Book Royalties

Dr. David Mertz mertz at
Fri Jan 4 03:31:51 CET 2002

> A computer book author typically gets between 10-15% royalties....
> Mark's book says $35 on the back, although this is often
> discounted. So let's say the publisher gets $17.50, then Mark gets
> about $2.00 per book.

"Peter Milliken" <peter.milliken at> wrote:
|Even a reasonable income of say $100K per year requires 50,000 books at
|that rate.

Well, US$100k is a bit more "reasonable" than AU$100k.  But either way,
most computer book authors have day jobs.

|But surely these figues would argue for a lot of pressure for an author
|to publish electronically and directly - hence getting far more than $2
|per book

I happen to be writing a book also, and so spent some time researching
and thinking about this (plug:  _Text Processing in Python_ :-)).
Actually, I started writing the thing for Sybex, then they had some
budgetary cutbacks, but decided not to tell me they were cancelling my
book for a six weeks of writing (it took some nasty legal-sounding
letters to wrestle some due monies out of them).  Fortunately, after a
delay, I have a new contract to finish it with Addison Wesley, who is
really a much better publisher anyway.

But for my gap time, I thought really seriously about self-publishing.
The electronic vs. paper issue is surprisingly unimportant, actually.
You can get a printer to produce a very nice physical book for just a
few dollars a copy.  I looked at some paper stocks and print process
stuff, and for a run of 1000 you can get something just as good looking
as what New Riders of O'Reilly publish for less than $4/book.  The
author needs to find an editor; and either find a typesetter and indexer
or do it herself -- but then, I am doing my AW typesetting in exchange
for a bit of extra money from them anyway (I wouldn't dream of trying to
be my own editor or indexer; authors are blind to certain things in
their own books).

The real problem with self-publishing is publicity and distribution.
It's easy to get an ISBN; and not hard to get your book listed on Amazon
and Barnes-and-Noble websites.  But to put books on bookstore shelves, a
self-published author has a big challenge.  The thumb-through-the-shelf
shoppers are just simply not going to see your self-published book; and
I don't really believe that websites are going to attract all that many
potential buyers.  Of course, if you can get three or four times the
per-book profit, you can sell a third or fourth as many books and get
the same income.  I don't know how these things balance each other...
maybe someone like Bruce Eckel--with more books out there--has a better
knowledge of the pros and cons.

Yours, David...

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