Monday, August 31, 2015

14 Calls for Submissions in September - Horror, Sci-fi, Personal Essays and more

Fall is a great time for submissions. 

Calls for submissions for the month of September span the gamut from terrifying campfire stories to personal essays, from care taking for cancer patients, to retelllings of fairy tales.

All of these are paying markets.


Emby Press is seeking submissions for a new anthology titled Monster Waiting in the Woods. "Scare the hell out of us with any monster you like, although I will be especially interested in original monsters. Then keep the tension screwed tight and the terror dial on high. Set the stories anywhere - the “woods” in the title are only a possibility."

Genre: Horror, sci-fi, dark fiction

Length2000 to 8000 words. Please query if longer.

Payment: $25

Deadline: September 1


Creepy Campfire Stories for Grownups. This anthology will contain timeless tales of extreme horror campfire stories for adult readers (over 18 years old). "ALL horror is welcome, including ALL sub-genres (science fiction, speculative, magical, fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, psychological, historical, Urban Legend, Original Creepy Pasta, mystical, Occult and extreme). All stories submitted must be original and previously unpublished. We will accept reprints, but if accepted, author must sign a contract stating that the reprinted story's copyright belongs to them."

Length: Word limit is 6,000 (hard), and minimum is 1,500

Genre: Horror

Payment: 4 cents per word, up to a flat rate of $240 per story, plus two contributor’s copies.

Deadline: September 1


‘Witches, Warlocks, Demons, & Evil Doers’ Anthology. Sirens Call Publications, a small press publisher of edgy fiction, is seeking horror/supernatural stories for an upcoming anthology. "We are looking for stories that tell of wrong doings perpetrated by someone or something with supernatural abilities. We are not looking for stories of werewolves or vampires who need to survive by causing harm. What we want are stories of choice; stories where the protagonist chooses to do harm for a specific reason through means of a power beyond that of a normal mortal."

Genre: Speculative fiction

Length: 4K-8K words

Payment: $25/story

Deadline: September 1


Timeless Tales exclusively publishes retellings of fairy tales and myths. "We only accept stories that are retellings of the fairytale or myth listed as our theme. We don't accept original fairy tales or stories outside of our current theme."

Genre: Speculative fiction

Theme: "Baba Yaga"

Length: Up to 2,000 words. Under 1,500 preferred

Deadline: September 4


Liminoid Magazine. "Our mission is to publish unique fiction that's on the cusp: neither here nor there, unbound by convention or genre expectations."

Genre: Fiction

Length: Fiction must be at least 500 words long, but no longer than 10,000 words

Payment: $20/published piece

Deadline: September 10


Eye to the Telescope , the flagship ezine of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, is looking for speculative poems that deal with the idea of race in a number of different ways. Poets can submit up to five poems. Poems must be original and unpublished.

Genre: Speculative poems

Payment: 3 cents/word–$3 minimum or $25 maximum—for First (or Reprint) Electronic Rights. Payment is upon publication

Deadline: September 15


Fine Linen Magazine, a print literary journal mailed to members, is reading for its next quarterly issue (Autumn 2015 issue) to be published September 15, 2015.

Genre: Well-plotted, swift-paced flash fiction, between 200 and 700 words.

Payment: 5 cents per word

Deadline: September 15


Giants & Ogres Anthology. "CBAY Books is pleased to announce an open submission period for the upcoming YA anthology Giants & Ogres, a collection of stories featuring these classics villains from fairy tales. Like in our previous anthology, Stepmothers & the Big Bad Wolf, we are looking for stories that show these villains in new and unusual ways. Retold fairy tales are welcome, but we are also looking for tales that feature these characters in new and interesting lights. We will be selecting 5 giant stories and 5 ogre stories."

Genre: Fantasy and Science Fiction for ages 13-18 featuring a main character of either a giant or an ogre

Length: 5,000 words

Payment: $30/story

Deadline: September 18


Capricious, a new magazine of literary speculative fiction and commentary, will debut its first issue this September.

Genre: Literary and experimental fiction, as well as non-fiction essays about speculative fiction. "We err towards the literary/experimental/slipstream side of speculative fiction, but appreciate a strong plot and kickass characters as much as anyone. Fiction which explores the relationship between an environment and its inhabitants is particularly welcome. We’re very open to stories told in second person, with unusual tenses, or other less common language choices, as long as they’re a good fit for the story. We’re particularly interested in stories from writers in the Asia-Pacific region, stories about disability that avoid the usual tropes, and thoughtful explorations of gender (and hell yes gender neutral pronouns are more than ok)." In the nonfiction category, the magazine will publish essays that explore themes and characteristics of speculative fiction.

Length: 3K-5K words per story.

Payment: $50 per story or essay.

Deadline: Not indicated.


Western Art & Architecture is a bi-monthly magazine that "celebrates America's love affair with the Western visual arts. From the classic Western masters to contemporary trendsetters, Western Art & Architecture magazine features the best in art and architecture from Texas to the West Coast." Now accepting queries for their Feb/March 2016 issue.

Genre: Nonfiction

Length: 500 to 1,500 words. 

Payment: 50 cents/word for articles, and $50-$185/photo. 

