Back in February, Portland’s had big snow scare…the same night as Dr. Faith Harper’s event at Powell’s Books for Unfuck Your Intimacy + Coping Skills. She answered TONS of audience questions.
Joe Biel and Elly Blue draw upon 24 years of publishing and selling millions of books in order to explain what goes into designing a successful book cover.
This week on the vlogcast, we discuss submission guidelines, what ours look like, how most of the industry operates, and what best practices are both as a publisher and for submitting to publishers.
Our protagonists, Joe Biel and Elly Blue, swashbuckle their way through how recent threat of additional tariffs will affect the publishing industry
In the latest in our vlogcast series, publishers Elly Blue and Joe Biel discuss challenges that they’ve overcome with doing their jobs, being organized, and how workflows interconnect
For many years, new publishers and authors have posed questions to us about distribution. They want to know why distribution is so expensive and exclusive. It’s a much more complicated answer than they were expecting so we’re going to break that out in a weekly video series over the next few months.(more…)
This week, when we made the announcement that we will part ways with our trade distributor at the end of 2018, we also announced that we won’t be seeking a new distribution relationship directly with Amazon. We’ve gotten a lot of virtual high fives for this, and there’s also been some misunderstanding about what exactly this means.
“I feel terrible because I still sell / buy on Amazon,” is one reaction we get. “But won’t your company / authors suffer if your books aren’t available on Amazon?” is the other. The answer is simple, but the background is complex, and this post is meant to help clarify the relationship Amazon has with publishers, authors, and consumers, and will hopefully give you some guidance in making more informed choices. (more…)
Recently we were approached about starting a new thing on a new platform that was all very top-secret, and we jumped at the chance (we like shiny things). That platform is Drip, Kickstarter’s new subscriptions program, and our project launched today in its inaugural class of creators.
We’ll still be using Kickstarter to fund the production of some of our individual books. Meanwhile, Drip is a little different: it’s about monthly support—it’s similar to Patreon, which we also use. It offers various levels of support; you can get ebooks or credit for our online store. By backing at our core level, you can have access to regular posts with advice about all aspects of our publishing work. You can ask us anything and we’ll do our best to talk you through it. And we’ll share regular windows into the life of our office.
Some posts we have planned for the near future include:
- How to judge a book by its cover (and make sure yours has a good one)
- How to run an effective publicity campaign in an era when traditional review outlets are dwindling and reviews don’t work as well as they used to anyway
- When you SHOULD self-publish and why (spoiler, we don’t think it’s very often, but it’s definitely not never)
- How our marketing department informs our editorial decisions (controversy alert!)
- Regular “from the desk of” diaries
- Whatever YOU want to know!
We’ve been doing this a long time, and we love sharing our books with you. Now, let us share our knowledge and lore, too.
Thank you for your support!
This is the ninth post in our ongoing Business of Publishing series by Joe Biel, the author of A People’s Guide to Publishing. This edition tackles an important but more advanced question, “how much can I afford to spend on the book that I am publishing?”
While, on the surface, any answer to a question like this seems to be built from a steady diet of bullshit, books are remarkably consistent. Unlike cookies or soft drinks, most books are not branded. A book from a major house sits next to your book and others from indie presses. If you’ve successfully developed your book, you are providing each reader with enough information to make a choice based on their own experiences, observations, and tastes.
Let’s begin! For those following along at home, I’ve created this spreadsheet that you can download or duplicate and edit. And as you’ll see, there are fairly predictable formulas for everything.
The upper left hand corner begins with the title, author, and book’s release season. Lines 5 and 6 include retail prices for each format. If you’re doing a hardcover, you’d include that as well. Lines 9 and 10 list the author’s royalty by format as well as any advance payment that they receive. Traditionally this advance is your projected first two years of royalties paid in advance.
Line 13 is income from selling film or translation rights or foreign territory rights but it’s best not to plan for this in advance since even commitments can fall apart as the licensee changes their plans.
Beginning in column D, lines 4-5 predict what will likely be the sales in bookstores as well as returns and revenues. These numbers are based on your comparable titles and their selling habits. It’s best to be conservative here so that your expectations are reasonable and you aren’t shocked when you see your actual sales and returns.
Lines 7-8 predict similar sales in the direct market, which would include sales at your own events, via your own website, to non-trade stores that buy non-returnable, and books sold to the author. Again, these numbers should be conservative and based on figures in reality that you are seeing elsewhere.
Scooting over to column I, we’re looking at the publisher’s expenses for putting the book together from editorial to production to licensing to eBook conversion to paper, printing, and binding costs. Fiddle with these numbers to see what you can afford for a project before committing with an author.
Next, back on column D and lines 12-16, we’re looking at sales minus returns minus development costs minus author royalties. This will tell you what your gross profit is.
Next, we subtract operating costs (“the bottom line”), like rent, staff, telephones, envelopes, warehousing, etc. These should comprise every expense that you’ll have to pay for even if you don’t work on a book during a given month. Subtracting your gross profit from your bottom line will tell you how much actual profit the publisher is earning from each book. In this example, it’s less than $62. This example represents the most statistically likely outcome for a book like this. Publishing is about volume so to make up for these low returns, you can either produce tons and tons of books (called a “paper mill” in the industry”) or land a few heavy hitters every year. Your choice, kind of.
Another vital part of the P&L is to evaluate a year or two later how well the book did against expectations. If a book does not sell as well as expected, it’s important to figure out why. Was tons of new competition added? Did interest in the subject fade away? Was it revealed that the author’s cure for cancer was actually bogus and their credibility tanked? Was there a major developmental error in the cover/title/subtitle that confused readers about what the book offered or how it was unique? Answer these questions. Similarly, if a book did better than expected, it’s similarly important to figure out why and repeat these events with other titles.
Alternately, to demonstrate how these traditional contracts still benefit the author, I showed an alternate royalty model where the author takes 50% of the profit. But as you can see, comparing cell G29 to G15, 8% of the cover price ends up being more than 50% of gross profit in most cases until you really land a bestseller.
Due to Amazon’s immense marketing budget and campaign to convince authors that publishers are greedy and obsolete, many authors don’t understand why the traditional 4-8% paperback royalty is still much more in their favor than self-publishing on Kindle and CreateSpace so I’ve made a chart for that too.
We’ve been lucky enough to have a few designs in our catalog so popular that they get rampantly bootlegged. The most-stolen designs also happen to be our most popular, including Microcosm’s logo, the chainring heart, as well as Joe Biel’s iconic bicycle designs Put the Fun Between Your Legs and, the most popular of them all, Evolution.
When someone uses these images without our permission, they don’t always realize that they’re stealing. In reality, it’s pretty much the same thing as if they came into our store and walked out with a bunch of books without paying. We spend a lot of time laying it out for folks, and so we were stoked to find Portland designer Erika Schnatz‘s infographics about the topic. She’s created the clearest visual explanation we’ve ever seen of how you know what you can use and when, and how to register your own copyrights.
Erika kindly gave us permission to post her explanation of fair use (which answers the question: “Is it ok to use this thing I didn’t design?”) here. See it below! You can also download an interactive pdf and see her other copyright flow charts as well as her diverse other design work (and hire her!) at right here at her website.