Monday, January 20, 2014

An Open Letter to the CEO of Kensington Publishing Corp.

While this blog is usually dedicated to the history of sex, this post will be dedicated to a different sort of history that eventually allowed me to publish and write about historical sex.

The following is my response to an open invitation by Mr. Zacharius, the President and CEO of Kensington Publishing Corp, made after he posted an article to Huffington Post and then posted comments on The Passive Voice. The idea behind my post is to share my experience and educate. 



Dear Mr. Zacharius, President and CEO of Kensington Publishing Corp.,
My name is Delilah Marvelle and I write historical romance. After writing 40 manuscripts and receiving over 200 rejections letters from the publishing industry over the course of 11 long years well before the digital revolution, Kensington was the first and only publisher to give this author a chance given the edgier and racier content of my stories. Kensington took a chance with an author that the rest of the industry brushed aside. I firmly believe, I would not be where I am today, as a writer, if it were not for Kensington giving me an opportunity to be part of the industry. And I thank you and all of Kensington, including and especially John Scognomiglio for putting me into the hands of readers.

That said, I would like to open up the discussion about traditional publishing that you and most of the American population may not be aware of. And that is the history of our publishing industry that made it into what it is today.

Back in 1842, a rising star of the writing world known as none other than Charles Dickens, came to the United States with an open plea and a stance regarding American publishers to favor International Copyright laws. Why? Because American publishers weren’t paying ANY royalties on imported manuscripts to authors. None. Zero. All copies imported by New York publishers were pirated and every penny was pocketed. Have you ever wondered why all the print publishers were historically living on the east coast? So they could hop on a ship and buy up copies of books in England that they then brought back to the States so they could make a huge profit that no author would ever see. Needless to say, American publishers were *astounded* that a popular author would come into their country and educate them on their business practices. What did HE know about the industry of publishing? He was just an author. They tried to intimidate and silence him, telling him he was being “petty and self-serving and undemocratic” by speaking out against their business despite the fact that supporting International Copyright Law would have put more money into the pockets of American authors.

This is the history of New York Publishing. To pay no royalties unless required by law. And in my eyes, not much of New York has changed. This mentality of not discussing the business has been ingrained in the old school brain of every publisher going back to 1842. They intimidated authors into not discussing their contracts, their numbers or their rights. Why? Because if they started discussing the details, the authors might actually realize that they were being financially raped. The services that you, as CEO, boast about (which are hardly unique to the publishing world) comes to an author at an obnoxious price no publisher in New York is willing to discuss. Should ANY publisher get more than half the profits of an author’s work? Are you saying you do more work than, I, as an author, do and that your services are worth more than the content of the book itself? No. I’m sorry. I don’t think so.

The traditional publishing industry has created a hostile environment in which an author is the outsider from beginning to end. Because if I, as an author want more information about royalties or outside contracts (like the one Kensington signed with Scribd), not only did Kensington refuse to share those contracts with me, even though my books are being included in those contracts, I need lawyers and auditors to get anywhere. Does that sound like we’re in business together?

I guess my biggest concern in all of this is knowing that the CEO of Kensington is going online to “talk” about the “realities” of self-publishing, when in fact, Kensington is not a self-publishing expert (obviously). And why was it back in 2011, when RWA had its conference in NYC and the big 6 (at the time) were on a panel discussing the industry with PASIC, the big 6 barred Amazon from even being in the room to listen to their panel? We know why. Self-publishing is a threat to the traditional way of publishing. It’s the first time in HISTORY authors are actually making the money they deserve. No, not millions, Mr. Zacharius, but above minimum wage. And THAT is the “reality” of self-publishing.

Delilah Marvelle
UPDATED RESPONSE TO STEVEN. THANK YOU FOR YOUR RESPONSE!

STEVEN: *Authors enter into a contract, quite often with an agent who represents their behalf. No one is forcing them to enter this contract. I believe that contracts are a personal matter between the author and the publisher.*

DELILAH: When I signed my contract back in 2007, even with an agent on my side, I was unable to change any of the percentages in my contract because (as the publishers and agents go on to say even today), it’s a “standard” contract. Your suggestion that contracts are personal when we, as authors, are told by agents and publishers alike that it’s a “standard” contract, leads me to believe that the contract isn’t THAT personal.

STEVEN: * I don't see musicians talking about their contracts in an open forum either.*

DELILAH: I think musicians talk a lot more than you think. They talk about the same things we authors are talking about. How we don’t get paid what we’re due and how the contracts are in the favor of everyone but the author/musician. I’ll just give you one link to look at, but there is a mass amount of discussions out there. Sadly, the creative industry is notorious for taking advantage of an artist’s need to be seen. http://bit.ly/LIQxL6

STEVEN: * I don't know how you're coming up with the fact that the publisher is getting more than you're making. I can't tell you how many contracts we have where the author ends up making far more than we do. The higher the advance the more likelihood this has of happening.*
DELILAH: I know that you aren’t referring to me. In fact, your example of where the publisher would make less does not apply to me. And I strongly believe you are not talking about most of your authors. Let’s get into some quick specifics on me and Kensington.
1.) For every electronic book that Kensington sells of mine, they make three times the money I do. If I get .25, Kensington gets .75. (Keep in mind that my digital sales are higher than my print sales).
2.) I know what my percentage is, but what I don’t know is what your percentage is. At no point has Kensington ever shared how much it actually profits from my books. I would love to know. And if you feel I don’t need to know then it’s hard to validate your claim that you’re the last in line to get paid. I would *love* to hear the core numbers of what Kensington has made off my book in comparison to what I have made. Put it here or email it to me with a disclosure. I’m thinking, however, that it won’t ever be disclosed. Why? Because what author would be happy to learn that their publisher was making far more on each book sold than the author who wrote it. The other thing you haven’t addressed is the time of payment. As a self-published author, I’m getting paid monthly. Kensington pays me once every six months on year old sales. I have not seen any interest paid to me for the money that sits in the bank over that six month duration.
3.) As a self-published author, and a traditionally published author, I have the luxury to compare the two. In my School of Gallantry series, I only need to sell 1 copy of my self-published Lady of Pleasure, to equal 7 electronic copies of my Kensington books in the same series. The key point being I don’t even need to be as good at marketing to break even as a self-published author.

