Okay so on to digital publishing, which will be a bit shorter as the process is, in general less complicated because there are less steps. (not a value judgement, just a statement of fact)
As I said in part II, I’ve written for the two largest and most financially successful epublishers as well as some smaller ones so this is based on my experiences with contracts. This is strictly about how money is delivered as that’s pretty much what I addressed in part II. I do plan to talk about the epublishing process when it comes to submitting and getting the book out, but that’ll be later.
You don’t need an agent to submit a manuscript to an epublisher. I have an agent, but I’ve never used her for my digital deals. I have a great relationship with Samhain and I don’t forsee a need to have her negotiate at this point. But essentially the process is similar.
You submit your manuscript and wait. Sometimes weeks, sometimes months. If the editor likes your book, they offer you a contract.
Depending on the publisher, you’ll get a release date and a deadline to turn in the final manuscript or you’ll receive a release date after your “final” is turned in. In either case, even if you get an advance, it’s going to be small and you won’t see any “real” money until your book releases.
Book releases and a month afterward (in the case of the two big pubs I’ve written for, some pubs go quarterly) you’ll see royalties if your book sold any copies. You will continue to see royalties monthly until the book does not sell anymore or you get your rights back.
These royalties will range between 35 and 40% of cover price.
Print from Digital Publishers:
I’ve got several epublished books in print. Samhain does hold a reserve against return (which I think is a good idea for any publisher) and releases after a certain time period. Samhain pays print royalties twice yearly. The royalty rate for these books is FAR lower than the royalty rate on digital books, just FYI, and pretty much what the average NY author makes on print.
Distribution is very dependent on the publisher. And distribution is important when we’re talking about money. The more places your books are, the more readers will be exposed to them and your chances of selling your books are higher. This equals more royalties. Some publishers are very good at it, some are not. Your books may end up on shelves in the big chains, or only via the publisher site (speaking from experience, the difference between the two situations is an order of magnitude when royalties arrive.)
However, understand the print runs are not the same, they are much smaller in most cases. Still, there is no advance to earn through so the process is different and royalties flow to the author differently because of that.
Other epublishers have print programs that are disorganized, pay very irregularly and/or poorly and I can’t really address many of them since I don’t write for them and I can’t give any specifics. Any author should ask questions on this before signing a contract. The money is not so insignificant that I’d ignore this issue.
Digital books don’t go out of print. I’m still making excellent royalties on books that came out in 2005. However, because of this, be extra attentive to the rights clause in the contract as rights reversion is different with digital books when they don’t go out of print.
Where you sell your book means something. Different houses are going to do a better or worse job and you’ll see that in your monthly royalties. Writers need to put time and thought into who they contract a book with. Authors need to make better choices and they’ll see better results. (yes, this sounds harsh, but come on folks, help yourselves here)
There are major differences between the two models. Some of these might be a deal breaker for an author either way. In any case, the information should be out there so writers can make the choice themselves, based on as much info as they can get.
I’m not going to editoralize here. Your choices are your own, you make them for your own reasons.