Friday, December 10, 2004

$Money Facts$: Ebooks & NY Print Publication

Writing is an Art.
Publishing is a BUSINESS.
"70% of book fair visitors are ready to buy electronic books if they can run them on any computer. 67% are ready to read them. 62% would borrow them from a library."
-- Open E-Book Forum as reported in Booktech the Magazine, January/February 2003

Forewarned is Fore-Armed.

"eBook sales increased 1,442% in January 2003 over January 2002."
--Publishers Weekly, March 24, 2003.

You CAN make a living, or a least a decent income writing erotic fiction for the EBook Market if you are prepared to write what the paying market is looking for. Just for the record, I am currently living without a day job, or any other second income, paying my bills on my royalties - from my Erotic Romance ebook sales. Since erotic romance is hot in the e-book market, and pays pretty darn regularly, that's what I write.

$ Money Facts $:

I write and publish erotic ebooks because I simply do not have the patience to wait a year or two for money from NY. I need the cash now. An Erotic Romance can be written, contracted and earning money in two months time or less. Sure there is no advance, and the number of per-book sales are generally lower, but the money is faster and they pay Monthly - rather than every 6 months.

The Truth about Advances

"Many advances are between $1,500 and $7,500."
--Publishing for Profit by Tom Woll, page 109.

The average NY author makes between $2000.00 and $10,000.00 in an advance. (This is STILL TRUE in 2014!) In addition, you DON’T get the advance in one lump sum. You get part when you sign the contract, part when you turn in the manuscript and the rest when it finally goes on the shelf – and that can be one to two Years after the manuscript was turned in!

The Truth about Royalties 

"70% of the books published do not earn out their advance - do not make a profit."
--Jerrold Jenkins, 15 May 99.

Royalty checks from a NY print publisher come every 6 months AFTER you pay back your advance -- IF you make enough sales to cover your advance PLUS the cost of the books that are Returned.

Royalties average between 8% and 5% of their NET earnings -- NOT off the cover, and no one tells you that it’s 8% or 5% AFTER everyone else has taken their bite out of it First.

An ebook author gets anywhere between 25% and 35% off the COVER they sell, and they get their first check the month following their release.

The Ugly Truth about DISTRIBUTION

Ingram’s, the #1 book distributor, demands 60% of the net sales per book and Ingram’s gets their 60% FIRST. Ingram's sends the publisher the 40% left, and the author gets 8% of that:  that's 8% of 40%. The author cannot fight this, it's in the contract -- every contract.

Ingram’s is the primary distributor for Barns & Nobles, and Waldenbooks. In fact, every major bookstore you can think of. Every major book publisher in NY kowtows to them because NY simply doesn’t have a choice.

NY’s only saving grace is the sheer numbers of books they distribute, but the shelf-life of a NY paperback is measured in Weeks.

The Brutal Truth about Shelf-life

"A book must move in the stores in six weeks."
--Brian DeFiore, Maui Writers Conference.

The average shelf-life of a mainstream print book is 6 weeks. After 6 weeks, books are cover-torn and returned to the publisher as a loss.

You have 6 weeks to sell every copy NY produces to make your advance. If you don't, your chances of reprinting, (staying on the shelf and under the public eye,) goes down. So does your chance of selling to that publisher again.

If a NEW author is Not an “instant hit” the Author is written off as a loss – and we all know how Big Business deals with Losses.

The average shelf-life for an ebook is as long as that publisher remains in business. Ebooks do not go off the shelf. As long as you continue to promote your book, you will continue to sell.

I am NOT anti- NY!

I write for BOTH markets. Kensington Books contracted me for two books on a single book proposal -- signed, sealed, and the first third of the advance already delivered, (after a 4 month wait.)

However, I am doing business in the NY publishing market with my eyes open. I knew what to expect and that's just the way it goes. The NY publishers will not get a panicked phone call from me that begins with: "But I thought...!"