STEVEN: *I don't think we have created a hostile environment at all. Anyone who has ever asked me a question that I feel can be answered publicly, I have done so. I have no secrets about our deal with Scribd and if you had a question, you could call or email me. I have said publicly that the author is getting their FULL royalty due on any book read from Scribd once the reader goes past a small browsing percentage of the book. The deals are the same as with other subscription services.*

DELILAH: The attitude, which I admire you for publicly expressing, needs to trickle down to the rest of your staff and business practices. Because when I contacted Kensington a few weeks ago, they told me a.) I couldn’t see the Scribd contract b.) I couldn’t be given any other contract details other than that I would be paid my regular royalties. I would hope I’m getting my FULL royalties given I gave you the rights to do so. Because as of right now, here’s how it stands. When those contracts aren’t being shared with me, even though it involves the rights of my book, I’m supposed to just take your word that the deal is what it should be. Give me a legal document that tells me what I’m getting, who signed what and why. Don’t tell me I’m getting a full royalty. Show me. Because while I genuinely wish to believe you, Steven, in the world of business, a handshake isn’t enough. It has to be put into writing. I would love to see the Scribd contract, even if it means I get a disclosure saying I can’t share it with anyone. I’m fine with not sharing it with anyone. What I’m not fine with is not knowing what was in that contract. And that applies to all of the contracts Kensington has signed for me, including foreign rights and audible rights. I’d like to see them. I haven’t seen a single one. What’s frustrating for me as an author is that even with two agents, I can’t get anyone at Kensington to further address this. This is sadly, not unique to Kensington. This is the “standard” way of dealing with authors in the industry.

STEVEN: *You are telling everyone that you need lawyers and auditors to get answers. That is simply not true. If you or any author has a question about a royalty statement we are happy to provide answers without you having to hire an experts that will cost you money.*

DELILAH: When an author asks for a breakdown of where sales are digitally coming from (in other words Amazon or Kobo), Kensington has not been able to provide that. In fact, it refuses to. So I don’t know how many copies I’ve sold digitally to what store. All it shows in my royalty statement is GROSS UNITS. And nothing more. And if I want to ensure those numbers are right, I’m sorry, but it does cost me money. Because the only way I can *ensure* the numbers Kensington is giving me are correct is by taking it to the auditor because as all authors know royalty statements are notorious for obfuscating information. And that’s me speaking of royalty statements in the most positive light possible.

STEVEN: *I never claimed to be an expert on self-publishing. I got pulled into the conversation and just expressed my opinion which basically is that there is a very small percentage of people who are making any real money by self-publishing.*

DELILAH: I think when you speak for the publishing industry, while using your CEO name, it becomes more than just an opinion. Tossing out what you think is an opinion about “self-publishing” and using polls that clearly don’t encompass the majority of the self-publishing industry, is giving misinformation to unpublished authors who don’t know anything about either business. And that, to me, is wrong. Especially because it’s pretty obvious you aren’t speaking too favorably about the self-publishing industry. Which is a shame, because many of your own Kensington authors have gone on to self-publish, including myself, and have made more money doing it.

STEVEN:*And please don't going saying as a generality that authors were making only minimum wage before. That's simply not true.*

DELILAH: And this is where you’re wrong. Is it a generality to say that authors are making only minimum wage? No and no. It’s not. Out of the HUNDREDS of authors that I know through RWA, given I have been part of RWA since 1996, very few have been able to stay at home full time writing. When my husband landed his dream job but couldn’t take it because I landed mine, he made a hard choice that cost him an opportunity he will never get. We couldn’t afford for him to take his dream job given how much money it took to maintain my writing. Even though I was writing 3 books a year, my wage as an author (I broke down my hours) was $1.23 an hour. Not even minimum wage. And my story represents so many others who don’t have the courage to talk about it like I do. I would also like to share my personal story with my dealings with Kensington. I was one of the first Kensington authors to speak up back in 2009, when I lost my contract, not due to lack of sales (I sold out my print run in less than 8 months) but because they were closing a line (Zebra debut) that Kensington just didn't have the guts to openly announce. But what did Kensington do? It made authors like me believe my sales were too dismal to support. I guess selling out of my print run is dismal in the eyes of a publisher. Unlike many authors, I didn’t quit. I went on to publish somewhere else.

The bottom line is this: Kensington is competing with companies like Google, Apple and Amazon who have billions of dollars in capital for investment. Your only investment is your authors. Why destroy that by not giving authors the one thing that they want? 50/50. If Kensington or any other publisher in New York cannot give authors a 50/50 split due to their “costs” which New York cannot cover, then I really don’t see this ending well for Traditional Publishing industry. And that’s something that is hard for even me to swallow because my first and only dream coming into this business was to be published with New York.

If you would like to continue this conversation in private so we may discuss other details that you may not feel comfortable sharing in public, please email me at Delilah@DelilahMarvelle.com

48 comments:

Bronwen Evans said...

Thanks for writing this. As an author, I want to make a living wage. SP allows me to do that because I can produce a book and get it to the readers more economically than publishers AND make a bigger margin. That is the truth. I have just gone over my K royalty statements and I sell bigger volume of SP books because I can price competitively, and therefore with a bigger margin, I'm making more money. Finally I can earn a margin I can actually live off.

Jess Michaels said...

Preach on, sister! I am with a semi-traditional press, Samhain and I'm treated fairly and openly (it's a shocking development, I assure you, like when you've left your abusive boyfriend and find a nice guy who treats you well). It's a refreshing change. I've self-pubbed, traditionally pubbed and semi-traditionally pubbed and there is not enough money on this planet that could entice me back to traditional publishing. I like that at least we all have CHOICES now.

Misty H said...

I could come into this as a reader, because I am a reader, I could come into this as a beginner e book cover designer again I am one, but no I am going to come into this as a book seller. Because so many of my favorite authors are moving into the self publishing world, I had no choice but to purchase a Kindle in order to keep up with their latest and greatest works. I have no issue with an author earning what they should be earning. A publisher is just a middle man who takes a large chunk of an author's earnings on a product that they slaved over for weeks or months. The biggest problem with self-publishing is that to a degree it's killing the independent stores. The little guys that in some way shape or form helped to put lesser known authors in the hands of readers. It was not the publisher or the chain stores doing it, it is people like me who have read and enjoyed an authors works so much that we cannot wait to share that joy with other readers. Can we order self-published authors? For the most part yes, but it's a pricey expense to pass on to our customers. Typically print self pubs are only available in trade size paper back which sell for between $12-17. That's a steep price for a print reader to read. If a reader wishes to purchase a print version, through places like B&N and Amazon they might find it at a discount that smaller stores cannot compete with. There are a good number of readers that still would rather hold a print book versus a device. There's also the loss of that personal touch with the big two as I call them (Amazon B&N), which is why so many self published authors rely on readers to promote their writings. I really dread the day and I can see it coming, that my store closes due to the e-market and the loss of readers who've had no choice but to follow their authors. Our store has been in business for thirty years, and we've survived the closures of B Dalton/Borders and other chains, but with the world slowly turning to e-readers people like myself will be faced with no choice but to shutter our doors. I can see that happening long before the publishing houses close theirs.

