Saturday, June 25, 2011

Some things aren't what they seem to be; and today's challenge -- 11,215

With the permission of the poster elaine mueller over at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books I'm posting the information regarding the titles and dates of original publication for the books named as the "re-launch" titles for Random House's Loveswept line of romances.

elaine wrote --

regarding the “loveswept” titles listed at—not all were originally Loveswept. 

Remember the Time, by Annette Reynolds—Bantam Fanfare contemporary, June 1997.  no kindle version currently on amazon

Dream Lover, by Adrienne Staff—Bantam Loveswept, June 1994.  no kindle version currently on amazon

The Vow, by Julianna Garnett—Bantam Fanfare historical, February 1998.  no kindle version currently on amazon

This Fierce Splendor, by Iris Johansen—Bantam historical, January 1988.  no kindle version currently on amazon (iirc, this was the first of “The Delaneys” series co-written w/fayrene preston, kay hooper.)

The Baron, by Sally Goldenbaum—Loveswept #233, December 1987.  no kindle version currently on amazon.

Lightning that Lingers, by Tom and Sharon Curtis, aka Laura London—Loveswept #25 (listed for 1991 but has to ‘84 or so originally).  no kindle version currently on amazon.

Tall, Dark,and Lonesome, by Debra Dixon—Loveswept #655, November 1993.  no kindle version currently on amazon.

Legends, by Deborah Smith—Loveswept, March 1990, currently in print trade paperback $15.  no kindle version currently on amazon

As you can see, three of the eight were never Loveswepts to begin with, and one of the Loveswept titles is currently still in print.

There's nothing inherently wrong with this.  Random House is resurrecting the name of the line and publishing various titles under that imprint.  Some of the titles were originally published over 20 years ago, and most haven't been reprinted since the first printing.

Why now?  Why is Random House, which has owned the rights to these books for a very long time, suddenly going digital with them?

I think the answer is very simple -- because they believe they can make a lot of money from them.  Lightning that Lingers is probably the single most remembered title from the entire 900+ Loveswept backlist, and whatever paper copies remain out there are going to start disappearing.  It's still available from the used booksellers and the price isn't outrageous, but Random House isn't making any money on those copies.  And the new generations of readers aren't wedded to the paper-and-ink book any more.  (For whatever it's worth, I read Lightning that Lingers in the late 1980s and wasn't impressed, but then again, I'm one of the few people who was never able to get past about page 5 of The Windflower, the Curtises other iconic romance.)

Here's the thing:  It's incredibly lucrative to publish digitally.  IncrediblyPublishers know this -- they'd better know it, since it's their business to know it -- and they are sitting pretty to take advantage of it.  They have no major additional investment to make, and they can take their pick of the most successful titles in that backlist.

Just how lucrative is it?  Let's look at it from the writer's point of view.

You've written a novel.  If you've written it at any time in the past 10 years (or maybe even the past 25) chances are you have the manuscript on your computer, and chances are the file is -- or can be easily converted into -- an MS Word document.  You've schlepped this manuscript to a couple of RWA conferences, submitted it to half a dozen publishers and a dozen agents.  Their polite rejection letters tell you it's good but not quite right for their line or they're swamped with books just like yours or the market is really tight and they wish you luck placing it elsewhere.  You've entered it in some contests and gotten good feedback from the judges and maybe even reached the finals, but no prizes.  Leaving out the cost of your computer and software, you probably have $2,500 hard cash invested in this manuscript: contest fees, postage, conference registration, hotel and airfare.  Maybe less, maybe more, but still a good chunk o' change.

In a matter of a few hours, and for no further cash investment, you can convert your MS Word manuscript file to html and have it ready for uploading to Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing program. 

With an inexpensive photo manipulation software package -- ArcSoft PhotoImpression is about $40 -- and a collection of free fonts and a stock photo, you can manufacture a digital cover for about $100.

I created this one in about 10 minutes.  The book title, description, and author's name are made up; the photo is available at for less than $20.



