I was talking to my brother about the joys and otherwise of writing, over the weekend, and he asked a very interesting question.
"If so many traditionally published writers earn peanuts, why spend all those hours and suffer all that angst trying to land an agent and /or a publisher, why not just do it yourself?"
I came up with all kinds of objections - marketing/support/editing/etc etc - to which he said, 'Yeah fair enough but what if you can't get a publisher and you think your book is good enough - what then?'
That got me thinking and doing some research - a traditionally published writer who recently had a moderately successful book - sold circa 50,000 copies, mixture of ebooks and paperbacks - only netted enough for a family holiday in Ibiza - about £4500.
I'm sure this is no surprise to the seasoned authors on here, the average earnings for a UK author seems to be somewhere around £3k so the question is why?
The author is last in line:
Publishers have fixed costs to pay - offices/staff/tax/publicity/marketing/promotion etc. Then any retailer takes their cut and leaves the author last in line and many publishing contracts according to the society of authors earn about 10%- 15% of a books sale price (sometimes less for a new author where the upfront costs are higher.)
So if a book sells in Waterstones for £5.99 the author will get between 0.59p and 0.89p. If you sell a million copies then great £900k in the bank, (probably more as most contracts have clauses in them that increase the % as sales rise.) Selling 50k copies should therefore net you about £40k but most books don't sell in Waterstones for £5.99 most neewbie author's books never make it to the shelves of major book stores, most are discounted and sold electronically for anywhere between ) 0.99 and £1.49 - so selling 50k copies at 0.99 will get you to about £4900, sometimes less.
So, should you hang out for a traditional publisher or DIY?
In terms of making money - it is probably easier to make some money self-publishing BUT it boils down to the product I guess. If your book is the most wonderful thing ever written then you're much better with a big name - if it's not then maybe you should do it yourself just make sure it's the best it can be.
I'm working on a series of books that traditional publishers probably wouldn't want - I'll try - but in my head they're good enough to be out there so I'll probably self publish though I haven't the first idea how to do that yet, but I'll find out.
If you are dead set on seeing your name on a book cover published by Harper Collins then great - go the traditional route, either way most of us on here are not in it for the money - just as well!!