Delilah Marvelle said...

My dearest Browen,
Amen. It's not about making millions (although that would be nice, lol), it's about making a living wage. Glad to hear you're making your wage. You've earned it!

My dearest Jess,
Exactly!! It's all about choices and not feeling like your back is up against a wall. Thanks for posting!

My dearest Misty,
I love you so much! And I agree with you on so many levels except for one. Bookstores were ALWAYS making a bigger profit margin than the author and publisher combined AND expected to have the books they didn't sell refunded, which to me was never good business, given that the product was always destroyed (ripping of covers) and this always came out of the pockets of authors known as 'reserves'. So what little money we were making was being further taken away. I work closely with independent bookstores ALL the time. Jan's Paperbacks in Aloha, Oregon knows me incredibly well. How does she make money off my self-pubbed books? By selling Kobos that has her affiliate link in it where she sees a profit off every e-book and by going directly to me for the print books, where I offer a bigger cut of the pie than the publisher was offering. Bookstores have to stop thinking they are being punished by this development. If they work together with authors in the same way they have worked with publishers, they'll find the profit they're looking for. Because we all want to stay in business :) Thanks for your wonderful post!

Misty H said...

The store I work in is very small, and our customer base is older. Those around my age and younger are typically hybrid readers. I know that we don't believe in stripping books, we're all of the opinion that it is better to order fewer copies than to return excesses. These days are store is lucky to gross $850 for a nine hour day, and that is before expenses such as pay checks and rent. We have a web site but few of our customers actually go to it, making device selling a mute point. I have tried to get the owner to consider it. We're a word of mouth store to new customers, and survive by our established base. As a reader I already had a device by the time I came into our store, so I personally am not opposed to ebooks. My boss however is as she sees it as killing her lively hood and her business. I think she looks at it as having to remain a print only store. Even the mere mention of an ebook gains me a look. Because the reality of job loss is there for me, I have ventured into an arena that I should have been pushing into in the first place. I will land on my feet.

Steven Zacharius said...

Hello Delilah,
I'm glad to see you gave us credit for helping launch your writing career.

I don't think publishers rape, as you put it, authors of their royalties. Authors enter into a contract, quite often with an agent who represents their behalf. No one is forcing them to enter this contract.
I believe that contracts are a personal matter between the author and the publisher. If the author wants to discuss it with the world, then they will. I don't see musicians talking about their contracts in an open forum either.
I don't know how you're coming up with the fact that the pubisher is getting more than you're making. I can't tell you how many contracts we have where the author ends up making far more than we do. The higher the advance the more likelihood this has of happening.
I don't think we have created a hostile environment at all. Anyone who has ever asked me a question that I feel can be answered publicly, I have done so. I have no secrets about our deal with Scribd and if you had a question, you could call or email me. I have said publicly that the author is getting their FULL royalty due on any book read from Scribd once the reader goes past a small browsing percentage of the book. The deals are the same as with other subscription services.
You are telling everyone that you need lawyers and auditors to get answers. That is simply not true. If you or any author has a question about a royalty statement we are happy to provide answers without you having to hire an experts that will cost you money.
I never claimed to be an expert on self-publishing. I got pulled into the conversation and just expressed my opinion which basically is that there is a very small percentage of people who are making any real money by self-publishing. Joe Konrath said there are 150 people selling 100,000 books....and of course most of those are going to be severely discounted. And please don't going saying as a generality that authors were making only minimum wage before. That's simply not true. There are many authors that are getting paid more than introductory advances and there are those that have started out low and have grown tremendously to become superstars.

Misty H said...

As a reader and a book seller Mr. Zacharius I'm going to beg to differ about musicians not talking about their contracts because just like authors they certainly Do speak of it. Those that don't verbally come out flash it in excess and in extravagant ways. There too we're seeing a break from the traditional formats as more musicians put out music on their own without a record deal. Like with books, much of the music is much better produced. The superstar author is rare and far between, and then there are those which publishing houses are over killing readers on by producing quantity over quality. Far to often I have customers returning books complaining that their books lack in quality (ie a ton of editorial errors) but yet will tell me they have since discovered a self published author who have better skills than some traditionally published. Publishers these days are also lacking in variety, and seem to be sticking themselves into ruts with the same themes/series. What happened to the solo book set in which ever world an author creates. I see a good many self publishing authors giving their readers what their readers want versus sticking them with the same old story line that every other publishing house has out at the moment. Let us also not forget that not only are author's reading these posts but also readers. Your bread and butter, without the reader you have no market.

Barbara Cool Lee said...

Mr. Zacharius, I appreciate that you are continuing to come onto blogs and discuss your opinions about all this. I believe you truly do want to understand where author frustration is coming from, but I think you're caught in the common misperception among those who are not self-publishing: the idea that you have to sell 100,000 books to be "successful."

Here are the actual numbers: if you price your self-published books at $3.99, you only need about 3000 sales per month to make a six-figure income per year (and 1500 sales per month to make $50K). With a dozen books out, all staying perpetually "in print" and available to readers, that's not an outrageous number. It doesn't get you on the bestseller lists, but I doubt there are many writers scoffing at making six figures from their work.

I think that's the part many outside the self-publishing world don't understand. Midlist for self-publishing is a nice five to six-figure income. That's not the top of the heap, the famous overnight millionaires getting all the press, but it's the people who in traditional publishing were midlist. We're the ones who steadily produce professional romance, science fiction, and mystery novels that would probably sell to New York, but wouldn't always get the big print runs or the big support that would launch us onto the NYT's list. We'd end up orphaned, dropped, or just making less than minimum wage for our work under the traditional model.

But with self-publishing we don't need the bestseller lists. We don't need to strive for number one. We just need to write the entertaining and satisfying books our readers want, and deliver them to the reader steadily. Good editing, good covers, good writing. Yes, we need all that. But we don't need to settle for 6% royalties and a tiny advance. And there's no limit to how many books we can put out in a year.

I don't think the world of traditional publishing is filled with evil-minded people trying to destroy authors. On the contrary. I think most editors, agents, publishers and publicists in New York love books and want them to do well. But we self-publishers have tools that allow us to do much better on our own. And so when you talk about small numbers of breakout stars you miss the point. You've never heard of me. And I'm paying my mortgage as a professional author. I'm one of many, and I wouldn't submit a manuscript to a big five publisher right now if you paid me.

Rebecca Lynn said...

I've heard of you, Barbara. ;)

Yasmine.phoenix@gmail.com said...

