Some real numbers comparing the same book and series self-published vs. traditionally published – Spoiler: first month revenue is already 10% of 10 years of trad – & other thoughts on trad vs. indie.
Good morning, everyone! This is Jeffe Kennedy author of epic fantasy romance I’m here with my first cup of coffee. Delicious.
Ah, so good. How are you all today is Monday August date 16 22 I don’t know why it seems like there’s so many good dates lately. Bumping the table here. So um, we are New Week New week hopefully a productive week I need a productive week. Um I’m still on track with shadow wizard I’m losing a little bit of my buffer. I did not have um, a rocking writing day on Friday for no good reason I am happy to report that. However I am caught up on royalty crunching who I’ve caught up two months ‘ worth. Always interesting. Um, just to have a break from the royalties and come back and sort of see what the sales are like and one thing that’s very interesting. Sorry if I’m using that word way too many times. Um, you can’t adjust hold on a moment. My chair is could be apart. Ah, you know it’s like one of those selfassemble patio chair things and so it has the. It’s probably gonna be too hard to explain but you know like the caps that you screw on to the ends that hold it in place and one of the caps came off and I had it sitting here on the table but very lazily had not put it back on ah because it was one of those you know like two step projects where it required me to go inside the house. To get a screwdriver to come back out and screw it on and somehow I just never would not take that freaking long but somehow I never made that complete circuit and no I’m not sure where the piece has gone hopefully some. Critter didn’t carry it off but now it’s um, bending enough that it’s like pulling entirely out of the socket without the cap thingy to hold it on so the ah problem’s becoming more pointed but. We already spent way too much podcast time on that. Ah, ah so interesting. So interesting fascinating I think that’s why they came up with fascinating for Spock because interesting just got too boring. Um.
On my covenant of thorns books this is a great example of traditional publishing versus self-publishing. You know what? and I’m even Goingnna oh I’m not going bring up the exact numbers. But. So I started releasing rereleasing Covenant of Thorn’s series Rogue’s Pawn being book one in July and then Rogue’s Possession came out later july and then third book Rogue’s Paradise is coming out in August and. For all three books considering this is a series that’s 10 years old fabulous covers beautiful covers um but old books I shared a um review on the podcast on friday. Was a very interesting review I shared it with Grace and she’s like wow that’s a great review and I was like well it’s sort of ah a mixed review but I would much rather have a review that notices. Um and notes how I’ve grown as a writer and for me going back and reading those first books. Is a little bit cringy. It’s a good reminder for me. Um, when I read new authors first books that I should probably like read one of their later books too because um, ah I mean thank goodness I’ve gotten so much better. But wow you know and people told me then that it was overwritten and I didn’t think it was ah but ah the hubris of youth and newbiness right? Ah yeah, ah. In one contest. Someone told me that it was um, overwritten like Anne Rice is overwritten and I took that as a compliment. Um I think I’m way worse than Anne Rice ah but um anyway these books are being well received but they’re not burning up the charts I mean they’re not like hugely high rankings I’ve got more preorders for book 3 than I have for books 1 or 2 I like twice as many which is really nice. So that means that the people that are reading it and loving it. Are wanting to read that third book. That’s awesome. Um, but you know it’s like it’s still double digits I mean I don’t even have preorders in the triple digits which is fine. You know it’s like that’s kind of what I expect for rereleasing an old series like this right? so.
Even with fairly low but climbing preorder numbers I’m trying to walk the line here I I don’t want you to Um, oh what am I trying to say I’m trying to set the correct expectation here because I figured. If I was lucky if things went well that I could recoup my investment in putting a new cover and reformatting the book putting it up for sale. Ah in the first month and I’m going to do that easily more. For the first two books and with pre-orders alone for the third book each of those books has already I mean you’ll just like in numbers I don’t have the money yet, but they’ve already earned 10 to 12% of the lifetime sales. Of the books that did that they earned through Carina press. Okay, so let me rephrase that just in case I put that in a confusing way because I track all the sales of all my books. So in all the time 10 years that those books were with Carina Press and Carina paid me quarterly royalties on those books. So I know how much each book has earned over its lifetime via Carina in the time that I have had these up self-published a month for the first book. A month the two days they’ve already earned 10 to 12% of those lifetime sales one month versus ten years right? So when we talk about self- publishishing. And the money that you can earn in self-p publishing. There is a concrete example now why didn’t these books earn more money through Carina press. There’s a couple of factors and if you all already self publish or if you are um, you know, follow. Self-pubbers then you know this information but I’m going to share it here anyway because it does bear repeating part of it is the percentage. Um from Carina press even though they gave me a very generous I think 45% something like that of the. Net so that means of the money that they get after the wholesale price and all of that they gave me 45% of that price. So and actually.
