We had quite the lively discussion in the comments section on Friday, and one of the results is that I slightly changed my submission guidelines. Steve Fuller pointed out that it is incredibly frustrating for authors to live and die by the query without even being able to include a single page from their manuscript. I’m definitely sympathetic to this, and I’m now asking that queriers paste five pages into the body of the e-mail after their query (but still, no attachments).
After a weekend of queries (100+, which I’m still working through), I’m here to tell you: soooo much better for me as well. Thanks very much to Steve for the suggestion. I had been worried about people sending too many attachments if I asked for sample pages, but so far so good.
There were also some questions about how much an author receives from a book sale, so I thought I’d provide a handy dandy breakdown. This varies greatly depending on what discounts the publisher is extending to booksellers/distributors/wholesalers etc. and what royalty the author is receiving from the publisher. I’m not going to get into what is a “typical” royalty, and please don’t consider the below as such, because I can’t discuss proprietary info. But here’s a basic (and rough) rule of thumb to help with your calculations:
Start with a $24.95 hardcover.
Discounts to booksellers vary, but for a rough estimate figure that the publisher receives around 50%.
Let’s say the author has a 10% retail royalty, and the author has an agent who receives 15% of the author’s share. This works out to (again, roughly):
$12.48 to the bookseller (50%)
$9.98 to the publisher (50% minus author/agent share)
$2.12 to the author (10% of retail minus 15%)
$0.38 to the agent (15% of 10%)
For another example, let’s take a $14.95 trade paperback where the author receives 7.5% retail. That translates to:
$7.48 to the bookseller
$5.83 to the publisher
$0.95 to the author
$0.17 to the agent
So there you have it. Note that the author (and agent) do not actually receive the above money until the advance has “earned out,” meaning until all those little $0.95s per book have exceeded the amount the publisher paid as an advance. Subrights revenue, i.e. first serial (excerpts in periodicals), permissions, electronic, etc. also go towards paying down that advance.
Also note that this (thankfully) doesn’t include rights the agent/author might have reserved, such as audio rights, foreign, and dramatic rights, which can be very important in helping authors earn enough for a new couch to sit on as they frantically write their next book in the hopes of landing the money for a new coffee table.