One thing Mr. Zacharius addressed that I do agree with is the avalanche of self-pubbed books and their quality. I'm not published. I love Delilah and other published authors because they've put in the hours, the sweat, the rejections, and keep writing. They've learned where commas go, how to go deep point of view, create compelling characters and hot sex. It's the writer who believes all they need is a computer, an idea, and the ability to self pub their work without it being vetted by someone other than their sister, or best friend. Unless your best friend is like one of mine that pulls out the red or purple pen and goes after my manuscript like a surgeon. Bad formatting, misspelling, lost plots, and characters that wouldn't make it through my first draft. Because it's become so easy and you can either offer your work for free or 99 cents, you look like a successful writer selling hundreds of books, until readers respond and go 'Ugh'. This turns off potential readers for really good authors.
Mr. Zacharius believes editors 'work for the authors'. I've been hearing that at RWA and then I hear 'yeah right' from published authors.
I think, don't believe yet, that there is a possible working relationship between big publishers and authors but it's going to mean publishers are going to have to get off their pedestal and admit they aren't always right.
Will I submit to NY publishers? Yep, when my work is ready I'll submit to Sanhaim, Entangled, and Musa too.
I'll read my contract with a magnifying glass. I'll ask for royalty statements on a regular basis. I'll cover almost every base that I can to protect my rights.
I worked corporate, banking, for a number of years. I understand lenders only lend if they are certain they will get their money back with interest.
I'm not convinced by the 'what I can do for you'. It's more like Janet Jackson, 'What have you done for me lately?'

Sylvia said...

Hi Delilah, I too was a once upon a time Kensington author. I published 9 books with Kensington before Amy Garvey left and I was abandoned. I'm grateful for being published by Kensington, but since I've gotten my rights back, changed the AWFUL covers I had received from Kensington and republished these books I've made a living wage. I'm now a full-time work from home writer and I love my life. Thanks Kensington for the start, the stop and now my foray into self-publishing. By the way four of the nine books that I've republished, with the new covers, have made the Amazon top 100. Again, thanks to the pioneering authors who lead the way in SP and for sharing their stories. I no longer want a big or even a small six publisher unless you bring a truckload of cash.

Cathryn Cade said...

Mr. Zacharius said,
'Authors enter into a contract, quite often with an agent who represents their behalf. No one is forcing them to enter this contract'

Yes, but now I as a self-published author say, 'You are no longer the only game in town. I don't have to enter into one of your contracts for 6% royalties--which I consider punitive. Once, if I wanted to be published, I would have HAD NO CHOICE. Now, I can self-publish and make 70% royalties. As others have mentioned here, I don't have to be famous, and I don't have to be on the book rack at my local grocery store to earn a good living.

I have been fortunate to be a Samhain author for 7 years, and find readers. Now they're coming back to buy my self-published books too. No Big 6 in the picture, but it works for me.

I wish the very best to Kensington and the authors who choose to work with them. Great way to build name recognition.

It's been so wonderful to follow Delilah's career and her re-emergence as a self-published success story. I continue to appreciate her open sharing with the writing community.

best,
Cathryn Cade

Ekatarina Sayanova said...

Bravo Ms. Marvelle! Excellent post.

Delilah Marvelle said...

Hello Steven,
I am incredibly impressed with your willingness to engage in such dialogue. Thank you. It means you’re passionate about the same thing I am. The industry. The difference between you and I, however, is that I am creating the product and you are in the business of selling it. That means there are things that I will better understand about the product and my readers then you will. And vice versa. Sadly, the modern era of publishing is stacking itself against the New York publishing environment mostly because New York has been unwilling to make changes in both its perceptions and its contracts. We need more companies like Kobo who go out and meet with authors one on one to discuss what they can do better as opposed to telling us they ARE better.

Allow me to now respond to your points. Because blogger won't allow me to comment beyond so many characters, I am including my response in the bottom of my original post. Please read and thank you.

Renee Bernard said...

Delilah, thank you so much for this intelligent post and for the wonderful responses you've given. It seems sad to be able to say that while NY publishing complains the most about how difficult it is for them these days, they are their own worst enemy and have almost made it a point to destroy the creative wellsprings they drink from. I made a joke once about not realizing that becoming an author was like joining the Fight Club. You can't talk about what happens, and…well you can see the analogy's point. But it's that silence that has broken so many aspiring authors' hearts and I'm so glad and grateful that you've stepped out. You give me hope and courage as I am forced down the SP path this year. Now, instead of dreading it, I think I'm going to hold my head up a little higher and just smile. I'm not quitting. And that is saying something.

Steven Zacharius said...

I'm not going to spend the time going into all of your comments here but traditional publishers simply are not going to go 50/50 on a deal with most authors. You can't compare your overhead with the publishing companies overhead. We have done deals that are 50/50 with authors in the past however with applying an overhead fee as well.
What happens if there were an advance given and we had a 50/50 deal and we lost money? Is the author going to share in the loss too?

The only other comment right now is that there is absolutely no way a publisher is going to show you their contracts with their vendors. They are not required to do so and it would not make any sense to do so. If we have the rights to sell your books and as long as a publisher lives up to paying you the full royalty rate you deserve and are owed; there is no reason to show you any agreements between us and our vendors. That's really a ludicrous request. Do you think that any of the retailers show us their agreements? I can't even get the ebook retailers to comment to us as to whom they consider our peers to be. They tell me that the Robinson Patman Act doesn't apply to digital sales.

Please don't tell me that you see musicians of any stature discussing how much money they make. You might hear comments about how some groups end up suing their agent or their label but not how much money they made or the exact terms of their contract. It's confidential information.

Every contract is negotiable if both sides want to negotiate. If you're a bigger author you're going to get more things that you want. If you're an author that's just starting out it's not in the publisher's interest to give away more than they feel comfortable with. We are taking the risk in investing in a first time author with possibly no proven track record of sales. Sometimes that advance may be low because they are new or it can be very high because of competitive interest from other publishers.

There are tremendous amounts of books that publishers lose money on. Probably way more than you think. And they're not necessarily authors that were paid big advances. It could have been an advance of $5000 but then accounts didn't want to buy the book so we hardly distributed any copies and therefore lose money. But publishers don't share their profit and loss statements with an author. That's the risk the publishing company takes.

Your comment of selling out of your print run doesn't have anything to do with the profitability of the book. If the print run was small and we sold out, that doesn't mean any money was made.

I think most of the things that you're bring up are really personal conversation that you should be having with your agent, if you had one, or with your editor or me privately. I don't discuss the performance of individual authors in a public forum.

If you'd like to call me or email me privately I'd be happy to continue this conversation. An author has many choices as to how they want to publish and with whom they want to publish assuming they get more than one offer. Apparently self-publishing has worked better for you, which is fine.

Jackie Barbosa said...

