What Constitutes a Fair Share for Authors?

It is entirely reasonable that an author should expect to be paid fairly for their work. One of the most contentious issues in book publishing is centred around the issue of fair payment: what percentage of money made from a book should an author expect to receive?

A Question of Percentages

It goes without saying that there would be no book to publish without the creative input of the author, and in terms of hours spent, it is clearly the author of a book who puts in the most work. However, the question of payment is a surprisingly complicated issue.

There are a lot of different considerations which determine how much an author is paid for their work. When considering the question of a percentage, it is important, firstly, to understand what the author is receiving a percentage of. If we take, as an example, a book which retails for £10.00, this can help illustrate what is meant by a fair percentage.

A fair percentage for an author of a book which sells online or in a bookshop for £10.00 is a somewhat difficult figure to work out. This is because it depends on the terms under which the book is sold. Where a book is sold in a large national book retailer, it is likely that the retailer may be taking as much as 50% of the sale price of that book; where a book is sold through a distributor, this figure can be even higher.

To take this example further, if the book costs, say, £2.00 a copy to print, and a retailer is taking 50% (i.e., £5.00), that leaves only £3.00 to be split between the author and the publisher. With the publisher’s many and varied costs of production, which includes design, editing, typesetting, ISBN registration and other fees, this £3.00 can very quickly be eaten up.

Therefore, where a book is sold through a large retailer it is entirely possible that if the publisher and the author each make £1.00 in profit (i.e., 10% of the retail cost), this works out as a fair division of the small profit made from the book.

How a Book is Sold Makes a Difference

It is important, however, to note that other methods of selling books are likely to yield greater profits for both publisher and author. If the book is sold through the publisher’s website and is priced at £10.00, taking away the £2.00 cost for printing still leaves £8.00 which, allowing for other costs, reduces to, say, £6.00. This could then be split between the publisher and author, giving each £3.00 (30%).

Other models of selling, through online bookshops or smaller independent retailers, are likely to give a profit somewhere between large national retailers and selling through the publisher’s own website.

Our Approach at Pugmill Press

So, what should authors expect in terms of a fair percentage? If a rough average is taken of the various sales channels, somewhere in the region of 20% of the profit from a book is about right. This allows the publisher to make a small profit and covers their costs, but also enables the author to receive enough of the profit of the book to feel rewarded.

Pugmill Press is proud to pay a higher percentage than many other non-fiction publishers. We will always seek to maximise the amount we can pay our authors, as this rewards and recognises their hard work and boosts sales for us as a publisher.

Happy New Year from the Pugmill Press team! We have a dazzling range of exciting new books lined up for 2022 and are looking forward to announcing the winner of our Hidden Gem Prizes towards the end of April.

Remember that the closing date for the competitions are 22nd March 2022. We look forward to receiving your entry!

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