Apparently many people are still under the impression that author events and book signings are held as an income increasing venture. I heard this numerous times at my book signings. This is so not likely.
Let me clarify with a little new-author reality check. Generally, you will make more with magazine and anthology (Chicken Soup, etc) stories. But a book takes investment.
The author has two, sometimes three, ways to purchase their books for a book signing (or a giveaway), and four ways to ‘sell’ them.
- They can purchase author copies usually 50% of selling price plus shipping bringing cost to approximately 60% of retail. Then dependent on the wishes of the venue, they can outright sell their books themselves, reimbursing approximately 40% of the cost less taxes and less cost to set up the book-signing (treats, drawings, travel, etc). There is no royalty from this choice, and the purchase does not count as a true sale.
- Sometimes the bookstores prefer to do consignment on a 60/40 (average), 40/60 or 30/70 percentage – the first number being the store profit. An example would be a $10 book – the author pays 50-60% including shipping ($5-$6) and after consignment gets a percentage back. (with average 60/40 author gets $4 back) If the store chooses to sell the book ‘competitively’ for less than full retail price, it actually costs an author more to place books on consignment at that location. However, the advertisement of the placement and the potential of new customers from that venue can make the cost very worthwhile.
- A bookstore that caught the vision for the book will order the book at 20% -30% discount of retail cost and whatever they sell is their profit. The author is putting a face to their name and their book and getting free advertisement. In that event, the store often sets up the site with tablecloth, decorations and all the author has to pay for is travel to the event. They will eventually receive whatever royalty is in their contract from the sale – anywhere from 12% on up – (less 15% of that amount for their agent). That is the only income. Some bookstores will keep any books that did not sell in stock or on the shelves, and others will request authors to purchase any books left above their stock desires.
- Another way is if the author purchases the books full price from an online source and resells them at the same price plus tax to pay the bill for their order. Their expense is raised but so is the eventual royalty. There is no immediate income.
So why does an author go through all of this? Because we believe in our message and we are willing to invest ourselves (and our finances) to get that message to the public. Most of us also have a charity or cause that we hope to benefit through the full retail sales to the public. But how can they know about the book unless a friend, or an ad, or a display or a chat with the author lets them know? That is why we do book signings and author events.
All of the above relates to the author with a small traditional publishing company who produces the books fully edited and including cover design and setup, at no cost to the author, and pays royalties. There are, of course, larger publishing companies that pay an advance toward expected sales, but they mainly market only to established writers with a public outreach (platform) that guarantees a number of sales. Many more “vanity” and “indie” (independent) companies exist which expect the author to either purchase thousands of their own book at full price or contribute to the cost of producing their books – from $5,000 – $20,000 and more, some not including editing services. Some so-called vanity presses charge outrageous ($20-$50) prices for individual books that sell comparatively for about 1/3 of that price. The latter authors seldom produce any income and frequently are left with boxes of books in their garage or basement.
Sure I wouldn’t mind someday receiving enough royalties to quit the two part-time jobs that currently feed my writing expenses. But more importantly, just as God made some of us to dance, to sing, create, or with the drive to excel at so many other skills, I feel God instilled something in me that calls me to write words that say, “Look what God has done!” I understand Eric Liddell (Chariots of Fire) saying that he felt God’s pleasure when he did what God created him to do.
I do not want to sugar-coat that results take investment, nor would I downplay the high I feel when someone ‘gets’ the message I wrote and turns to God because of it.
A young mom brought her children to one of my signings and pointed at me, exclaiming, “Look! That is an author!”
I had a chat a few days ago with a woman who read Be the Miracle and explained in detail how it changed her perspective, encouraging her to get the book and its message to others.
That is what makes it all worthwhile.