Hi Steve,

It's perfectly reasonable that you don't want to share information about third-party contracts with authors. You aren't required to and I can see how those details could be problematic. But what you don't seem to understand is that there is a general lack of transparency when you're on the author's side of a trade publishing deal. And now that many of us have been to publish for ourselves, we've gotten a chance to peer behind the curtain.

We decide which retailers' terms we'll agree to and which we won't. When Smashwords decided to begin distributing books to Scribd, many self-published authors decided to opt-out of what they felt was a form of blackmail--let Scribd sell your books and they'll take down the illegal copies, but otherwise, forget it. We see reports--often DAILY--from retail outlets that show how many units of each book sold. We can put links in our books to other books and track the metadata to find out what's working and what isn't.

Now that many authors have access to this kind of data, a lot of us are loath to give it up. And the truth is, publishers are asking their authors to do more and more of the heavy lifting when it comes to marketing, but you're asking them to do it at a handicap without the tools that could make them (and your publishing house) even more successful.

Honestly, I don't think publishing houses are evil. My experience with Kensington wasn't all bad and there were lots of factors in my book's lack of success which neither Kensington nor I could control. But boy, I would have LOVED it if someone from Kensington had contacted me and said, "Hey, here's what we're doing to promote your book and here are the things we think you could do to to help." I know I was a small fish in a big pond, but if you feed the small fish, they have a chance to get bigger. Starve them, and they're pretty sure to die. Fortunately for me, although I'm still a small fish, I found other hands to feed me--particularly my own.

Delilah Marvelle said...

Hi Steve,
I think my responses speak for themselves. I'm not talking off the cuff. I've been part of this industry for a while and have seen the successes and failures of authors that are my friends. Aside from formerly working with Harlequin (who went above and beyond for me in almost every way), I also worked with one of the biggest agents in New York. I've made more than beyond my advances with Kensington, believe me, which means, your company has made its share. Even if that share is peanuts to a publishing company like yours, those peanuts are still feeding my family, which is something you have not acknowledged. Being a CEO is a huge responsibility. You represent a company and 90 employees who depend on you to feed their families. What I have to say may not seem significant to you or important enough to you given your tone went from being open to closed and condescending, but it's important to me and to countless other authors. And I hope THAT means something to you. I gave you my email and hope you will email me as I do not have your email or your phone number, You haven't posted either (which I totally understand, lol). I'm looking forward to continue this dialogue outside of a public forum and hope that our understanding of each grows into something beyond the mere superficial.

Steven Zacharius said...

Barbara are you selling 3000 books per month at 3.99 for the entire 12 months of the year, or even two months of the year? Or are you giving a hypothetical math calculation. There aren't that many authors who continue to sell 3000 books per month for any period of time. If you are, congratulations to you.
How many books are you able to write a year? Most authors have a hard time doing one good full length book every six months.

Steven Zacharius said...

Misty I don't hear musicians talking about how much money they're making in dollars in any forums, not that I'm looking for them. And yes the music business has changed dramatically with the advent of iTunes and selling songs individually instead of making people pay for an entire album with one or two good songs on it.
But the publishing industry has not followed what has happened to the music industry. The music industry suffered from tremendous piracy, that has not happened to this extent in publishing thankfully.
If you're making a living and are content just being able to sell on Kindle then you're very fortunate. I don't think you're going to see the day when traditional publishing disappears.
You haven't seen any big authors defect to indie publishing and by big I'm talking about the people who dominate the NYT lists month after month with full priced books. Time will tell though. Stephen King did it for one book and then went back to traditional publishing, didn't he?

Steven Zacharius said...

Sylvia, many people have commented about having bad covers. Most publishing house art directors have years and years of experience and work closely with the publisher and sales department. The sales departments give feedback to the artists and comment on whether they like covers or don't. They are a much better judge of whether cover art is good or bad; much better than the author or me. Art is a subjective matter. The ability to sell the book and capture the readers eye at retail is what we focus on. There's a big difference between a tiny cover online that you only see larger when you click on the book and a retail printed cover. There's also other reasons for making the top 100 like the discounted price of the book versus retail pricing. Obviously you're happy with indie publishing and that's great.

Steven Zacharius said...

Cathryn, Samhain is a wonderful company and I know the people well. They do a great job. When you talk about 6% royalties that is no longer accurate. First of all our royalties are at 8% and often with a break at higher sales level, but you're also comparing 6% of list price with 70% of net receipts.
The discrepancy is still very large but it is not an accurate comparison to make.

Steven Zacharius said...

Delilah my tone was not meant to be condescending. My email has been posted on many blogs and is on our website. It is szacharius@kensingtonbooks.com. I answer each and every email I receive from authors and readers.

BTW Cathryn, our eKensington imprint and Lyrical Press is similar in nature to Samhain.

Steven Zacharius said...

I want to say one last thing about Amazon. They are the biggest retailer in business today because of ebooks. That doesn't mean they will be tomorrow. But with the way they are trying to wipe out competition by selling books way below their cost, they might be the last one standing. I'm sure you all know that very few retailers will carry any Amazon published books in their stores. I am a huge Amazon supporter for all of their merchandise. They are also a huge client of ours but I find their lack of providing information probably makes them the least transparent company of any in the business. No one even knows how many Kindls have been sold or how much they're making or losing on their book business. Everyone knows they're not making much money on their overall business and most of it comes from Amazon Web services, a division most people know very little about.

Anna Brentwood said...

As a self published author with 15 years in the business having had an agent and many almost contracts that didn't pan out And a background in publishing, the only way large publishers will survive is if they change with the times because the times are changing and will continue to. It is wonderful that authors have a voice & a platform should they choose to do the work it takes to self publish. No more one size fits all or one small group of people deciding what and who gets published and it is also wonderful for readers who ultimately decide what is or is not great. There are good points and valid ones for both sides but the only definite is that things are changing and will keep on doing so. I hope we always have many options, As usual, thanks Delilah for having the "balls" to say what so many think.

terri patrick said...

Wow! This was fun reading. The clearest point in all this is "hybrid" is the way for an author to make a career during this transitional stage.

I recently heard from a professional photographer that authors and publishers are looking so closely at how digital books mirrors the music industry that they are forgetting the transformation of Kodachrome and drive thru photo shops to digital cameras and photoshop.

Just something to think about. I'm not sure what happened to the CEO of Kodak, but...

As always D, you know how to tell the story. Fiction or fact, you've got the chops. :D

Anthea Lawson said...

Stephanie Laurens just left Avon to self publish. JoAnn Ross left NAL and is starting to self publish. Are those names big enough for you, Steve? ;)

KB/KT Grant said...

Delilah, I want you to know that you are one of the reasons I self published (remember our talk at RWA in NYC 2 year ago?)finally. The bulk of what I'm publishing will be self published.

