Economics of an Anthology Pt.3

Anthology EconomicsToken Payment vs. Per-Word Compensation

In Part 1 of this series of article about the Economics of creating an Anthology, we determined (hypothetical and loosely) that the labor involved will cost about $2,000 (minimum) to produce an anthology of about 17 stories, with 4,000 to 9,000 words each. In Part 2, we hypothesized the costs and revenue of assembling an anthology. Some have asked about getting paid per-word. Let’s take a look at that.

One soul (bless his heart!) DEMANDED $0.04-$0.06 per-word for submitting his story to an anthology. If publishers did that, for a 4,000-word submission, their cost would be $160-$240 per story, per author. For a 9,000 word submission, their cost would be $360-$540…per story, per author. On average, most of the submissions Left Hand Publishers receive are about 6,000 words. Times 17 authors, you are looking at 102,000 words (about average for a book these days). However, based on the payment-per-word concept, that would mean the outlay just for authors would be $4000-6100.

We took the same exact chart from the previous article and substituted the token author payment for a MINIMUM per-word compensation model.

Hard Costs & Revenue utilizing the Per-Word Compensation method

Action Details Cost
ISBN numbers Need at least 2-4. One for each format: print, e-pub, .mobi, etc. Priced in bulk. $5.75 – $33 each. 11.50
Author payments 17 x $25 (1 time typical token payments for anthologies) 4000.00
Purchasing a Physical Proof Production, shipping & handling 13.00
Set-Up Fees Some distributors charge project fees and revision fees 74.00
Online retailers commission  about 75%-ish. Assuming a $9.99 book (competitive) Per book: 7.43
GROSS PROFIT FOR PUBLISHER:  Per print book sold: 2.69

We’ve illustrated in the previous article how publishers (in this hypothetical situation) would be losing over $1,700 in the first year. Add another $3,600-$5,600 to that if using the compensation-per-word system. The publisher would be losing $5,300-$7,300 in the first year on that book. (Add another $2,100 to those losses if you use the $0.06 per-word model.)

If the average book sells about 300 copies in the first year, they would generate $807, and it would cost them $6,622 to do it, for a net loss of $5,815 the first year of the book. Compared to a net loss of about $1,700 when paying a token amount.

But the book may be on sale for 20 years? True. Then the publisher, in this situation, would generate $8,000 and it would cost them about $6,622 to make it for a net profit of about $1,378 over 20 years. This amount would be applied to support the whole company’s fixed costs (offices, computers, expenses, accountants, licensing, etc.) If you just take the average of $403/yr. ($8,030 / 20), it will take 16.4 years for the publisher just to break even. Forget making a profit. This is also assuming that the industry does not change one bit in the next 20 years. As if.

Author Creativity & Compensation

Do authors get paid adequately for the amount of creativity they put into a story? Absolutely not. Are there publishers out there that pay more than just token amounts for stories for an anthology? Absolutely. Will they be in business a year from now? Who knows.The minimal barrier to entry to be a publisher these days is laughable, with self-publishing tools online, anyone with a computer can claim to be a publisher. The question is: do they have the business acumen to be a SUCCESSFUL publisher? Some magazines and trade journals pay more, but they have a subscription base of thousands and a guaranteed, built-in revenue because of that.

No one gets into the writing business to make money. You do it because you have stories inside you that need to come out. If you want to be compensated fairly for your efforts, you may want to consider a different industry. Until you get to be a brand name author, money is the least consideration in getting printed.

What To Do?

If you can get paid a lot more money than just a token payment, you absolutely should take it. Those opportunities are rare indeed. If you are trying to break into the business, you should be happy to get ANY compensation. Do NOT EVER pay to be in an anthology.

No Competition?

From what we can gather, there is about 38 million books1 on Amazon right now (those figures are old). On Facebook, there is a group called the 1% Writers Club2. Their motto is that 81% of us WANT to be writers, but only 1% of us actually try. Well, 1% of the U.S. population is about 3.2 million trying to be writers. 1% of the world would be 75 million…trying to be writers. But even if you just used the U.S. numbers, if you were were the top 1% of that 1%, means you’re still competing with 320,000 other authors. Any chance you get to get into print and establish your brand, you should take it.

Publishing, Independent, Writers, Authors, Manuscripts, marketing, EditingLeft Hand Publishers is NOT a vanity press. We will never ask the writer for an investment or to pay any part of the cost of being published. We provide our publishing services as a percentage of revenue which we participate in, once the work sells. Optional Services are available to writers who need assistance in getting their manuscripts and/or their marketing tools honed for a successful and profitable publishing experience. For various consulting services, outside of publishing, we will provide an estimate in advance at no charge. For more information, contact us at .

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