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Confessions of an Author: Writer vs. Author


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Confessions of an Author: Traditional vs. Indie Publishing


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Traditional v Indie Publishing: The Pros & Cons of Each


So many Indie & self-published authors long for a traditional publishing contract that I thought I’d put some of the pro’s & con’s of each, having been in both worlds for the last 30+ years, with books of all genres (but still considered literary fiction: by different genres, I mean novels, short fiction, poetry, and non-fiction / creative writing).

Traditional Publishing


  • The author doesn’t pay for the cover, the design, the production costs, etc.
  • The agent does the work of finding the right editor for the work
  • The author gets a (usually modest) Advance
  • The author feels important and “validated” as a writer
  • The reason for most rejections is that the agent/editor doesn’t think the book is perfect the way it is, and, honestly, they have, literally, hundreds of millions of authors and manuscripts to choose from so they do not work on an imperfect manuscript, no matter how much promise it shows — so the author shouldn’t take rejections personally (which, unfortunately, doesn’t make them any easier to deal with, especially since editors’ reasons for rejection are usually something like “I just didn’t feel it” or “I’m not 200% in love with it” rather than something specific about the quality of the work or the writing).
  • Smaller niche or literary Houses are usually more welcoming and helpful (in the editing phase of the book) to new or relatively unknown authors than the larger traditional publishers are, so there’s always a chance you could get your book published with one of them