Thanks for being honest and keeping this dialogue open for authors and publishers also,

Delilah Marvelle said...

Renee, Jackie, Anna, Terri, Barbara, Yasmine, Sylvia, Cathryn, Ekatarina, thank you for posting so beautifully and lending your voice. Open discussion is what leads to change. KB, bless you, and thank you for sharing that. Honesty is hard to share sometimes, but it always comes to the benefit of anyone listening.

Delilah Marvelle said...

Hi Steven,
The reason why Amazon is doing so insanely well is because of something New York has been unwilling to do: adapt and change. Not once throughout this entire dialogue did you, as CEO, ask me, as a former employee of Kensington, what YOU can do to better your company. Not once. The whole point behind this open letter was to show how since 1842 publishers have been telling authors (like Charles Dickens himself) that the author knows NOTHING and that the publisher knows the business BEST. The real question here is: does New York know what is best anymore? The answer is clear. No. Because they are falling behind in the one game that used to be theirs. Books. As in any business, if there is a market that isn't met, the competition will come in and take that market. And that is exactly what Amazon is doing. It not only took your market, it took your authors. And you may want to ask yourself and your company why. Maybe calling your tone condescending wasn't the right word. But your tone isn't open to change. And without being open to change, failure is inevitable. Amazon knows that and if you are worried about a monopoly, then you, as CEO, had better start opening yourself and your company to thinking that maybe I, and thousands of other authors, have the ability to help you become a better business and sell more books. This post was meant to educate you. And if you feel you don't need to be educated...well...I think therein is the problem.

Chris Meadows said...

"But with the way [Amazon is] trying to wipe out competition by selling books way below their cost..."

Why do even publishing industry executives, who should know better, keep saying this?

Amazon was never trying to sell all books below cost. Just a handful of them, as loss leaders. All the others were sold well above cost, which let Amazon make a profit on e-books overall. The vast majority of Amazon's e-books are still sold well above wholesale cost. You can go to Amazon and look up any lengthy series with a new-release title out, such as John Scalzi's "Old Man's War" books, and see that for yourself. (As I understand it, the legal standard for predatory pricing is that the company is losing money across the entire line of products as a whole, not on just a few of them.)

It's no different in principle than Best Buy selling a few TVs at or below cost in its weekly circulars to entice people to come into its stores and buy other things, or for that matter Wal-Mart selling paper hardcover books for $10, which it has done quite frequently.

The TV companies don't complain about Best Buy. And for that matter, the publishers don't seem to complain about Wal-Mart, at least not as vociferously as they have about Amazon. Which is odd, given that $10 hardcovers would seem to be more of a direct competition for $26 hardcovers than $10 e-books would. After all, a lot of people still can't or won't read e-books.

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Even Barnes & Noble has taken to discounting some hardcovers at 50% off plus the 10% discount that B&N members get, and that's in their bookstores. And not just new authors, but big names. All to compete with Amazon. It's not unheard for B&N to discount even Janet Evanovich to 30% off (additional 10% to B&N members) during the first few weeks of publication.

PD Singer said...

I don't know how you're coming up with the fact that the publisher is getting(sic) more than you're making.

Mr. Zacharias, this statement is a failure of basic mathematics.

Author's share of ebook sales=25%
of net receipts. Publisher's share of net receipts=75%.

75%>25%

Even with the more liberal Lyrical terms, 60%>40%.

Please.

Amortize that $150 cover over a couple hundred ebooks and it gets downright economical. Editing costs are editing costs, of course, but only need be done once no matter how many formats the book becomes.

Marginal cost of production of ebook after copy #1 = 0.

And 60%>40%, no matter how many or how few books are sold.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this...I went through the same ridiculous routine and the same refrain with Harlequin over royalties.

As I recall, it was Kensignton who were court-ordered to pay a considerable sum in back royalties to authors a decade or so ago.



Rob Gregory Browne said...

Misty H, maybe it would help if more independent booksellers were willing to stock Amazon/CreateSpace books by indie authors. What I keep hearing, unfortunately, is that bookstores are unwilling to stock those books.

I think if you want to survive, you should embrace indie authors, who are more than happy to see their print versions sold in your stores.

I would also suggest that booksellers try to innovate and come up with ways for readers who prefer ebooks to purchase those ebooks THROUGH your store (an affiliate account perhaps?) after they've browsed the hard copies on your shelves.

I believe Amazon is also offering bookstores a way to sell Kindles and give them a cut of proceeds for every book purchased on that Kindle over the next year.

Self-publishing doesn't have to be the end of independent bookstores. Think proactively and maybe it's just the beginning.

Suzie Quint said...

I've been following these interchanges with Steve closely for several days. I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and believe that he sincerely believes what he's saying. However, I also believe he's got his head buried in the sand, so he doesn't really have to hear what authors are saying. So here's the reality check. Your overhead is too high to do a 50/50 split? Well, guess what. Your overhead is YOUR problem, not mine. And if you think K has something to offer authors important enough to offset the improved financial status we're getting elsewhere, you're failing to communicate it. K and the other traditional publishers show no signs of figuring this out, but if they don't, they'll go the way of the buggy whip manufacturers. That's reality.

Ashley McConnell said...

* I don't know how you're coming up with the fact that the publisher is getting more than you're making. I can't tell you how many contracts we have where the author ends up making far more than we do. The higher the advance the more likelihood this has of happening.*

The only way that you can justify this, to my mind, is if you completely discount the time the author has spent creating the content you're selling. That includes not just the writing, but the research as well. And all during that time, the author is paying her overhead, including rent, utilities, cost of research materials. If you consider the author's time as merely worth the minimum wage, the author has thousands into that manuscript before it is ever submitted.

and

You can't compare your overhead with the publishing companies overhead. We have done deals that are 50/50 with authors in the past however with applying an overhead fee as well.

Nonsense. Businesses spread overhead costs over their income--you cannot compare your business's overhead cost to a single writer's overhead cost. If you have 450 writers, you are trying to make back 1/450th of your overhead in support of each writer, not 100%. While some writers will cost you more in marketing than others, no business tries to amortize marketing costs by sales item--it's an average across the board. Same with rent, utilities, and so on. It's only when you have ONE product--yourself--to sell in a given year that you can apply 100% of your overhead to that item. If a writer produces five books in a year, sure, she can figure 1/5 of overhead to each book (making sure to add in the medical costs of the physical collapse), but that's still not the same as the cost of 450 products.

Susana Ellis said...

The ART DEPARTMENT knows more about cover art than the author? Then why are Regency authors getting covers with pretty dresses from the WRONG ERA? Even the top sellers are getting covers that are totally inappropriate for the stories (even though they fill out cover request forms with all the required information, such as hair and eye color, etc.) and they have almost no power to change anything.

