Manuscripts Burn


"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov

Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Monday, August 8, 2016

How the Sausage is Made

On Friday I posted that I'm opening up to mailing out autographed copies of my novels.  I was never really "closed" to it, per se, but I thought I should make the announcement public so all of my fans are aware of the same opportunity.

As I was drafting that blogpost, I started to go into the details of how and why I can afford to do this in terms of time, financial investment, etc.  But then I realized that it was turning a tiny little announcement post into a lengthy trip down writecraft lane.  So I truncated it where it was.  Buuuuuuuut, since some of my readers are genuinely interested in the hows, whys, wherefores, and specifics of how a writer makes money, I thought this might make a good subject for a separate post.

So if all you need to know is how to get a book from me, check out Friday's post.  If you want to know more, read on.

At present BRAINEATER JONES is $12.99 on Amazon, EVERY KINGDOM DIVIDED is $17.59, THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO is $13.50, and BILLY AND THE CLONEASAURUS is $9.99. So how can I afford to sell the books for only $10 at signings or in this mailing offer? Because I order at an author's discount. 

What is an author's discount?  The easiest way to explain it is to consider who is dividing up the money you spend on a book.  Most of the money goes to Amazon, and in the case of paperbacks, most of that money is the actual cost of production.  But don't worry, Amazon's getting paid no matter what.  What's left is divided (the percentage depending on the contract between them) between the publisher and the author.

When an author orders using his discount, he's basically getting the book less what he would be paid.  So Amazon and the publisher still get paid, but the author's "payment" for that book is getting the book for cheap.  Then I can pass on the love to my fans or not, as I see fit.  I'm at the point in my career where I still do, because I'm still trying to build an audience, so selling books for cheaper is more beneficial to me at this point.  If I was a famous author and people were clamoring for my books, I could afford to charge slightly more.  At one of my signings, price might be a reason someone doesn't buy a book, and I can't afford to lose potential fans because of my price point.  Stephen King, for instance, has already put in the hard work of building an audience, so he can charge essentially whatever he wants and the line will still be around the block.

That's why it's always going to be your benefit to purchase paperbacks from me at a signing or by mail because I pass on the author's discount to you. And, yes, the price for BILLY is about the same, but the small profit I make on BILLY sales helps me underwrite the other three.

So, for instance, with my author's discount I spend about $7 per copy of BRAINEATER, taking into account shipping.  So every copy of BRAINEATER I sell for $10 is a $3 profit.  That's about average.  I make a little more on BILLY, and quite a bit less on GHOUL.  GHOUL costs me very close to $10.  If my BILLY sales didn't make up for it, I wouldn't be able to sell GHOUL for the same price as the others. 

So why don't I just price all of my books so that I make the same amount of profit on each?  Primarily it's because at events I'm not just selling my books.  I'm also selling Mary Fan's books, who is my usual convention partner, as well as Elizabeth Corrigan's, Melissa MacVicar's, Collin Tobin's, and a number of others.  If we priced every book individually it would be a nightmare to sell anything to anyone.  So we all agreed on a price of $12 apiece, or $10 apiece if you buy two or more.  With the mailing offer I'm making it even easier on you, and just starting out at $10 apiece.

But what about shipping?  Why do I charge a flat rate for shipping when shipping varies.

Well, yes, shipping varies, but so far I haven't shipped a package that cost more than $5, and for one book it's still around $2.75 for the Media rate.  I expect if I ever sell all four books in a single pop the shipping cost would be slightly over $5, but I'm not sure.  So I'm calling it $5 for all packages.  First of all, I want payment up front, and while I could make an educated guess as to the cost for shipping each package, it's better to just give you a rate that I know is not exorbitant.  Will I profit slightly from shipping on some package?  Yes.  I may make a net total of $1.75 when shipping a single book at the Media rate.  And that will help to offset when I sell all four books at $5.75 or so.   It also means that I won't have Jimmy in Sacramento complaining that I charged him $3.75 but I only charged Kitty in Philadelphia $2.75.

Now, bear in mind, all of this discussion assumes you're within the continental U.S. If you're outside the contiguous 48, we can discuss it, but most shipping charges are prohibitively expensive. I've done this before with reviewer copies.  I've sent single books to the UK for a whopping $26 in shipping. It's cheaper for me to order a copy through Amazon UK without my author discount and have it sent directly to the reviewer than to pay shipping and send it from here.

So why can't I do anthologies?  Well, it all boils down to the same financial concerns. All of my anthologies are either for charity or else I do not get an author's discount. So, yes, I guess I could send you a signed anthology, but I'd have to order it, have it shipped to me, sign it, ship it to you, and then pass on that full price to you, and since I don't make royalties on anthologies, it would be for zero profit. So, for instance, if you wanted AT HELL'S GATES, which is $12.59 on Amazon, assuming $5 for shipping both ways, I'd have to charge you around $22.59 just to break even.  If you really want a signed anthology, I guess we can discuss it, but it's to both of our benefits if you purchase it yourself and bring it to a signing.

Like I said, I know this post was a bit in the weeds, but that's why I didn't want all this information cluttering up the initial post.  And, hey, some people like to crawl around in the weeds, so for those of you out there, enjoy.

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