  • Being accepted by an agent is not validation that you are a good writer: rather it is an educated assumption that the agent thinks s/he can sell it
  • If the agent doesn’t sell it in what s/he considers a reasonable amount of time (which varies depending on the agent’s age, number of children, place in career, place in Agency, personal life, etc.), you will be unceremoniously dropped, despite any previous promises that he’s “committed to you for life and wants to represent your career, not just one book” (oy, vey, if I had a few dollars for every time I’ve heard that…)
  • If you do get a sale and you’re a relatively unknown author (which is most of us, no matter how many books we’ve already published), then your Agent gets 10-20% of the Advance — before it gets to you
  • Smaller niche or literary Houses are more likely to accept you but because of their size, they usually don’t have any money for Advances
  • The Advance gets paid in multiple installments: often two. The first 1/2 is usually paid 3-4 months after the sale (it takes time to gets those contracts through the appropriate channels), and the second 1/2 when the book is published (if you have a good agent, that will be paid no longer than 1 year after sale, whether or not book is published, which also gives publisher an incentive not to sit on your book for years)
  • I have heard of Advances being broken up into 4 or more payments, over a period of 2-3 years, at the minimum (If you’re Stephen King, getting $50M for your next three books, and the installments are divided into 6ths: 1st/6th when first manuscript delivered, 2nd/6th when first book published, 3rd/6th when 2nd manuscript delivered, 4th/6th when 2nd book published, etc., then this isn’t a bad deal, but not all of us are Stephen King, and even Stephen King complains that his NY publishers steal royalties from him…)
  • In addition to the 10-20% you have to pay to the Agent, you have to pay Federal, State, Local, and Social Security Self-Employment taxes on the total amount of the Advance, even though your Agent takes a significant percentage of it. (When my first novel was sold 20 years ago, I netted about 40¢ on every dollar I got in the Advance. I’m not saying I wasn’t happy, just extremely disappointed. I’d known about the Agent’s percentage of the Advance because that’s in the contract with the Agent, but I never even thought about the amount of taxes I’d have to pay, and, at that time, didn’t even know about Social Security Self-Employment taxes, which, like other taxes, are a percentage, not a fixed dollar amount.)
  • A sale to an editor at a publishing House is not validation that you have written a good book or that you are a good writer, no matter how many times you get told that — on the phone or in person
  • If an editor buys your book, it means the editor believes that the House can make enough money to “earn out” the Advance (i.e., make back the Advance money that it gives you, which is why most Advances are so small) and that the editor believes you will have enough sales to earn out that Advance
  • The editor decides, by contract, the title of your book (so don’t get too attached to it: titles are marketing tools), the cover, the back cover copy (marketing). The author gives up any and all control over all this — over the plot and characters, too, by the way — when he signs the coveted traditional publishing contract
  • The book better be perfect because most editors don’t do any actual work on the book: that’s not their job. Marketing is.
  • The author is responsible for the proofreading after every single version of the book that goes through at the publisher’s: House editing (to make sure they do things like spell “gray” with an a rather than “grey” with an e: don’t even try to argue with NY publishers on this one: they won’t give in), Design editing, Production editing, Foreign language editing (if you have any foreign words in your manuscript), Continuity editing (which ensures that if it’s snowing in the beginning of a scene, it’s not summer by the end of it; trust me: these editors miss a lot of that stuff, so you’ll have to do the final continuity pass yourself).
  • You’ll proofread your manuscript so many times that you’ll hate it by the time it’s ready to go to the printer, you’ll wonder why you ever wrote a book in the first place. Any and all mistakes found in the final book are there forever (the House will not go back to the Printers for typos or even serious mistakes, like their accidentally omitting a chapter or two)
  • The author has no say on the cover chosen. If you’re lucky, the editor will show it to you before the book is finished and ready to go to the printer. If not, you’ll be surprised (pleasantly, one hopes)
  • The author has absolutely no say over the title, though sometimes the editor will pretend to ask you if you “approve”. (If the author says “no”, the editor will call the agent, who’ll call the author, and tell him that it is a better title, so accept it. So don’t get too attached to your title: many famous authors report always having thought of their published books under the title they wrote it, rather than under the title it was eventually published, Erica Jong, among them.)
  • Once the author’s book goes to the printer, don’t expect the editor to remember your name. S/he has other authors/books to deal with.
  • If you’re lucky, the publisher will send out copies of your book to reviewers. You will not know whether this happens, or to which publications the book is sent. There is a reason for this: publicists handle it, and publicists cannot, under any circumstances, check to see if a book is going to be reviewed. To do so automatically and permanently pulls the book from the publication’s “To Be Reviewed” list, so publicists do not ask. If your book is reviewed, your editor will receive a copy of the completed review by fax or email about a week-10 days before the review is to be published. The editor will forward it to you if it’s good; to your agent if it’s bad, so the agent can break the bad news to you.
  • The agent acts as the buffer between an author and his editor, so you will rarely talk to your editor. You will never be able to complain about anything to your editor: you complain to your agent, who puts it in “politically acceptable traditional publishing language” before deciding to pass it on to the editor, if the agent deems it important enough to pass on. If not, at least you got to vent to your agent.
  • 99% of authors get no money or assistance from the publisher for promotion or publicity. If the House thinks your book might have a better than average chance of good sales, then you might be asked to pay for your own publicity or book tour if you live in a relatively big city. Most authors are not considered important enough to do book tours, and that’s why they don’t.
  • You will be responsible for all your own publicity and promotion, so you might as well get comfortable with Social Media, since that is where most authors connect with their readers and make sales.
  • Authors must usually have several titles in print before they show any significant sales. One book just won’t make you rich, so don’t expect it to. Once you’ve published your book, you have to work on its marketing & promotion while writing/editing/revising/publishing your next. (This is the same whether you are traditionally or Indie published.)
  • You have to make a website, do a blog, get on FaceBook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc since the publishing House doesn’t have time to do that for any author except the bestsellers, who usually have publicists or managers anyway.
  • As a traditionally published author, you lose control over every single aspect of your book, including plot, characters, title, cover, marketing. You cannot even reveal the cover of your book (on your blog or FaceBook page, for example) unless the publisher allows it (as Amanda Hocking discovered when her new series was accepted for publication for NY: Hocking was used to revealing her covers as soon as she got them done and liked them; her “chafing” under the publisher’s rules was obvious in her blog — but, hey, that’s part of why she got her $5M Advance)
  • If a book does not earn out its Advance, it could be taken out-of-print (OP) in as little as 6 months. If it looks like it may earn out, the book may stay in print a year or so. Even if it earns out its Advance early and substantially, the book could still be taken OP within a year or two, for no discernible reason whatsoever. Your editor will not have the decency to tell you this: s/he will tell your Agent, who will tell you. That’s how it works in this business.
  • Once a book is OP, the book is “dead” in NY jargon. Publishers don’t want it because they assume that it didn’t earn out its Advance, even if you have proof that it did. Agents don’t want to represent it because they know that the publishers won’t be interested in buying it. So the book is dead. In the past, the authors were just, frankly, screwed when this happened. Now they can put the OP books back into the market themselves thanks to ebooks and POD printing.