I guess they think the pretty dresses are enough to sell the book. Readers, however, tend to send their complaints to the AUTHORS!

If I hire someone to do my covers, I have 100% control. And while I may not be a professional artist, I have at least read the book!

Steven Zacharius said...

Chris Amazon sells more than just a few titles below cost. They sell the bestsellers below cost when they go on sale when most of the action takes place. Please believe me when I tell you this. I see how they price our books and Tom Clancy for $1.99 and Sycamore Row for $1.99? How many books do you think they sold those few days at that price at an enormous loss where they had to pay the publisher the full price. Yes they leave the price normal on the balance of the list that sells very small numbers in relation to the bestsellers. When B&N has a discount, and sometimes Amazon and others as well….it may be a publisher funded discount but not all the time and not to a ridiculously low price point.

Steven Zacharius said...

Delilah the fact that I've spent three days online shows that I'm open and willing to learn about indie publishing. I even order the book The Naked Truth about Publishing. I'm reading the blogs that people recommended to me from Joe Konrath and Hugh. I've spent the $295.00 to get the full study from Writer's Digest. Please don't think my head is in the sand. I wouldn't have spent this incredible amount of time online. Do you see any other CEO's online here?

Lauren Royal said...

Delilah, thanks for a fantastic discussion!

Steve, thank you so much for participating. I’m excited by the fact that a NY publishing CEO is willing to listen to what indies have to say. Despite the fact that I’ve moved from traditional to indie publishing, I don’t want the traditional publishers to disappear. There should be room for everyone. I would love to see one of the major publishers reinvent themselves by adapting to this new environment, and—as a more nimble, family-run company—I feel Kensington has the best chance. I think it would be fantastic if Kensington or anyone else in NY came up with a revolutionary model that would tempt me to participate. This discussion is a great first step, and I hope you’re learning a lot from it.

I have some more to day, but Blogger won't allow a post as long as I've written, so I'm splitting it into two. More below...

Lauren Royal said...

Continued from above...

Barbara are you selling 3000 books per month at 3.99 for the entire 12 months of the year, or even two months of the year? Or are you giving a hypothetical math calculation. There aren't that many authors who continue to sell 3000 books per month for any period of time. If you are, congratulations to you.

I’m not Barbara, but I felt compelled to respond to this. Steve, I think the WD survey and other traditionally sponsored studies aren’t showing the true indie picture. I don’t know whether that’s on purpose (it’s pretty easy to skew surveys if you’re aiming to “prove” a bias), or whether they simply don’t know where to find actual business-minded indie authors who write commercially viable books. (We don’t read Writer’s Digest, I can assure you.)

I am not a “famous” author, so I’m sure you’ve never heard of me. Not many people have, including many avid readers. Yet in the two years since I got my rights back and began indie publishing, I’ve averaged sales of well over 4000 copies a month, most of which are priced at $4.99. That’s average for 25 months—I started out with fewer sales and am moving ever higher—so yes, I’m “continuing to sell more than 3000 books per month” for more time than you evidently thought possible. And this is with NO new releases yet, because until recently I spent all my time figuring out how to maximize the 10 books I’ve already got. I expect to have my first new indie release this year, nearly 7 years after my final traditional release, and I’m excited to see what will happen then.

With no new books, none of these 100,000-plus sales are from my old fanbase. Those people already had all of my books. The point I’m trying to get at is that my story is not at all unusual. I know a lot of other authors who are doing as well or better—sometimes MUCH better. There is a BIG market out there for genre ebook novels (I write historical romance), and authors like those of us posting here have figured out how to find our readers. Traditional publishing executives need to figure this out, too. I hope you will. :-)

The thing I’m most proud of is hitting the NYT and USA Today lists as an indie author, something Penguin never managed to do for me in all the years I was with them. Yes, I did it with a book temporarily priced at 99 cents, but guess what? I got thousands upon thousands of new readers out of that, many of whom went on to buy my other books at $4.99. Not only that, these days I make nearly as much per 99-cent sale as I did on my $6.99 and $7.99 sales back in the old days—without any of it going to pay off an advance. It all goes straight into my bank account. The “math calculations” you mentioned above are all in my favor.

I’m commissioning my own translations so I can get 70% of those sales, too (so far I have 4 Italian books, all of which are ranked under 1000 on Amazon IT). I’ll be releasing my first audiobook soon. I don’t need a traditional publisher to do these things, so the profits all go to me. My POD sales aren’t great, so like many other indie authors, I’d be thrilled to find a print-only deal—and I wouldn’t expect a big advance. In fact, I’d probably accept no advance in exchange for some marketing promises and a little higher percentage.

If the print-only deal is never to be, oh, well, I guess I’ll happily settle for making six figures a year on ebooks alone, plus who knows how much extra from my new translations and audiobooks (I’m excited to find out). I love this new publishing world, and I hope you and Kensington manage to find a great place in it. Good luck!

Delilah Marvelle said...

Steve,
I'm in the process of pulling together an email to send to you privately, so please don't think I'm still keeping our conversation to public forum. You'll be getting that email by Friday. I wanted to repeat what I did earlier, that yes, it's incredibly amazing and impressive you are coming out and speaking to authors and asking questions and answering questions (that you can legally answer). I'm actually blown away by it. I have been in the business since 1996 and not once has any CEO from the publishing industry taken the time to talk to me. Not once. So I greatly admire that. But because this is the first time a CEO from the publishing industry *is* talking to authors, don't think it's going to be smooth sailing for you, lol. There are a lot of authors who have had their questions unanswered for DECADES with no validated proof outside of 'trust us'. That's a lot to hold back and I'm sure you're seeing that pushback.

I posted my same comment on The Passive Voice and I'll post here so Steve can see it.

I think the bottom line is that traditional publishers have to start thinking about their overhead costs if they DO want to stay competitive (like offering 50/50 to authors). Part of the problem with New York Publishers is that they’ve created outrageous costs for themselves by having expensive leases in the most expensive area in the United States: New York City. Historically, it made a lot of sense. It was the hub of how business was run. Agents crowded around the area where the publishers had their business because it was the best way to tend to business. Now? Everything has gone digital. With the internet and skyping and business not being grounded to snail mail or one area, the idea of paying multi-million dollar leases to maintain their ‘business’ while rationalizing it by taking 92% of an author’s check for print and 75% of an author check for digital is like the Titanic asking for another iceberg. And that’s just one way they’re not financially handling the digital revolution. The publishers have created a serious quandary for themselves by allowing distributors and bookstores to control everything. In what line of business does it make sense to send out a product to a store and when the product doesn’t sell, the store destroys that product (the stripping of print books) and then gets money back because it didn’t do its job of selling the book? Not only is it environmentally disturbing but the bookstores have been getting away with not being responsible for their sales or ordering. Borders comes to mind. If a bookstore can’t sell a book, guess what? They make the publisher (and ultimately the author) pay for it. It’s not a rational, financial or environmental way of running a business anymore. And yet, no one seems to want to make any changes.

