to 20K, Aust publisher 20%, Aust agent 15%

# Exch. Rate 0.70, royalty 8% to 100K, Aust publisher 20%, Aust agent 15%

** Trade paperback and hardcover royalties 10%

It’s an honest, accurate  and frank account of how the system works.  I heartily recommend it for all aspiring authors. (Thanks to Sarah Weinman for pointing this article out to me!)

6 thoughts on “The Truth About Publishing”

  1. No, I just deleted their spam post…and a couple others that showed up overnight, too. I’m beginning to think someone is deliberately spamming my blog with advertisements for publishing scams to a) get me back for repeatedly trashing publishing scams here or b) it’s from an aggrieved author who wants me to write a nasty post about each of the scammers he spams me with.

  2. Lee,
    Think about it, it’s spam. How much spam do you get that has nothing to do with you? I’m betting it’s posted by a bot and not even by a real human. That’s they way most spam happens these days.


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