My first novel, The Kommandant’s Mistress, earned out its Advance 6 months before it was published. It got literally hundreds of good reviews — no bad or even mediocre ones except for the person who thought that novels about the Holocaust should not be written, only non-fiction, but that was his only complaint about that book — was shortlisted for several prestigious prizes, and then won several very prestigious national awards and prizes.

HarperCollins, who’d reserved the option to have the Trade Paper rights, put the book in its HarperPerennial line, which my agent happily assured me  meant that the book was now considered a back-list title — one that continues to sell slowly but steadily over the years and so always remains in print — and offered me her hearty congratulations. The book was taken OP less than a year and a half later. No reason was given. When I remarked, to my  agent, that Harper obviously didn’t know the definition of “perennial,” she laughed; I didn’t.

The only reason a new agent got the book back into print — without any Advance whatsoever — was because Patrick Stewart, of Star Trek: The Next Generation Captain Jean-Luc Picard fame, optioned it for film to play the male protagonist himself, and received funding for it. When my agent sold my second novel, she convinced the new publisher to put The Kommandant’s Mistress back into print by giving it to them for free: the publisher, of course, was hoping that the film would be made and that he would get rich from the associated movie-book tie-in sales (the cover would’ve then featured the stars of the film, including Patrick Stewart). As soon as the film was dropped (Hollywood politics) and the option released, the 2nd publisher took the novel OP.

  • An author earns anywhere from 3-10% of the cover price of each book sold. The bookstores earn 35-55%, the Distributors (like Ingram & Amazon) earn 15-20%, the printing costs are subtracted from any remaining monies, the publishing House gets the rest. Of the remainder, the House is supposed to send the author’s percentage to his Agent; if that happens, the Agent will take his 10-20% before forwarding any remaining monies to the Author. (Don’t expect any money beyond the Advance: even Stephen King claims he doesn’t earn any royalties & has threatened to audit his publishers, at the very least. Whether he actually did it, I don’t know: they may have just given him a larger Advance for his next books, to quiet him down.)
  • Neither the agent nor the author has any direct access to the sales records of his book, though NY contracts usually stipulate that the author may audit the publishers’ books. Agents discourage this, however, as authors who insist on doing it get blacklisted in the industry (no future sales), and the authors have to pay for the very expensive audit if the publisher’s sales figures are shown to be correct (you can guess how many times an author’s won an audit)


Indie Publishing


  • The author has to pay for everything: cover, editing, proofreading (if he’s not good enough to do it himself)
  • The author has to learn marketing books fast and well (faster than if accepted by a NY House, and as well as their professional publicists) if he expects any sales whatsoever, and marketing is where most authors fail miserably, with poor titles, worse covers, bad/boring book descriptions (which include the all important Pitch)
  • The author is solely responsible for the quality of the finished product, i.e., the book — an area where NY publishing Houses excel — and readers/reviewers are quick to complain if the product does not meet NY standards
  • The author must pay to produce a high quality product if he cannot put it out himself (NY Houses pay for this, so Indie authors must assume these costs)
  • The author gets no Advance monies
  • The author gets no validation (really, just an expectation) that his book will sell from someone experienced in the book business, i.e., an Agent or Editor at a traditional publishing House
  • Bookstores like Barnes & Noble do not recognize the term Indie Published Author. Anyone not traditionally published by a NY House is self-published, according to Barnes & Noble, and their stores do not order or stock books of self-published authors. Period.

Previously traditionally published authors who’ve put their OP books back in print through Ingram’s Lightning Source or Amazon’s Create Space may be considered for stocking at their local B&N, but must provide proof that the book will probably sell — e.g., good reviews, or royalty statements with sales figures — but even if the local Events Manager/Coordinator approves, B&N’s NY Corporate office has to approve, which is not likely to happen, not even for critically acclaimed, award-winning authors like me: I’ve already tried.

  • Libraries and Academic Institutions will not order books of self-published authors: they also do not recognize term Indie
  • Authors are unlikely to get any reviews from prestigious newspapers or publications like The New York Times Book Review because they don’t have access to the proper submission channels. In any event, these publications require 6-9 months lead time for considering books to review before the publication date, and most authors are not wiling to get their book into final form, then wait 6-9 months in the (mostly unrequited) hopes of a review, before releasing book to public
  • Authors must usually have several titles in print before they show any significant sales. One book just won’t make you rich, so don’t expect it to. Once you’ve published your book, you have to work on its marketing & promotion while writing/editing/revising/publishing your next. (This is the same whether you are traditionally or Indie published.)