Marc Cabot said...

Most authors have a hard time doing one good full length book every six months.

With all due respect, you don't know that.

I'm not calling you a liar: I'm sure you believe it I'm saying that no matter what you think, you have absolutely no idea whether that's true or not.

It may be true for most authors that you know, although since tradpub's response to authors who wanted to published more than one book a year has always been "Slow down there, Flash," they have huge incentive not to talk to you about it and just publish more books under pen names.

But neither you, nor anybody else, has any idea how fast "most" authors can produce books of any given quality. This is an idea much beloved by creative writing professors, who often think that unless a book has been edited in triplicate, sent in, sent back, queried, lost, found, subjected to public enquiry, lost again, and finally buried in soft peat for three months and recycled as firelighters, it can't possibly be any good. It's demonstrably untrue. (E.G., Chuck Wendig, who took five years to write his first big novel... and then thirty days to write the sequel, and forty-five to write the next one. I defy anybody to demonstrate that they can tell the difference in how long they took to write from reading them.)

Jackie Barbosa said...

Adding to Marc's comment regarding the speed at which authors can produce good books, I wonder if Mr. Zacharius is aware that Maya Banks, one of the superstars of the romance genre, published 13 books last year and 9in 2012. Maya's certainly an outlier who produces at a huge rate, but non-compete clauses and two-book-a-year schedules would have prevented her from becoming the superstar she is today. It's the very fact she's so prolific that has made her so successful. And if you look at other superstars in the romance genre, you'll see they are also very prolific, putting out way more than 2 books per year, whether they are traditionally published or self-published.

This notion that Mr. Zacharius has that an author can put out "too many" books in a year and thus kill the ones from his publisher is utter nonsense. Ms. Banks's publishers are managed to put out *13* books from here in 2013 and her first release in 2014still managed to hit #1 on the NYT in its first week on sale. If booksellers aren't willing to order both of Ms. Banks's books if they happen to come out in the same month, that's *their* funeral.

Steven Zacharius said...

Marc how can you even begin to say with a straight face that I don't know how many books an author can write? We publish over 450 books per year and I know how fast our authors can or can't write. I know when authors are late and we have to juggle schedules because they can't get a manuscript in on time. There are absolutely authors who can write faster but the overwhelming majority of our authors write from one to two books per year; and this is based on 20 years of running a publishing company.

Bianca D'Arc said...

I wrote briefly for Kensington and am a hybrid author. In 2009, I was asked to write a zombie series for Kens. I went into the contract negotiation process with zero leverage and an agent I barely knew. In real life, I’m an attorney and I know how negotiations go. I have rarely been involved in something that is, by its nature, so lopsided in favor of one party over the other. I’m not saying there was anything underhanded, I’m just agreeing with Ms. Marvelle’s original post in that the publishers have ALL the power. Only a handful of authors can actually negotiate anything of substance. That’s just the way it is. Not just with Kens, but with all publishers. (I organized a panel on publishing contracts at RT in 2013 which will be reprised at RWA this July.)

For my 5 Kensington books – 3 novels and 2 novellas – I’ve made about $25k since 2009. When I self-publish a paranormal romance, I earn that or more in the 1st month for that one book. Not to mention the bounce my other 35+ books get every time I have a new release.

Am I mad about the disparity? Hell, yeah! Mostly I’m mad at myself for signing a contract that was so lopsided. I know I could have declined, but really, what na├»ve, young writer would? Especially when all you’ve wanted is that shining NY contract, just reeking of success and legitimacy.

The royalty reports are so confusing that I don’t even really know what I make on ebook sales from those five books. I know how I generally sell in ebook. I have hard data from both my self-publishing ventures and eight years of Samhain reporting. I know the correlation between Amazon ranking and general sales by extrapolating from that data. Do I think my Kensington reports are accurate? Uh...

I can't say either way. For one thing, I don’t understand them AT ALL. Keep in mind, I have a doctorate. My undergrad was in chemistry. I know how to use a calculator. I’m dangerous with a spreadsheet. But it’s clear as mud to me and I end up throwing up my hands in the air and sobbing twice a year. (I also have nobody to ask since my agent never was able to explain it adequately and we’ve parted ways, AND my editor at Kensington has left the company. I don’t even know who to contact there.)

I alternate between thinking either: a) my contract was REALLY bad and I get some kind of fraction of a penny for each ebook sale, or b) something is seriously wrong with their reporting system and they’re missing stuff. Otherwise, I have no real explanation for why I make about $600 every six months for FIVE books. That result is SO out of line with all my other books and their earnings that I just can’t fathom it.

One of the previous commenters (Barbara) made an excellent point by saying: "Midlist for self-publishing is a nice five to six-figure income. That's not the top of the heap, the famous overnight millionaires getting all the press, but it's the people who in traditional publishing were midlist...We'd end up orphaned, dropped, or just making less than minimum wage for our work under the traditional model."

To which I say: right on! In fact, I WAS dropped by Kensington. I have no ill will toward them for it. I’ve grown through the tough breaks and I started self-publishing last year, which changed everything. Prior to self-publishing, I was making a very comfortable living (by Long Island standards, where I live). Since self-publishing, I’m making more money than ever. Triple what I made as an Asst VP on Wall St.

Am I a household name? Certainly not. Never really thought I would be since I like to write sub-genres of romance that include sci fi, fantasy and paranormal. I’m selling fewer books than similar-earning traditionally published writers, but taking home way more on each one. I’m a happy mid-lister with a growing fan base.

What happens in the future is anybody’s guess. I’m doing really well... Except for being marginalized by publishing dinosaurs who assume self-published means inferior and poor-earning.

Bianca D'Arc
www.biancadarc.com

Anonymous said...

Hi Delilah,

Thanks for posting this. I just stumbled across this whole thing as a reader, not a writer, and its been a fascinating read.

Just wanted to say that you've come across very well, and after this I'm off to go look at your self-published works.

Zacharius however... has come off rather lacking. I followed over from another forum, and he has repeatedly said he is open to dialogue with his writers about their experiences with his company, and yet he has been very dismissive of every writer who has stepped up. Its a shame, because I was a big Zebra fan, but now I think I'll try to avoid his publishing lines and just see if his authors have self published works instead.

Which yes, is basically what happened with music, as artists started encouraging us (the fans) to buy from them directly and bypass their label.

History repeats I guess.