Monday, August 24, 2009

A Peek Into the Realities of Small Press Publishing

An author for one of my publishers recently did an ad campaign on facebook, and he asked if he could see the sales to compare them with the ad campaign. The following is the reply from the publisher. It's a great eye-opener into the reality of being a small-press publisher: (This is printed with permission)

We sell our print books through the following:
1. Ingrams
2. Website
3. Folletts
4. Brodart

Of the above, Brodart and Folletts sell directly to libraries and bookstores. They send us purchase orders and I fulfill the purchase orders and bill them. Brodarts pays very promptly. Folletts pays somewhat promptly. (Although they did send me a check for $0.00 last month. I’ll try not to spend it all in one place.) Generally the only books they buy are the ones that have been reviewed in PW or LJ.

If people order from our website, they generally pay in advance. I sometimes have libraries or stores order via email or phone and depending on the situation, I may or may not get payment in advance. If I do not get payment in advance, it can take FOREVER to get payment from some bookstores. Since I’ve been stiffed so many times in the last year on these invoices I am beginning to be more hard -nosed about demanding money in advance.

This paragraph edited by request of the publisher: We have a contract with one distributor who is very large, but is notorious in the business for being slow to pay. I have no way of tracking our sales through them. It just has to be a pleasant surprise when and if I receive a statement from them.

All other print copies are sold through Ingrams. This includes the books sold on I do not sell print copies directly to Our printer is a subsidiary of Ingrams so I can check my compensation report and see how many copies they have sold but I don’t know who they sold them to. I have no way of knowing how many of those sales are to Bookstores and libraries also order through Ingrams, as well as other online book retailers. I can sometimes tell when some of you are doing signings because I will see an order in a multiple of 5. This is generally updated on a weekly basis. There is a three month delay on these payments to me. If we’ve had returns, then there may not actually be anything left for them to pay me by the time they get done taking out the money for the returns. Sometimes we end up OWING them money because the cost of the returns in a single month exceeds the amount they owe us for sales.

We sell our electronic books through the following:
1. Fictionwise
2. Mobi
3. Kindle
4. Our website
5. Reader’s Eden

We sell most of our ebooks through Fictionwise. I can track our sales from their website. They update it weekly. They pay quarterly.

There are a gazillion other EBook vendors out there who are Mobi retailers and who sell our books through their agreement with Mobi. If you see your ebook on a site other than one of the ones above, don’t worry about it. They have a license with Mobi to sell the book and we get the same amount from them that we do from Mobi. I can track our sales on the Mobi website. We used to sell a lot on Mobi but since we have gone to Fictionwise and since the introduction of Kindle, we sell very little on Mobi. owns Mobi. Mobi pays annually provided the amount hits a minimum level. We haven’t hit their minimum for the last two years (It’s a VERY high minimum.) That’s why some of you have very old Mobi sales on your royalty statements that are still in the payment pending table.

Our Kindle contract is rather convoluted because it is an addendum to our Mobi contract. We don’t actually have a contract with to sell on Kindle—our contract is with Mobi to sell in Kindle format on There is a 3 month delay on receiving sales figures from Kindle. They send me the statement just before they send payment.

So, I will not be able to tell for 3 months if your ad on Facebook is resulting in sales on Kindle. I can, however, tell you that I have not seen much activity on Fictionwise. I’ve seen 3 copies sell on Ingrams. FWIW, that’s the data I have.
I can also tell all of you that I have google alerts out for every single one of you and the people whose names show up on google alerts the most often have the highest number of sales.

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