  • You retain all control over all aspects of your book, from cover to title, from sales reports to amount of royalties earned
  • You determine the distribution markets, i.e., Amazon, Barnes & Noble ebooks, Smashwords, etc.
  • You determine your Royalty Percentage (35-70% for ebooks on Amazon, for example, and approximately 60% of the cover price for Trade Paper books
  • You determine the format: ebook, Trade Paper, Hardcover, audiobook
  • You decide when, if, and whether your book ever goes out of print (OP)
  • If you do take your book OP, you can always revise it, and put it back into print without hiring an agent to try to sell it to another publisher
  • Other Indie authors are usually relatively nice about helping each other out (though there are some pretty selfish ones who even join organizations designed to help out Indie authors, then do nothing but promote their own books)
  • It’s easier to make sales by connecting directly with your readers on Social Media
  • The piece-of-the-selling-pie is bigger than it is in NY with traditional publishing, though you probably have to work harder to get your piece
  • You have access to all your own sales reports, without auditing anybody or getting blacklisted in the industry for questioning/auditing your own royalty reports as you do in traditional publishing

Overall, having been in the traditional NY publishing arena for over 30 years, and in the Indie publishing market for the last 3, I would choose Indie publishing any day over traditional publishing. But then, I’m good with covers (I minored in Art History), titles, back cover copy, and other marketing, having taught creative writing on the University level for over 30 years, having been a visiting artist/author at writing conferences all over the country for the past 20 years, and having been a really quick study on the marketing aspect once my first novel got published.

(For example, my original title, The Kommandant, was changed to The Kommandant’s Mistress, after a “persistent rumor in the camps about the Jewish inmate with whom the Nazi Kommandant was obsessed” and modeled after John Fowle’s famous The French Lieutenant’s Woman. Even I knew that The Kommandant’s Mistress was a better title than my original, learned how to make titles with more Urgency & market appeal, and have never had a title changed since, on any of my traditionally published books).

Also, after retiring from University, I opened my own traditional publishing House to help other literary authors — the only market harder to break into than literary fiction is poetry, and no agents handle poetry collections — so I gained a lot of experience from the publishing & marketing side before the Indie/ebook markets were ever even available to previously traditionally published OP authors like me.

(In case you’re wondering, even my House’s contract gives the publisher all control over the title, cover, back cover description, etc., though I do help my authors with minor editing to improve the Urgency, Voice, POV, etc. It’s rare that an author has a marketable title from the beginning, though sometimes it takes only minor tweaking to make it work, and if it doesn’t work at all, I always get the new title from something inside the book itself. And as for covers, no author has ever come up with a good cover on his own, though a couple hired professional artists or photographers after I couldn’t find a cover and told them what I was looking for. Then I just tweaked the cover. But the author didn’t come up with the original concept, I can assure you. Most authors are just not experienced in the visual arts: they’re wordsmiths.)

And just to show you how my covers of my own Indie published OP books stack up to the covers done by NY Houses, here are the covers for the first and second editions of The Kommandant’s Mistress.

K USA HC 1993 HP 1994 web

(HarperCollins 1st edition cover, under the name “Sherri” because the editor said my real name wouldn’t fit on the cover of the book, 1993 & 1994)

K USA Arcade 2000 web

(Arcade’s cover for the 2nd edition, also under “Sherri” so they “wouldn’t lose the name recognition” of reviews/prizes, 2000)

And my own, Indie-published cover for the novel, now re-issued under my real name, in a Revised & Expanded, 20th Anniversary Edition (you can let me know, in Comments, which cover you like better: so far, the votes are all for my Indie cover). And yes, the license for that phot0graph cost me quite a bit of money: I had to save for months to get it. I do the design (title/author name placement over photograph or other cover art) for all my House’s covers myself.

The Kommandant's Mistress

The only reason I would ever return to traditional publishing would be if someone extremely famous and well-financed optioned one of my new books for film because that would give me a greater chance to get a large Advance — something I’ve never gotten. Even then, the Advance would have to be large enough for me to give up all control and access to my sales figures (again). Since I’ve already been down all those roads, I simply don’t see that happening.

