$ Fact or Fiction

Today, I want to introduce you all to a fellow author, Sheryl Hoyt (aka Saralynn Hoyt). Sheryl writes historical and contemporary romance and has recently been featured in Time Magazine! How cool is that?

She’s going to talk a bit about the money side of Indie publishing and how it differs from being enslaved traditionally published. Take it away, Sheryl!


Thanks, Shannon! Recently, I was featured in an article in the 12/10/12 issue of Time Magazine, entitled “The 99¢ Best Seller” where journalist Andrew Rice wrote about my self-publishing journey.

In the article, Andrew talks a lot about the money side of the Indie publishing equation. What he didn’t talk about was how it differs from traditional publishing, but I think it bears mentioning.

Sure traditional publishing has its perks; like the editors and cover art are free and you can feel pretty confident that your mass media book will show up on some bookstore shelves or maybe even at Wal-Mart or the grocery store.

So how much can you expect to pocket while the publisher takes on these costs? The authors I know who have shared this information with me say for a first time romance author, it’s usually under $3000 for their first book, if they get an advance at all. Lately, it’s common practice to not get an advance, but receive a higher percentage of sales. If you do get the $1500-$3000 advance, you might expect a 6-8% cut of sales as your royalty. For an established author, who can count on their books being on bookshelves for a long time, this works out to some residual income. For new authors, whose books have a very short shelf life, sometimes only a few weeks to a few months, they may never advance out (sell enough books to pay off the advance).

My good friend and critique partner Deborah Schneider, sold her first book in 2001, and with stars in her eyes she dreamt of future sales with the same publisher.  That dream never materialized. Instead Deb spent her whole advance on her own promotion, because although the publisher did pay for the edits and cover art, they did not do any promotion for this new author. To make matters worse, Deb never saw a royalty payment. It took her nearly ten years to sell another book— no more stars in her eyes. This is a tough business for authors to make a profit in until Indie publishing and Ereaders came along.

The difference being, your book is on sale forever now, or as long as you want it to be. You know exactly how many books you sell every day. Traditional publishers make sure that you never find out exactly how many books you’ve sold, so you will probably never know if your royalty statement is right. Another key difference is as an Indie published author, you make between 35-70% of your sales price. Which means on an $8 dollar book (the lowest standard price for a paperback) a traditionally published author earns 8% or .64¢ per book sale. But an Indie author can sell their book for $3.99 (half the price of a paperback) and earn between $1.40 to $2.80 a copy. Not too difficult to figure out which one is more beneficial to the author.

Sure there are NY Times bestselling authors making huge multi-million dollar advances and being treated like kings and queens by their publishers. But for every one of those there are thousands who are not. It’s no different from any other entertainment professional. You have your ‘A’ list authors, musicians and actors. Then there are the rest of us, the extras and the wannabes. The difference being that writing books takes time—a lot of time—and readers read faster than writers can write. In order to feed those readers appetites, they need to have more choices. And the gatekeepers—the publishing houses—have unfortunately, tried to monitor this production by only being interested in the next JK Rowling, the next Hunger Games, the next—fill in blank of the latest hottest book. This creates a vacuum whereby the reader is simply reading a different version of the same books over and over.

I say let the reader decide what is a good book and a good read. Maybe they want something different? Like my historical romances that aren’t regencies? Dangerous Heart is set in 1838 Philadelphia, Heaven Made is an Edwardian paranormal and The Scoundrel and the Saint a twist on a western. I say it shouldn’t be up to a few underpaid assistant editors to find and publish a handful of books that may or may not keep the readers buying.

I say, “Amen, sister!” Let the readers be the gatekeepers. What do you think?

Follow Sheryl on Facebook & Twitter!

10 thoughts on “$ Fact or Fiction

  1. Karen McFarland

    I say amen sister! Thank you Sara Lynn Hoyt! I did have the opportunity to read about you in “Time.” It was a very nice article. And I also was introduced to you through Christine MacKenzie’s blog. I’m so glad that Indy is working for you. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us. It’s encouraging!

    Shannon, I do hope you are feeling better soon girl! Cause we miss you! 🙂

      1. Shannon Esposito Post author

        Always a great treat to have successful writers share their experiences here, Sheryl. Thanks for coming and congrats on rockin’ the indie publishing gig!

  2. Angela Orlowski-Peart

    Hi Sheryl (*waives*)! And I would also add that in today’s market both, indies and traditionally published authors need to do their own marketing, unless they are huge names, backed by the publishing houses. If an author needs to put the same amount of time and effort in his/her own marketing, then self-publishing, which brings more profit from each sold book, makes more sense.

  3. Rhonda Hopkins

    Sorry, I’m late to the party. This was a great post. The income difference as well as the other reasons you mentioned were exactly why I decided to skip submitting to traditonal publishers and go the indie route. I researched for many months and decided this was my best option. I know it’s not for everyone, but it’s definitely my choice for now.


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