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Profit & Royalties

Royalty, ‘net sales’, page count, trim size, cover price, discount, printing cost – there are a dozen ways to calculate it, but the bottom line when considering self-publishing is this:

How much money will I make when someone buys my book on Amazon?
Most of your sales will come through online retailers like Amazon.com, BN.com, and others, so if a publisher can’t give you a straight answer on this question, look elsewhere.

First, it’s important to understand how online sales work.

Do I have to pay for books up front? Do I ship them myself?
The answer is No. All that cost is borne by the buyer when they buy the book. Here’s how it works.

Publishers don’t actually sell books at retail. We sell them wholesale to distributors, namely Ingram Book Group, the world’s largest book distributor. They, in turn, provide them to thousands of retailers. When someone buys your book, whether from Amazon or BN.com or any bookseller, that order passes electronically from the retailer to Ingram to the printer, where your print-on-demand book is printed and shipped immediately, usually in 24 hours. This is often faster than books stored in a warehouse can be shipped. The distributor’s system notifies us of the sale, and your royalty is credited to your account. No action is required on your part at all and there’s no cost to you. That’s the beauty of print-on-demand publishing.

Can retailers change the price of my book?
Retailers – Amazon’s a good example – can, and often do – sell books at a discount. Like any store, they sometimes have ‘sales.’ But your earnings are not affected. The amount you earn is based on the regular retail price and remains the same no matter what discount the store offers.

So how is my profit figured?
Your profit is based on your book’s retail price. Many companies try to give the impression that you’re getting a 50% royalty when they say ‘50% of net sales.’ Then they offer you a formula with several variables and leave you to figure it out yourself. Others let you ‘set your own royalty’ then simply keep raising the price of your book to make up the difference – effectively killing sales.

At WingSpan Press, we work to keep the retail cover price of our books as low as we can in order to make them more attractive to readers. A couple of our larger competitors want you to sell your book online for as high as $21.95 for a 300-page book. Buyers will balk at paying that much for a softcover book.

Then we made the process simple and transparent so you’ll know what your costs will be and how much you stand to earn before you sign anything. With WingSpan, you earn 20% of the recommended retail cover price of your book on every sale. Bottom line, it’s one of the best self-publishing royalties available anywhere, not a hypothetical percentage based on some arcane formula.

NOTE: if you think your book will sell for more, then you’ll earn more. Many ‘niche’ books sell for up to $29.95. Distributor costs go up as the price of your book goes up (see below), but if you sell your book for more, then for every dollar you choose to raise your price above the recommended minimum retail, you’ll earn an additional $.50.

The table below lists the minimum retail pricing for standard-size black & white books and the profit you make on every online sale.

What about books I order for myself?
You’ll pay half of the recommended retail price for books you order for yourself whether you buy one or one hundred. This figure won’t change if you choose to change the cover price of your book.

A hardcover with dust jacket adds about $7 to the production cost of your book, meaning your cover price has to increase to about twice the softcover price to earn the same profit. Color books are also more expensive to produce, and so the cover price has to be higher. As a rule, a color book will likewise retail for approximately twice the same size b&w book.

What’s the ideal size for a self-published book?
A self-published book should not exceed 250-300 pages. Any additional net profit is quickly offset by reduced sales due to the higher cover price of the book. Buyers are most comfortable with paperback books in the $12-$18 range. It is difficult to make money from a self-published book of 400 or more pages.

How do I know what the page count of my book will be?
For 5.5 x 8.5, divide the number of words in your manuscript by 300. For 6 x 9, divide by 350. Add 10 pages for front and end matter. This is just a ball-park estimate. Lots of things affect the page count in your book, including images, font, margins, number of chapters, etc. We’ll know the final page count of your book during layout.

What about ebooks?
Your book will be formatted and published via Amazon Kindle in Amazon’s proprietary Kindle format, and also be prepared in a universal ‘epub’ format and distributed through Ingram Book Group, just as your print book is. It will be available worldwide and can be read on virtually any ebook device made, including Nook and iPad. 

Kindle book prices must end in .99, and the price must be at least $2.99. Your profit on Kindle and ebook sales is 50% of the retail price.

How am I paid?
Through your WingSpan login, you will be able to track sales by month. Sales are generally posted in the first week of the month following. At the end of any quarter in which there is more than $50 in your account, you’ll also receive a check.

What about books I order for myself?
Books which you buy yourself are yours to do with as you like. Sell them, give them away, send them to reviewers, and price them any way you wish. You may buy any quantity – 1, 100, however many you need. NOTE: books you buy for yourself earn no royalty, and are not reported as retail sales.