That’s right, Mr. Eisler was offered a whopping half million dollar advance for his book from a mainstream publisher, and he said no. For all of us struggling writers out here in the real world the thought seems completely insane. Getting an offer from a mainstream publisher is a huge accomplishment – it means that all of our hard work has finally been acknowledged and someone believes in it.
However for Mr. Eisler it is a different story. He’s been in the business for a long time and has had his share of success. He understands the truth about advances and royalties. He has established a name for himself. By self publishing and epublishing he gets to pocket a larger percentage of the royalties, a whopping 70% compared to the puny 14.9%.
Here’s the math:
By self pubbing Eisler will have to sell 714,285 units at $1 to make $500,000. There is no advance to work towards here, the money keeps rolling in with each unit sold.
By accepting the $500,000 advance Eisler will have to sell a crazy 3.3 million units at $1 before he even catches sight of a royalty check and then he will only get 14.9% of each unit sold after that.
Eisler is making a gamble, knowing his fan base and history with his other books he believes that he will sell enough on his own to compensate for not accepting a half million dollar advance. In the long run getting the higher percentage will serve him better than what the publisher has to offer.
For the rest of us fiction writers who have yet to make a name for ourselves in the publishing world using the traditional route does have more advantages than disadvantages. Contracting with a publisher means that they will provide services like editing, creating a cover, finding reviews, and distributing the book to the national market. It is in their best interest to sell as many copies as they can to make a profit.
There are those stories of début authors hitting it big with e-pubbing, offering their books for low prices through Amazon and other services. They had to find their own editor, design the cover, and create their own marketing plan. Some would argue that doing this they have more control over all the aspects of their book, which is true. At the same time, most writers aren’t great at marketing strategy and would rather spend their free time writing. For every success story there are thousands if not more e-pubbed books that never sell more than a handful of copies.
The bottom-line? Each writer must weigh the odds for themselves. A traditional publisher will release a book on the market when there is a natural peak in interest for that genre. This means an author might have to wait months before it is released, but more books will sell. With e-pubbing it is a matter of how fast you can fill out the form, assuming that the other work, editing, etc, has been done. Release your book when the market is interested in something else and it may never see the light of day. Traditional publishing will give you an advance that you get to keep regardless of how your book does on the market. With e-pubbing you only earn on what you sell, period. To get a mainstream traditional publisher you must first get an agent which is a long and involved process. That agent will fight for you and also help make your book the best it can be. With e-pubbing you are on your own.
- Barry Eisler’s website
- Best Selling Author Turns Down Half Million Dollar Publishing Contract to Self Publish (TechDirt)
- Best-Selling Author Refuses $500k; Self-Publishes Instead (news.slashdot.org)
- Barry Eisler turns down $500,000 advance to self-publish, as Amanda Hocking negotiates with major publishers (teleread.com)
- A Tale of Two Authors (booksquare.com)