By the way, I wrote and released an e-novel, and an e-novella, in that four month period, so I could AFFORD to wait on NY.

So, do Advances Compare
to eBook Royalties? 
They don't. Not even close.

Thirty days after I released my e-novella, and e-novel, I made MORE in that one month ebook royalty check than what I received in the (1/3) advance check from NY. AN advance that took four months to get to me. (A lot more.) If you want to add up what I made in ebooks during that four month waiting period verses what NY sent me...? Um, lets just say, I didn't have any problems paying ALL my bills while waiting on NY.

Do I have an Agent? 

Yes, I did, but I did NOT go looking for her, she contacted me. I didn't even have a manuscript ready for her because I was not expecting an agent to contact me. (I do not have an agent anymore -- for Stress reasons.)

If I wasn't looking for an agent, how did I get one?

She read my Ebooks and asked to represent me. Word on the internet is: Agents and Publishers are Reading EBOOKS Looking for Potential Authors. Apparently the fastest way to get an agent, these days, is be e-published and SUCCESSFUL. Most of the top names in ebooks have agents, but to name just a small handful:
  • Angela Knight
  • Mary Janice Davidson
  • Lora Leigh
  • Kate Douglas
  • Shiloh Walker
  • Morgan Hawke

If I make it big will I stop writing trashy E-Romances? 

HELL NO! I fully intend to continue publishing erotic ebooks. At this point in time, the Erotic Romance ebook market is the only one that publishes this fast and pays monthly. I will NOT be able to pay my bills writing strictly for NY. By writing for the ebook market I have the time and comfort to devote to books headed for NY in between writing trashy romances. (And the constant practice doesn't hurt.)

Not everyone is comfortable writing
Erotic Romance!

To many people, fiction is an outlet and/or an ART. To me it's a way to pay the bills. Either you like writing erotic romance or you don't. It's not a Bad thing - it's just a thing.

I'm lucky in that I happen to be very comfortable writing a wide range of erotic genres, but not everyone is. If you don't feel comfortable writing steamy romance for the ebook market, or anywhere else, DON'T!

You should NEVER try to write something you don't enjoy simply for the cash because it shows in your writing and that WILL affect your sales!

57% of new books are not read to completion. Most readers do not get past page 18 in a book they have purchased.
--Jerrold Jenkins.

The reader can always tell if the author has written something they feel is distasteful. It's simply a matter of personal choice.

For those of you interested in writing for Money...

You have to know the truth and be prepared for it. Hope will not get you published or make sales. Ruthless planning will. I do exhaustive research on what is currently selling in BOTH MARKETS before I write a single word.

Morgan Hawke

More on: Print & E-Print?
by Amy O'Conner

More on: How much an Author actually makes?
Go To:
Advances & Royalties
: How Authors are Paid
by Rebecca Brandewyne
(Yes - THAT Ms. Brandewyne)


  1. Thanks for this post! I'm an erotica writer too, (pubbed in short story anthologies) that is just starting to try breaking into the ebook market. I loved the information on here, and agree with it whole heartedly.


  2. Morgan,

    This is a fabulous post. Very eye opening. Thanks for all the indeapth information.

  3. Is this information still current? (In terms of reliability?)

    Which e-book format should I chose? Locked or unlocked?

    I can relate to what the publishing industry wants and doesn't.

    But I also know the REALITY of traditional publishing, and it simply is not a viable solution anymore for some writers (like myself).

  4. This was a great article and very helpful in my deciding not to wait to get a NY contract.

  5. Hello Ms. Hawke. I am very interested in writing Erotic Fiction and I found a wealth of great information on your site, but I am very overwhelmed! Where do I begin? I so enjoy reading romance and erotic fiction and I want to write it myself, but where do I start? It just seems like so much to wrap my brain around. Could you point me in the right direction?

  6. Thanks for this post. Actually, thanks for your whole blog! The links are really useful. I'm new to writing erotica (about to have my first ebook published) and it's good to know that with persistance and hard work you can actually make money doing this.