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why do publishers get 90% of the cover cost?

(9 Posts)
vivariumvivariumsvivaria Wed 02-Oct-19 15:39:28

I don't understand this at all. 90% is a helluva chunk.

They have the costs of production, which aren't cheap, plus actually printing and shipping the books, ditto.

Seems like publishers no longer do much in the way of marketing, though. So, WHY is it 90%?

Anyone able to help me figure it out?

akkakk Wed 02-Oct-19 15:57:01

I suspect any % is negotiable - but I think there is a misunderstanding...

traditional % for the author is 10% (rising with sales) - but the remaining 90% is not the publisher's - the bookseller will traditionally take 50% and the 10% for the author may be against RRP but the book sell for well under RRP...

so a publisher might have 40% from which they have to pay the printing / distribution / marketing costs - and their own staff and office overheads, and then make a profit - and that profit ideally has to allow for the fact that maybe only 1 in x books is actually profitable...

this is an interesting article:

vivariumvivariumsvivaria Wed 02-Oct-19 17:09:01

Ah, that is really helpful, thanks, Akkakk.

I'm trying to weigh up self publishing v publisher. It's for a work book, and the contract showed how much effort I'd have to do for the marketing - basically, all of it. Which made me wonder what on earth I'm getting for their cut, you know?

AppropriateAdult Wed 02-Oct-19 17:36:57

Will you be able to actually get it into bookshops without a publisher behind you, do you think? That’s one big advantage that publishing houses have, I’m not sure how you replicate that as an indie.

akkakk Wed 02-Oct-19 20:01:21

I think a lot depends on how much time you have - basically publisher-led publishing (i.e. contract etc.) seems to move more and more towards zero effort unless you are already known to be a success - the top authors get advances in the millions and lots of publicity, because it is a known gamble - the rest, they get pretty much nothing...

If it is a work book and you can identify the audience ahead of time, then it should be easy to do the marketing yourself - otherwise it can be tricky.

the facebook group '20booksto50k' ( is a good resource for those self-publishing through Amazon etc. - it shows what can be done -but also shows how much work it can be...

I would try to identify the market, then work out how you get to that market and work backwards to make your choice - you won't get 100% of the income either as you will have costs (and don't forget to factor in your time!) - but if this is one of many then it can be worth investing in learning how to do it...

vivariumvivariumsvivaria Thu 03-Oct-19 10:22:54

This is incredibly helpful, thank you.

I don't really want to learn how to self publish. It's a job in itself, and I want to do MY job! The benefit of publisher is that they know what they are doing and the benefit to me of a book is it'll help my career. I'll not make money from a book (people rarely do!) but, I can make money from speaking engagements, and the book will give me a bit of authority that I currently lack.

I had a contract from a big publishing house, but, the Society of Authors were less than enthusiastic about the terms and conditions in the contract. It was really poor, 20% of the industry standard for e-books etc, and the commitments we agreed verbally were not in the contract, so I turned it down. Which felt a bit cheeky but also bloody good.

There are 3 other publishers interested, so, I know it's likely I can get someone to do it. I also understand that publishing is not my field and that it's an entire industry that I am not part of - it's possible to self publish, but, I'm not convinced it's what I should be doing, my time is best spent developing my established skills, I think.

Of course, what I'm really doing is procrastinating over writing the sodding book...

akkakk Thu 03-Oct-19 12:55:25

from the sound of it - self-publishing would be the wrong route - there can also be academic / corporate credibility in the fact that a publishing company has picked up the book rather than it being self-published!

vivariumvivariumsvivaria Sat 05-Oct-19 01:27:48

Oh, that's a really good point! Yes, that makes total sense.

Weirdly, another publisher messaged me today - so, I guess that's the decision made.

I'll get on with writing the book - I've blocked off time this month and will get two chapters done and the rest drafted, and see what happens.

How hard can it be?


HollowTalk Tue 08-Oct-19 15:33:17

You are lucky that you have so much choice. I agree that you need a prestigious publisher involved as it'll give your work a status that it just doesn't have if it's self published.

For the PP who said rates are negotiable - they might be if you are already a massive seller, but they're not otherwise.

Does the % go up in your favour if the sales are good?

Will you get an advance?

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