I've followed the blog of Jon Konrath (A Newbie's Guide to Publishing) for some time now. In addition to providing plenty of facts surrounding changes going on in the publishing biz, Jon provides his numbers. Something I appreciate.
Reading Jon's blog was the first place I became aware of the royalty disparity between traditional publishers and self-publishers. I'm quoting from memory, so the numbers may not be exact, but with a traditional publisher, you would earn around 17.5% of the list price of your book. That percentage appears to hold for both paper and electronic formats.
If you self-publish, the electronic copies will earn you 70% of the list price (assuming you stay within Amazon's $2.99 - $9.99 pricing band). For LEVERAGE, which is priced at $4.99, I earn $3.49 per copy sold. To earn the same per copy through a traditional publisher, the electronic version would have to be priced at $19.96. That's a huge difference.
Self-published paper is a little different -- at least with CreateSpace, where I've been doing my paper copies. I list them for $14.99, and earn $3.98 per copy or about 26%. Not as great a deal, but still better than the traditional publishers.
But I'm not looking at the big sales numbers Konrath is currently experiencing. I have one novel out, and sales are trickling in. I'm more interested in just getting to break-even on the project, knowing that as long as I keep writing new novels, the old ones will continue to get some play.
So with that being said, here are my numbers.
LEVERAGE total investment was $2,080.35 most of which was editing services ($1,800). The rest has been inventory I've personally purchased for sale, proof copies, CreateSpace pro plan (now defunct), and some business cards to hand out to people with my web address.
Earnings thus far have been $580.82 excluding month-to-date sales on Amazon (3 copies at $3.49), and 17 copies on Smashwords totaling roughly $100 that haven't been paid to me yet. If I add those in, I could say the book has earned just short of $700. In the interest of full disclosure, I also have 15 copies of the novel in inventory which I've paid for, and will eventually sell. They should generate another $225. Someday.
LEVERAGE was "released" on CreateSpace and Smashwords on September 11, 2011, and on Amazon/B&N on January 11. So it has been out for about five months. Average earnings have been $140 per month. At that rate, it should hit break-even at the 15 month point, or right around the end of November 2012. Monthly sales have been roughly flat, although I keep hoping for an uptick.
The economics of INCENTIVIZE and DELIVERABLES will both be more difficult -- INCENTIVIZE required almost $3,900 in investment, and DELIVERABLES will be around $3,500 once everything is complete. If they earn $140 per month, they will take 28 and 25 months to hit breakeven respectively.
So, economically, I'm hoping that 1+1+1 (as in completed novels) will equal more than 3. I'm hoping each new novel will develop its own audience, and will draw readers to the other books I've penned.
One thing for sure -- I'm not getting rich bywriting. Quite the opposite, I've got thousands invested in my work thus far, and other than a lot of encouraging reviews, not a lot to show for it. But I do love the creative aspects of the work, so I don't foresee stopping anytime soon.