When you've finished all that to your satisfaction, you can upload the file to Amazon, slap a price on it, and wait for the money to come rolling in.  And yes, I'm being slightly facetious.  But only slightly.

Here's how it works:

If you price your book between $.99 and $2.98 on Amazon, you are eligible for a 35% royalty on every book paid for and downloaded via Amazon's Kindle, regardless whether that download is to a Kindle device or an iPhone app or Kindle for PC.  A writer with no previous publication credentials might want to keep the price down to attract customers.  A lot of people will pay 99 cents for a book by an unknown and even if they don't like it after they've read it, they're not likely to worry about getting their 99 cents back.

You will not get the full 35 cents on these sales, however, because Amazon does charge a download fee, which is based on the size of the file; the download fee is $.15/MB.  So let's say your file is 400kb, which includes the cover art; for each download, Amazon will deduct 6 cents from the sales price, leaving you with 35% of 93 cents, or a royalty of 33 cents per copy.

If you had sold that manuscript to a royalty publisher, your royalty rate might be 8% or even 10%, less reserves against returns.  You might get a small advance -- $3,000 maybe, or maybe less or maybe none -- and you probably won't see all of that until the book is actually published, which may be 12 to 18 months out in the future.  Royalties will come dribbling in a year or so after that, if there are any.  At a cover price of $6.99 your per book royalty is 56 cents, unless the publisher discounts for book club or other sales, which could lower your royalty considerably.

If your publisher offers a digital version of your book, your royalty rate may be considerably higher, as high as 25%, but that is usually based on the publisher's net, which in turn is generally 50% of the retail list.  So on that $6.99 Kindle download of your book, you will receive a net royalty of 12.5%.

You may have some input on the cover art, or you may not.  You may have some control over the editing, or you may not.  If the digital version appears with major formatting problems, you will have to go through your publisher to get them fixed, and there's no telling how long that will take.

But they are paying you some cash up front -- maybe -- and doing all the work of digitizing and getting cover art and so on. 

You will be able to monitor your sales of the book you put on Amazon Kindle by yourself, which you will not be able to do through a publisher.  If you notice that your sales are good and you're receiving favorable reviews, you can, if you choose, raise the price of the book.  If you now sell it at $1.99, your royalty per book jumps to $.67.  You are making more per digital copy sold than if you had sold to a "real" publisher.

You will have some promotion costs regardless which way you publish.  You'll want to have a blog (fancier than this one) and a website, as well as a Facebook page and a Twitter account.  If these promotional activities directly affect your sales, you will probably not know through your print publisher.  You will not be able to announce promotional discounts or coupons.  You will be stuck with their $6.99 price for a digital copy of your book that readers could be reading for $1.99 and from which you would make a higher royalty.

Suppose your book begins to sell really well, and suppose you have another book ready to publish.  You could go the same route with your second book, publishing it to Amazon's Kindle and selling it for $.99 while at the same time raising the price of your first book to $2.99.

When you raise the price to $2.99, it's eligible for 70% royalties.  Yes, gentle writer, seventy percent.

If you sell 10,000 copies of your print-published book, you will earn $5,600, or less, depending on discounts, and you will receive that money in payments spread out over at least a year, and maybe two or more.

If you sell 10,000 digital copies through your print publisher at $6.99, you will earn $8737.

If you sell 1,000 copies at $.99, 3,000 at 1.99, and 3,000 (that's a total of only 7,000) at 2.99 on Amazon Kindle, you will have earned $8,310.  If you sell 6,000 at 2.99, you will have earned $14,310.  You will have made roughly the same amount of money from those 10,000 digital copies as you would from a combination of 10,000 print and 10,000 digital from the publisher.

You will also have complete control over the appearance of your work (within the limits of the Kindle software, of course) and you will retain all subsidiary rights to your work.  You control the pricing, and you have direct feedback from your readers (which may or may not always be a good thing).

Is it any wonder the publishers don't want you to do that?

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