Still, if a traditional publisher came to me with an offer of $5M, as they did with Amanda Hocking, I’m certain it wouldn’t take too much persuasion to give NY one book…

Otherwise, I’m now an Indie author. For life.


Filed under Agents, Books, E-books, Editors, Indie Authors, Self-Published Authors, Small Business, Taxes, Traditional Publishing, Writing

Hungry for that Sweet Life: Myths about Being an Author & Selling Books



Despite the Revolution in Indie book publishing over the last few years, especially with the advent of Print-on-Demand (POD) paper-book availability and with instantly accessible e-books, many self-published and Indie authors are still operating under ubiquitous myths about selling books – to their own dissatisfaction and disillusionment. There is, however, good news for all authors, but first they must become familiar with the business of selling books and be realistic about their expectations.

Myth #1
Traditional Publishers Pay for All Publicity and Promotion,
and Always Send Authors on Reading Tours

Unfortunately, it is simply not true that traditional publishers pay for the publicity of all the books they purchase. In fact, approximately 98% of all traditionally published authors must do all their own marketing, promotion, and publicity. If the authors are wealthy enough to employ their own publicists — such as Joyce Carol Oates, who earned, at last check, almost $200,000 annual salary as a professor — then those publicists do the work of promoting and marketing the authors’ works. It is only when an author is a proven bestseller that the publisher itself puts any money into promotion.

When my first novel was published by HarperCollins 20+ years ago, I was informed that I wasn’t “important enough to warrant any publicity money” — this despite having gotten good reviews from such prestigious publications as Publishers Weekly, The New Yorker, and The New York Times Book Review – and I was asked if I could pay for my own book tour. On my Professor’s salary, it took me almost a year to save enough to do 10 stops, taking cheap flights, staying at Holiday Inns, and supplying my own food. Not very glamorous, I can assure you. Did it sell books? HarperCollins never reported any sales, so I never earned any additional royalties, in spite of selling and signing books at the stores I toured.

When my second novel was accepted, I was once again asked to pay for my own reading tour. In traditional publishing,  critical acclaim and prizes do not equal being “important enough to have the publisher pay for a book tour.” My experience is typical for most traditionally published authors who are not already bestsellers.

Now, however, even for NY-published authors, bookstores rarely sponsor readings, and any readings they do schedule are (1) in large cities, (2) only for bestselling authors, (3) must be arranged by the publisher’s publicist in conjunction with each bookstore’s Special Events Coordinator, and (4) must be approved by Barnes & Noble’s Corporate Headquarters. Independent bookstores have largely been put out of business by Chain and Online bookstores, though there may be a few remaining which will sponsor readings, especially for local authors.

In brief, even traditionally published authors always had to do their own publicity and promotion. Bookstore readings have basically gone the way of the dinosaurs. Traditionally published authors usually have their own websites, blogs, Twitter and/or Facebook accounts to promote their own books, to connect with readers, and to keep their names in the public eye, so to speak.

Fact: Connecting with readers, regularly and consistently – not just by shoving commercials down their throats – is the best way to promote and sell books. Making connections with readers, however brief,  has always worked well: that’s what bookstore readings and participation at writing conferences were all about. Now, through effective use of established social media, blogs, and author websites with contact information, all authors have a better chance of promoting and selling their books than they had in the past.

Myth #2
Authors Earn the Full Cover Price of Each Book Sold
so Authors Get Rich Quick

This is one of the reasons most readers believe that all authors are rich, but many new authors themselves, unfamiliar with how the market operates, are angry when they do not become rich within a few months of their book’s publication, or are shocked to discover that they do not earn the entire cover price of a book when it is sold.

Typically, by contract, a traditionally published author will earn 3-10% of the cover (or list) price of each book sold. (Out of that 3-10%, the author then has to pay his agent 15-20% of all monies earned, as well as pay Federal, State, Local, and Social Security Self-Employment Tax [approximately 18%] on his book income.)

Bookstores, who actually sell the books, acquire them at discounts of 35-55% of the cover price, depending on the number of titles/authors sold: the difference between the wholesale and cover prices is what the bookstore “earns” for selling the book to the public.

