I'm not here to give advice about self-publishing (though I could, having done it moderately successfully myself). What I want to do is flag up this bit, because it raises some points I'd like to emphasise for all writers:
"At the Society of Authors day, an alarming number of self-published authors who had visited local bookshops expecting to have their wares welcomed with open arms, expressed shock that discounts of 40 to 50% were routinely required. Well, welcome to the world of traditional publishing. Bookshops have to make money too, and often they don’t. They might take a punt on a new self-published author, and do a supportive favour to a local writer, but it's the author who should be obliged, not the bookseller. I was astonished by the number of authors who felt that the fact that they had published a book gave them an automatic right of entry onto the shelves of any bookshop."Here are the points that occur from that paragraph:
- Bookshops only contain a tiny percentage of the books available. They have to choose the ones they think they can sell. Competition between books is huge.
- Space in a bookshop costs. Things have to sell, otherwise they are taking space (and therefore potential income) from the shop. If the shop knows it can sell a pile of Harry Potter books easily but a pile of Nicola Morgan books with greater difficulty, it would be wise (though arguably short-termist) to stock HP. Sadly.
- Luckily, most booksellers are book-lovers, and they want a good variety, so they may choose to stock NM, but they must believe in the book. It's the job of my publisher to convince them.
- Yes, discounts are minimum 40%. Usually 40-60%. Discounts to Amazon may be 80%. Discounts to book clubs such as the Book People will be at least that. (And, by the way, our royalty is on the revenue received, not the cover price...)
- Most books don't make a profit, for the above reasons.
- Every publishing contract is a guess. Publishers want to get it right and they take many risks along the way. If they didn't, we wouldn't stand a chance unless we wrote only relatively safe commercial sellers.