Sunday, April 3, 2011



A few years ago an individual created out of thin air a concept he called "Yog's Law." I have no idea who "Yog" is or what planet he may be from but just like Superman there is "kryptonite" in this concept and that "kryptonite" is the facts. His over-simplistic “Money always flows to the writer” is his central argument. The problem with that concept is that he makes it sound like a movie script. Write a book, ask mom how good she thinks it is, send it to a publisher, they take it and make you a millionaire while you sit at home and watch TV. Of course writers should make money for their work, but the premise that they will never have to spend money if they publish, promote or market their books is incredibly na├»ve. I am close friends with several New York literary agents. I was speaking with one last week who has been in that business for decades. She was informing me of the high profile clients she represents who have to take their money to promote and buy their own books. She said that the publishers she works with are the bank and that they see their authors as having to do the work and are small businesses. At Tate Publishing we create for every first-time author an incredible opportunity to succeed. The support they get is over-the-top excellent and the few authors we sign out of the tens of thousands of unsolicited manuscripts we receive each year get the best product and support in the industry.

I have interviewed authors with other publishers for my own interest and we have a staff member in our marketing division who has shared some of his work and research with me as well. Here is a brief synopsis of their experience with those publishers:

Suzy Spencer: NYT bestselling author. In Suzy’s words: “I’ve had four books published. Of those four, I’ve had little marketing support from my publishers. I’ve never been allowed any contact with the sales teams, though I understand some publishers encourage such. As for public relations support, for my first book Wasted, which became a New York Times bestseller, I believe my publisher sent out a few review copies. By that I mean I provided names and addresses of friends in the media and my publisher mailed them copies of the book and, from what I understand, a note that said here’s a book by Suzy Spencer. There was no publicity packet included. No sales pitch of what the book was about or why they would be interested in it.” Suzy herself hired a publicist and mailed out push cards.

Tom Llewellyn: Tom stated that his book The Tilting House sold about 8,000 copies. His marketing support, in his words: “Not as much as I expected (he says, while hoping he sounds grateful to be published at all). They sent out promotional copies, distributed the book in their catalog, blogged about it and sent me a whole bunch of customized bookmarks. A very talented designer friend of mine built a cool website ( and created a book trailer you can see there as well. I setup and completed interviews in local newspapers. I held a pretty massive book launch party—about which the publisher’s rep said it was the biggest launch party she’d ever seen. I’ve done a whole bunch of author talks at local schools and still continue to do them. And I’ve done a whole bunch of blog interviews—kind of like this one.” Tom paid for his own marketing, the construction of his web site and his own book launch party. By the way, after the interview, discontinued the imprint, and Tom has no publisher at all.

My favorite: Sheila Kelly, NYT bestselling author of Twilight Fall. You can see a copy of one of her royalty statements here: Sheila was actually paid an advance of $50,000 for her book. She did not receive a third of that until the book was published. Her agent got $7,500 of the advance. Uncle Sam took $15,000 in taxes. After her other expenses, she actually received $26,000 of her $50,000 advance. Her net earnings from her royalty statement in the link are about $27,000, after returns and holdbacks. Because her publisher has not yet recouped the advance they kept their share, so her net earnings from this royalty statement were, wait for it, $0. That’s right, she sold $46,000 worth of books the quarter she became a NYT bestseller and didn’t receive any of it. Her credited earnings on her next royalty statement were about $2,500, which her publisher also kept to repay her advance.
In Sheila’s words: “My income per book always reminds me of how tough it is to make at living at this gig, especially for writers who only produce one book per year. If I did the same, and my one book performed as well as TF, and my family of four were solely dependent on my income, my net would be only around $2500.00 over the income level considered to be the U.S. poverty threshold (based on 2008 figures.) Yep, we’d almost qualify for food stamps.” To date, she has made about $24,000 off Twilight Fall, mainly from her advance. She didn’t expect to see any actual royalties from her book for another 1-2 years.

In contrast, one of our authors, who is not a NYT bestselling author, has made at least $75,000 off the sales of her three titles with us, and that all went into her pocket.
Money flows to the author? Authors with other publishers pay plenty, and don’t have it nearly as well as our authors do. Sure, J.K. Rowling and James Patterson are multi-millionaires, but they have each cranked out several books, have movie deals, and have to sell an incredible volume of books. They are in the extreme minority, of which I am certain Mr. Yog’s Law is not a member.


Janice F Baca said...

This is a sad reality for many.

Stephanie Lauren said...

I cannot begin to describe the amount of people who I've spoken to who describe this feild as being "easy" or for "lazy" people who allow their publishers to do the work. After my experience with a self-publishing company I've come to realize just how off the wall that is! Writing your story is just the beginning! The amount of marketting and time that must be put in to even break even is difficult to even fathom! I loved working with my company, but it really is not anything like what is betrayed as being a writer!

Mary said...

The horrible part of it all is that you do lose trust. Although, this world is evil, and most people do not want to accept that. Of course, the worse time is when a Believer ruins your that is BIG. Perserverance and forgiveness are the only answers......