The distributor, such as Ingram or Baker & Taylor, who is in charge of getting the books from the printer to the bookstore, usually earns at least 15% of the cover price. (Some smaller, regional distributors charge a higher percentage: to make up for smaller volume.)

The cost of printing the book is then subtracted by the printer, and the remainder of the money is sent to the publisher. The author gets his percentage, and, theoretically, the publisher gets the remainder. Unfortunately, in actual practice, the publisher often reports no sales and keeps all monies.

The formula works like this:

Cover (List) Price of Book
– 35-55% for Bookstore
– 15% or more for Distributor
– Actual Printing Costs
= $ that goes to Publisher

who then is supposed to give the Author the contractual percentage
(usually 3-10%) of the book’s cover price.

Let’s say a book’s cover price is $19.99. The bookstores purchase it for $8.99/book (average 45% discount), keeping the difference between wholesale and cover (or in-store sale) price for getting the book into the customer’s hands, earning $10.99/book, which is only reasonable since the bookstore is doing most of the work. The distributor keeps at least $2.99 (15%) for getting the book from the printer to the bookstores. Printing charges depend on the physical size of the book and its number of pages, since most printers charge a per-page-printing-fee. But let’s say the books is 275 pages, in a 5×8″ Trade Paper size: printing costs would be approximately $5.00 per book. That leaves $3.01 that goes to the publisher, who pays the author $1.99/book (10% royalty rate), keeping the remaining $1.02 for itself.

To put it more simply, the publisher gets approximately the amount the bookstores pay for the book minus the printing cost ($8.99-5.00=3.99). Of course, since some major online booksellers get a 55% discount to sell books on their sites, the publisher gets less money per book although the author should not.

Also, bookstores can return any unsold books at any time for no reason. If the publisher does not pay a substantial fee ($2-4.00/book) to get the entire book back, then the bookstores tear the cover off the book and return only the cover, get a refund for their entire purchase price, while supposedly destroying the book itself. However, as the warnings on the copyright pages of many books indicate, booksellers often return the covers, get their purchase price back, then sell the book, keeping all monies for themselves. Thus the warning on the copyright pages of many books:

If you purchased this book without a cover, please be aware that neither the author nor the publisher received any monies for its sale. Please support authors’ rights, and do not support piracy of intellectual property.

Fact: Though an author may never get rich, may not earn substantial amounts of money until he has several titles in print, and is extremely unlikely to become wealthy off his very first book or within a few months of publication – if ever – an author at least has more control over promoting and selling his works by connecting with readers through current social media than he ever had in the past.

As long as the author realizes exactly how much money he’s going to actually earn, he can keep on doing the only thing he can control that might eventually earn him more money: keep on writing good books.

Myth #3
All Bookstores Support
Indie & Self-Published Authors

Perhaps a local, independent bookstore who is familiar with the author might order books for sale to its readers, but the bookstore would still have to order through a distributor, have the right to return any unsold books at any time, etc.

Corporate bookstores are another story completely. Let me use Barnes & Noble as an example, since Borders has gone out of business, and most of my dealings, as an author and a publisher, have been with those stores.

First of all, Barnes & Noble does not make recognize the term “Indie” Author. There are either traditionally or self-published authors. That is all. Authors who have been previously published by traditional New York Houses, had their books taken out-of-print (OP) and put their own OP books back into print through Amazon’s Create Space, for example, are considered Traditional Authors, not “Indie” Authors. Anyone else, according to Barnes & Noble Corporate Headquarters and its local bookstores, is a self-published author.

If a traditionally published author who puts his OP books back into print convinces the Special Events Coordinator at his local Barnes & Noble that he can bring in enough readers to do a successful event, and if the author has multiple titles in print, and if the author has a good relationship with his local bookstore, and if the Corporate New York Office approves, then the local branch bookstore may schedule a reading, ordering — through Ingram, Baker & Taylor, or another established distributor — perhaps 10-20 books. More likely, the bookstore would order 5-8 books. If the author had multiple titles, the bookstore could conceivably order 2-3 copies of each title.

If the previously traditionally published author sold well through Barnes & Noble bookstores while his books were still in print with the New York publishers, then the local store may keep 1-2 copies in stock. Any other books not sold the night of the reading would be returned to the distributor (then to the printer, and ultimately to the “publisher”, which in this case would be the author) within a few days. The 1-2 copies put on the shelves in the hopes of future sales may be returned at any time, even years later, for a full refund, which is subtracted from the publisher’s [OP author’s] account.