Okay, so I went ahead and opened the spreadsheet just so I could give you some actual numbers because I calculate approximately how much I earn per book. Um, well this is going to be a little bit deceptive. However, okay, well let me give you the the numbers. From through Carina Press which is harlequin which is under harper collins. We’re looking at big consolidation of presses. So it’s worth it looking at that tiering. Ah penguin already emerged with random house. Now Simon Shuster is looking to acquire penguin random house. So anyway before and you know under them. My books were earning I would get ¢71 to a dollar for per per book. Now I have to do some quick baths self publishing I’m getting $3 per book. Um, so easily 3 times I’m making per book so that adds up fast. The other piece of it is. Marketing. Um, and we were having this conversation over the weekend. Ah Minerva Spencer and Katie Lane are their writing names came to brunch at my house on Saturday and we. Set out in the grape arbor and talked business. It was lovely and the demystifying thing is is because we have all published traditionally and self published. And it can just be mystifying what the traditional publishers are doing I do pretty basic marketing on that Covenant of Thorns series and it’s like a 1,000 times more than Carina press did on them especially 10 years later um we were gossiping about one friend of ours who’s who had a bestselling book Usa today but still bestselling book did enormously well but it came out a long time ago now. Um, somebody was saying 3 years but I think it’s longer than 3 years because 3 years was beginning of pandemic that amazing. Um, well it was like leading up into ah it’s on my mind because like Minerva Spencer I had not seen her since September of 2019 so it was nearly three years since I had last seen her in the flesh.
And it’s funny to think that um you know three years ago August of 2019 I was at world con in Dublin and we traveled around Ireland just seems ages ago. So um, anyway I think this this gal’s book came out. Probably five or six years ago yeah could be even six or 7 definitely pre 2017 so that gives us a ah range anyway. But she gets very upset that her traditional publisher is not. Pouring more publicity that they’re publicizing other books newer books and not hers which ah you know sometimes that happens that way. Oh. Mosquito so it’s this is what traditional and publishers do. They’re always about the new shiny. They don’t care about the older books. Um.
And and it’s to the detriment of the author because I mean you know like this girl’s perfectly right to be upset that they’re not publicizing this book. Especially I mean everybody could be making money on this but they just don’t they also. Just don’t seem to know how to position books which is bizarre and they fully believe that they do know I mean they’re just certain that they are in the right? So it’s this very interesting thing. Um that there are what, one of the gals I don’t remember who they might have both said it is like well why are people still going with traditional publishers and I still think there are good reasons to publish traditionally. But as far as making a living and getting your books out there. Ah. And makes all the difference and and what’s funny is that the traditional publishers and we all know this because we have editors and agents saying this to us as they’ll say well you know you just can’t make real money self-p publishishing and they always want to go back to the Statistic. You know that most self-p publishers. Only ever sell a hundred copies a year and and it’s like yeah, but then you have to look at the the other end of the spectrum that you know you’re not looking at the person who decide to you know, write their memoir and. Printed it out for their kids and grandkids. Um, besides which we don’t have to sell as many copies to make really good money as evidenced by this statistic I’m just fascinated by that it has made this big of a difference because I thought well. You know should I even republish. These am my sinking good money into this for no reason it’s going to be great. It’s going to be awesome. I was also counting up like how many books I sold at Apollycon because in the world of the convention. You know, ah it was just like sale sale sale I sold a lot of copies of Rogues Pawn I didn’t realize how many but that was the right crowd for that book I did not sell as many copies of dark wizard as I thought I would I do have a mosquito candle out here now to fend off the mosquitoes. Ah, see if that works I’d scooted it closer because there’s a couple of mosquitoes hovering hovering hungrily. So um.
