Saturday, May 28, 2005

My Numbers

So no one thinks I'm exempting myself from this project, here's one of my statements that came in today (warning, potentially offensive real financial disclosure follows):

Blade Dancer
Author Name/Publisher: S.L. Viehl, Roc
Mass Market Paperback, U.S., $6.99 cover price
Distribution: National
Publication Date: 07/01/04
Advance: $0 (this is a reprint from the hardcover; I get no up-front money for it)
Royalties: 6%
Current Released to date: 32,048
Reserved against returns: 3,000
Current returns: 6,221
Sell-through: 82.5%
Author earnings: $4,386.99

This is a five-month statement; the figures reflect sales from 7/01/04 through 12/31/04. SF has a much longer shelf life than most genres, so I've probably got another six months to a year to collect more sales.

Why has this book done well for me? I have some theories: it was my first not-StarDoc SF novel, and my first SF hardcover. A lot of my readers liked the novel and recommended it to friends. SFBC featured it as an alternative selection. The mass market edition hit the SF bestseller list. Timing was excellent, too; July has always been a good month for me.

Could it have done better? If I'd done some sort of promotion for it, probably. The personal timing unfortunately sucked; BD came out in the middle of a very bad career year. I had lost two editors and was so frustrated with the industry that I nearly quit writing. It took me another year to find my balance. By the time I came back out of the lair to see what was going on, the reprint had already hit the shelves.

12 comments:

  1. Anonymous6:59 AM

    I think I need help with the math here.

    32048 shipped books minus 9221 actual or presumed returns should be 22827 books sold. At 6.99 each that's $159,560.73 in sales, and 6% of that should be $9,573.64.

    Where does the figure $4,386.99 come from?

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  2. Anonymous wrote: Where does the figure $4,386.99 come from?

    Current period activity for the paperback, which is what I'm paid on, less reserve adjustment, which has been adjusted twice. The figures posted are totals, accounting for prior activity -- which in simple terms means that you're trying to figure one percentage off two books.

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  3. I should give you the math so it makes sense (welcome to the joys of joint accounting):

    Prior activity:

    20,365 released - 8,000 reserve (no returns) = 12,365 or $5,185.90 author earnings
    (that's what I earned on the last statement)

    Current activity:


    11,683 released + 5,000 reserve released - 6221 returns = 10,462 or $4,386.99

    If you add the two statements together, you have author earnings of $9,576.89, or 6% of total sales.

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  4. "Why has this book done well for me? I have some theories: it was my first not-StarDoc SF novel, and my first SF hardcover. A lot of my readers liked the novel and recommended it to friends. SFBC featured it as an alternative selection. The mass market edition hit the SF bestseller list. Timing was excellent, too; July has always been a good month for me."

    And maybe also (a little bit, anyway) because you wrote about it. I don't remember where--either here or on some other writing site--but you used it as an example of how you develop characters. After I read your example, I HAD to read the book to find out more about Jory Rask. I suspect I'm not alone in that. :-)

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  5. Anonymous8:48 AM

    wait a sec. That statement is clear -- easy to understand! Good god. Are publishers allowed to do that?

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  6. Anonymous wrote: wait a sec. That statement is clear -- easy to understand! Good god. Are publishers allowed to do that?

    I can't speak for other publishers, but mine always give me the numbers straight. :)

    Btw, for all the rookies reading this, if you don't understand something about your royalties statements, ask questions of your publisher. They do not fire you for wanting an explanation.

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  7. On the subject of understanding royalty statements (and publishing in general), may I recommend Ian Irvine's article on "The Truth about Publishing"?

    http://members.ozemail.com.au/~irvinei/publishing.html

    It's mostly concerned with the Australian market, but books are books and publishers are publishers ;-)

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  8. Anonymous12:20 PM

    Could it have done better? If I'd done some sort of promotion for it


    If you could do it over, what kind of promotion would you have done?

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  9. Thanks for the link, Simon -- excellent, down-to-earth article.

    Anonymous wrote: If you could do it over, what kind of promotion would you have done?

    Tough question. I had thought about targeted marketing; getting in touch with specific fandom groups (I got a lot of e-mail from Highlander fans on this novel, for example) and sending out freebies to those interested. It's a solid quest-and-blades story, so I thought it might also appeal to fantasy readers. I started working on a spin-off e-book of Jorenian/Blade Dancer short stories to give away before publication.

    That's the thing, though; you never get a do-over in publishing. Here was an opportunity that I let zip on by because I was distracted by things that had nothing to do with the work. If it taught me anything, it's that I won't make that mistake again.

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  10. I always find royalty statements a tad confusing. Thank you for the link, Simon. I'll check that out. PBW, really interesting comments on what you would have done promotion wise, and a keen reminder to stay focused even when life is getting in the way. Thanks. I needed that.

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  11. Why has this book done well for me? I have some theories: it was my first not-StarDoc SF novel, and my first SF hardcover.

    I haven't seen the paperback, but the cover--illustration--is what sold Blade Dancer to me (hardcover). Or more specifically, what got me to pick it up and do the first page test. Blade Dancer was my gateway to the Star Doc series. Normally, I don't read SF.

    An illustration of the effectiveness of good cover design. ('Course if it had failed the first page test, I wouldn't have purchased it.)

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  12. Thanks for sharing these with us. Now I'm going to have to go pick up the book. ;)

    I'd be interested in seeing numbers from e-publishers, too, if anyone'll offer them. Since what they try to sell you on is higher royalties, I wonder if it really adds up. I assume it doesn't, because 'big-name' authors aren't flocking to it.

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