August 25th, 2010


The Self Publishing Model

I've been coming across authors self publishing their own work on the net over the last few days, and it's been interesting reading. Perhaps the best of it came from Tim Pratt, who serialised Broken Mirrors under a donating system. A look through his site reveals that there were various rewards for donating, including having Pratt come to your house and cook you dinner (which, without knowing the ability of Pratt's culinary skills, is either a pro or a con), but he also includes offers of chapbooks and indeed, a short story written just for yourself. It's interesting, and certainly, I thought, a great way to reward folk (though as I type this, a friend of mine is telling me that the rewards actually turn her off).

However, what's important is how he sums it up:

I have no idea how many readers I had, but I had 215 readers who liked this project enough to donate. (I’ve heard from several others who plan to buy the print edition or e-book versions rather than donating, too.)

Gross donations came to a bit over $13,700. (For Bone Shop I only made about $4,000 in donations. I think offering fundraiser prizes was a huge help this time.)

The average donation was about $63.86; the median donation was $35; the mode was $10. The donations ranged in amounts from $1 to $2,000. (The latter donor will get a chapbook with a new Marla Mason story written just for them, about a character of their choice. I’m already working on it, and it will either be called “A Void Wrapped in a Smile” or “Thirteen Views of Joshua”.)

A dozen people paid the minimum $300 necessary to have a name of their choice Tuckerized in the text. (And every one gave me a great and interesting name to use!) That option was more popular than I expected.

Paypal’s cut of the transactions worked out to around 4%. Taxes account for another third or so. Sending out fundraiser prizes, including postage, will run me a fair chunk of change, too. I imagine postage alone will run me around $500, and I had to pay for the comic I commissioned, and I have to buy copies to send out (I get a good author discount, but still), and pay to print the chapbook, and etc. But that still leaves a lot of healthy profit.

In total I made about 30% less on this Marla book than I did on the previous volumes, which were purchased by Bantam Spectra. Though since I didn’t have to pay my agent’s (always well-deserved!) commission on this project, it’s really only about 20% less than I got from Bantam, in terms of net income. (My agent will get a piece of the print sales, as she negotiated that contract for me.)

My readers, thus, paid me about 80% of what the world’s largest publisher used to pay me. (Hell, it’s a fair bit more than Bantam paid me for my first novel, The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl.) And based on how well my previous project Bone Shop has done as an e-book, I’ll almost certainly exceed that amount once the Kindle edition of Broken Mirrors starts to sell.

Later on, he also adds that, had he "tried to start [my] career with online serials… I doubt it would have worked out so well." An existing fan base, in other words, has certainly not hurt him.

I'm not going to cut deeply into Pratt's analysis, since it does a pretty good job, and I'm mostly just curious about it. It's certainly a nice way to supplement an author's income, by the way that he is running it. By doing his own thing on the web, and still doing work for the major and indie publishers, Pratt is probably putting himself in a good position to be earning a decent amount of money. While also, it appears, working twenty four seven.

I also stumbled across Closed Circle, the online endevour by Lynn Abbey, CJ Cherryh and Jane Fancher. The three are using it to put up the backlists of their work, which is considerable, given the length of the careers involved. I actually have fond memories of Abbey's fantasy novels, which I always thought were decently written and nicely different from the most, and it's good to see that she is still working (the other two, I admit, I don't have much knowledge on--except that I know Cherryh is been around for years). The site itself, however, is in desperate need of designer, and the covers that the three are putting on the electronic editions of their books scream for help. It's their backlist and all, so I know they're not selling new work, but when compared to Pratt's simple webpage and offers and such, it's coming across as anything but professional, a handle that a trio of authors with decades of writing behind them don't deserve. For example, I have read Abbey's The Wooden Sword (and it's sequel Beneath the Web) and I'd actually tell you that it's totally worth the five bucks to drop it on it--a kind of early environmentalist fantasy, for lack of a better way to explain it, but a lot of folk I reckon would be turned off by the cover.

Anyhow, all notes to drop as we continue forward, all things to consider in the scheme of things.