Barnes & Noble cannot and does not order books from Amazon’s Create Space directly (nor from the Ingram-owned POD-printer Lightning Source, for that matter) since it is a printer, not a distributor. A printer merely prints books: it does not ship or distribute them for sale to bookstores. Distributors such as Ingram, Baker & Taylor, or regional distributors who have contracts with B&N order books from the printers and send them to the bookstores.

Barnes & Noble does not order books by self-published authors.

Not even one copy.

Not even for local authors.

If a local self-published author  has a good relationship with his Barnes & Noble bookstore, and if he convinces the Special Events Coordinator that he can bring in a good sized audience for a reading, and if Corporate New York B&N approves, then the self-published author can pay to have a reading. (That is in bold to ensure that you do not mis-read it, but for emphasis, I will repeat it: if all the above conditions are met, the self-published author can pay to have a reading at his local B&N.)

It costs anywhere between $600-$1,000 for a self-published author to have a reading at a B&N, depending on the location and size of the bookstore itself.

The author must provide all copies of books to be sold by the local Barnes & Noble at his own cost. Since the author is purchasing them directly from the printer and delivering them to the bookstore himself, the author will earn no royalties on any books sold during said reading.

The local B&N which is sponsoring the reading keeps the entire cover price of each book sold. All of it. Every single penny. Nothing goes to the author. Barnes & Noble considers this only fair for allowing the author to use its name and space to advertise his self-published book.

And if, as sometimes happens, no one comes to the author’s reading, all books are returned to the author before his departure from the store, and no portion of the fees paid for the scheduled reading are refunded.

Even if an audience does show up and purchase books, any books not sold the night of the reading are returned immediately to the author. The store will not stock them since bookstores have a “return any time” policy with publishers and it does not consider a self-published author a publisher, whether or not the author has created a name for his own “House”.

Fact: An author needs to be aware that bookstores are largely controlled by Corporate entities, who are often owned by larger corporations, whose objective is to make as much money as possible with as little effort as possible. Whether traditionally, Indie, or self-publshed, an author needs to look beyond bookstores for sales.

With e-books, any locale that offers Wi-Fi can become a place to sponsor a reading. Many Starbucks, for example, do “open mic” nights, where they allow local artists – singers, writers, poets – to perform,  free of charge, because the store will make money from food and beverage sales.

(The author should be a regular, well-known, and well-liked customer of any Starbucks he approaches with such a proposition; he should also be able to produce an established audience of family and friends whose food and beverage purchases will provide incentive for the local manager to grant permission for the reading.) With e-books and Wi-Fi, any audience member present who has a Smartphone, laptop, or e-reader can purchase an author’s e-book during or after the reading.

An author can also video-tape dramatic readings of his work — not commercials, which have been proven ineffective — create his own channel on YouTube free of charge, upload videos of his readings, then regularly promote those video-taped readings on social media to encourage readers to enjoy his readings, which may lead them to purchase his books, whether in electronic or paper format.

Of course, if you’re a bestseller, then traditional publishers will probably pay for you to go on tour and do signings. Then again, they may not: after all, you’re already a bestseller and you’ve got better things to do, like write another bestseller.

Also, bookstores will be more than happy to carry your books. Because you’re a bestseller, and they’ll be making up to 49% of the cover price of every single book they sell.

As far as the Royalties go, I’ve never heard of any author — not even a bestselling one — making more than 20% off the cover price of their books. Bestselling authors make their money on large Advances for future books, with the traditional publishers banking on the previous book’s bestselling status to justify the amount of the Advance. If the next book is not a bestseller, the future Advances drop. Traditional publishers only have memories for the most recent book’s sales, it seems.

There are many more myths about being an author and about selling books that need to be examined, but for every myth, I assure you, there are facts that can help you sell your books and realistically achieve your dreams of becoming an author, not just a writer.

The most important thing you can do as a writer is to keep writing — every day — keep reading, improve your craft, and learn to connect with others (even other writers and authors are readers) on social media — not with an endless stream of “commercials” for your own books or for the books of other authors.

In the meantime, Stay Hungry, My Friends.

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