You know it’s just really interesting what you sell in different venues and I think this is one of the things that self-publishers are able to do is that I can go and I can see which of my books sell on site and what I can say to readers that elicits their attention. I think it’s really super cool that I sold so many copies of the print version of rogue spawn um, for $10 right? Ah, but they love that it was a face story. So um. My point and I do have one. You know that there are people in traditional publishing who make a huge amount of money but there are lots who don’t and even the ones who are making a decent living the dreaded midlist right? which has become kind of a curse. But. There was a statistic that came out the other day that said that um I don’t know if they put a percentage on it but it was most and and I believe that it is most traditionally published authors are making $25000 a year or less which is. Below poverty level in the us and I I don’t know if that’s before or after taxes. But it’s still It’s not much money. Actually I think it was $20000 a year because the person who retweeted it into my timeline said that they were. Doing relatively well compared to many of their compatriots and they’re making $25000 a year. Um, which is still not enough to live on and traditional publishing persists in this idea that um. You know that we should be grateful for the money we are making I think ah one of my friends has been kind of struggling because ah, her traditional sales have fallen off. Um, we think we know why I think I know why actually I gave her. Um. A really good insight and I’ve seen this happen to a number of my friends that’s bragging isn’t it I thought it was great insight. She agreed. Okay, so in in two cases I’m thinking of specifically and I could probably think of a lot more There was an author who was selling incredibly well in a particular thing and their publisher changed the branding of it in 1 case, an author was told no no, we don’t want more of these of this subgenre. We want you to write this other subgenre.
And the books just didn’t do as well and the publisher is like huh I wonder what happened? Well you went off of the main readership and this other friend of mine who has done fabulously well in. Traditional publishing to the point where she didn’t really want to self-p publishlish because she’s like I’m making better money and trap and it’s like well wherever you’re making better money and go for it but now ah her most recent series. The sales are really tanked and I realized how they changed from her main branding that these books don’t. Look or feel or have the same wording as the ones where her main platform is and and it’s a departure and and once I pointed this out to her. She’s like you know what? I’m going to put these words in my next title and I’m going to see what’s what happens and it’s like great. We can do this as self publishers meanwhile in traditional publishing land. Her editor actually said to her that it’s because she’s self-publishing that she’s diluting her sales and that’s and it’s her fault and this is what they do in traditional publishing is they tell the author that it’s their fault and because it can’t possibly be theirs. And it’s nonsense. It’s I I was telling this story to Minerva and Katie this weekend and both of them immediately said that’s bullshit because we all know that readers read much faster than we can write and they they want more books. They don’t. Get tight. They don’t say oh ho ha another j– oops sorry another Jeffe Kennedy ah slight slip there wonder if I could fudge it out I bet I didn’t say as much as I thought I did we’ll see. Ah, but yeah, another Jeffe Kennedy Blah you know it’s maybe there are some who say that but the passionate readers they want more and this idea that um, which tread really holds onto that you know that they feel that it should be 1 book a year and I even had that. Um, on my last traditional publishing excursion. You know when we were talking about the frequency of the books and they said well our market research shows that the books do best if we release some nine months apart I kind of wanted to say well, what market research is that. Because it’s sure not how it looks from our perspective. The other interesting thing about self-publishing and this is a conversation that Minerva Katie and I were having was how we know what it takes to make a good cover. We know exactly how expensive a cover is.
We know about layers and putting them together. You have to learn I mean it’s just like at first you don’t know and you gradually learn so when a traditional publisher comes to us and this has happened to all of us. And says look at this beautiful expensive cover and we’re like that’s clip art and this part doesn’t look right? Can you fix this and they’re like oh no, it would take so much to fix that we’re like no, no, no, all you do is go in and tweak that layer. Um and they still want to act like we don’t know this that they can still blow sunshine. Ah. So this has turned somewhat into an indictment of tread which I don’t mean it to be because um I there are a lot of things I love about traditional publishing. Um and I will still try to publish traditionally but there. I feel like we’ve been saying for more than a decade now that traditional publishing is going to have to change what they’re doing and they are somehow mysteriously still not doing it. Um, but yeah, just being able to. To make a living as a writer. There are not many people who can do that without also self- publishing or without having a sidegig. So um I do think and we were all agreeing is in our conversation Saturday that. It was huge for all 3 of us that we had already traditionally published and had that readership they’re they’re good at establishing that readership and so it made self publishing much easier. It’s it’s harder when you’re coming right out of the gate as a self-p publisher. Unfortunately, that’s just how it is. So on that note I’ve chattered on long I hope you all have a wonderful Monday and a wonderful week and I will talk to you all tomorrow you all take care bye bye.