A number of authors, including JA Konrath and Hugh Howey, made international headlines this week with their open discussions of what is wrong with ebook pricing and sales data. The lack of open access to the information, guarded like a state a secret by the online retailers, presumably don’t help authors know which publishing decisions are right for them. Without accurate data, a legacy publishing house or a self-publishing path may be right or wrong for any given book.
Now, another author has stepped up and released a detailed explanation of her experience with traditional publishing deals. Having to still rely on educated speculation regarding sales figures, author HM Ward surmised that the top selling titles on Kindle at any given time are probably selling between 5,000 and 10,000 titles each day. According to her average of 7,000 titles at the fairly standard pricing of $2.99, Ward indicates that a bestselling author would net about $100,000 per week of top sales, making a traditional book deal a fairly poor financial choice.
Of course, as Howey’s explanation points out, not every author will by a top grossing writer like he and Ward. This is the reason that authors need access to accurate sales data from across the industry, not just their own title sales. Without this type of information, it becomes impossible to determine which course is better by genre, reader demographic, and more.
Ward takes it a step farther, explaining that transparency around sales data isn’t enough. Authors need to know highly detailed budgets and plans for marketing of any given book before agreeing to sign a contract, a fact that she stood her ground on despite the high-pressure sales pitches and ominous threats to her career that she experienced from some Big Five publishers. Without having clear information on how the publishing house intended to promote her book, Ward opted for the self-publishing and higher royalty route, a choice that has made her an incredibly high ranking author despite having turned down over $1.5 million in advances in the past year alone.
Unfortunately, the withholding of information is at best a tired out model from an industry that steadfastly refuses to adapt to the changing industry, and at worst an intentional effort to keep authors ill-informed about their own careers. Whatever the root cause of the issue, authors like Ward and Howey are making it more possible for authors to make sound decisions based on data, not whims.