Deadline: September 24


Your Workplace is a Canadian magazine covering leadership and work-life issues. They are currently seeking articles for their Nov/Dec 2015 issue. Topics include background and context to ongoing national workplace issues, a challenge to mainstream perspectives, or an important story that
hasn’t been told elsewhere. Readers include executives, leaders and employees in dynamic organizations.

Genre: Nonfiction 

Length: from 600 to 2,500 words for feature articles, including sidebars and/or visuals. 

Payment: starts at 25 cents per word and increases depending on the type and topic of the article and the writer’s background.

Deadline: September 24


Chicken Soup for the Soul is publishing an anthology about “Angels and Miracles.” “We’re looking for stories about angels, miracles, answered prayers, messages from heaven, and all your other awe-inspiring experiences, whether religious or non-religious. We are looking for stories of true wonder and inspiration – things that have happened to you and your friends and family – things that are hard to explain, but really happened! Share the awe, the faith, and the wonder with our readers. And just a note – we are not looking for stories about people who are “angels” because they do nice things or for eulogies about loved ones who are now angels.”

Genre: Nonfiction, prose and poetry

Length: up to 1200 words. Poetry: open line count.  

Payment: $200 per story or poem, plus 10 contributor’s copies. Authors retain the copyright to their stories. 

Deadline: September 30


How to Help is looking for creative non-fiction essays telling well-crafted, heartfelt stories detailing how people have meaningfully aided you as a cancer patient, and what you have found most valuable in terms of support in your time of sickness. "We will also accept profound essays from caregivers or those in the cancer industry with a great story to tell along these lines. Consider these questions as prompts: How can people who love you help you as a cancer patient? What have people done in the past that touched you? What did you wish people would do? What did people say that made you feel better? What did you wish people wouldn’t say? What have you done as a caregiver that was meaningful and helpful and heartfelt?"

Genre: Nonfiction, personal essay

Length: under 3K words per story.

Payment: $150 per story upon publication plus a copy of the book

Deadline: September 30


Fireside Fiction Company started in 2012 as a Kickstarter-funded short-story magazine. "We have two goals: to find and publish great stories regardless of genre, and to pay our writers and artists well. We’ve published dozens of writers since then, from well-known names to authors making their first sale."

Genres: Sci-fi, horror, romance, crime, fantasy, Westerns, near-future, and modern non-speculative fiction. "We are looking for more of those and from all the many genres we haven’t explored. Just tell us a good story." No simultaneous submissions.

Length: 1000-4000 words for short fiction; and up to 1K words for flash

Payment: 12.5 cents/word

Deadline: September 30

Thursday, August 27, 2015

What Is the Best Price for Your Novel?

Updated 2/2/23

If you are self-publishing, setting a price for your novel can be daunting.

Do you set the price as low as possible in order to garner the most readers, or do you set a higher price in hopes that you will make some money for your labors? And if you do set a higher price in hopes of gaining an income, what price is reasonable?

In this highly informative Huffington Post article, "Setting the Price for Your Novel -- What You Need to Know," Kristen Houghton lays out exactly how to price your novel.

She also talks about discounts, how retail prices are calculated and a lot of other factors that can affect the price of a book. As an all-round introduction to the topic, this article can't be beat.

If you want to know which price gets the best performance in terms of maximizing readers and sales (ebooks only), Written Word Media has done a great analysis.

According to Written Word, if your only goal is to maximize the number of readers you acquire:
  • $0.99 is the most effective price point.
  • $1.99 is not far behind.
If your only goal is to maximize revenue on the day of a promotion:
  • Price your book at $3.99.
You will acquire far fewer readers, but generate the most revenue. And if you want to achieve both goals
  • but want to acquire new readers more than maximize revenue, go for $1.99.
  • but want to maximize revenue more than you want to acquire new readers, price your book at $2.99 - $4.99.
There is no simple formula for how to price your book in both print and electronic form, but according to Fred Johnson, $1.99 is the ideal starting price for novellas, and $2.99 is the ideal starting point for novels.

See Fred Johnson's : Your Five-Minute Guide to Pricing Your Self-Published Book

Setting the Price for Your Novel -- What You Need to Know

By Kristen Houghton

Think you know all about publishing your book? The writing, the edits, etc., sure. But there's more. Do you know how to price your novel so it will sell well? This isn't about publicity, this is about the actual book price seen by your readers. There's a whole new world out there for authors and we need to be on top of all the "my book" related parts of publishing. Careful pricing is one of the keys to success.

One of the most important aspects with which an author must deal is the aspect of dollars and cents; in other words the selling price of your book and the profit you will make. If you are traditionally published, no worries; your publisher will determine the retail price of your print novel as well as your ebook version. Publishers will tell you the price point of your book and you're pretty much set.

However if you're going the route of a boutique publishing house of which you are a partner, or you are self-publishing, you need to know the publishing basics. The number one basic is how to do retail pricing. It isn't complicated; it is simple math. The retail price is achieved through an appraisal of your book's target audience and factors in the competitive price at which books in the same genre are selling. A simple example is if you're a romance writer and a competitor's print book of a similar length and size is priced at $9.95. You can feel secure in pricing your own at the same price.

The second basic is knowing how to actually arrive at the retail price. That figure should be at least 2.5 times the single-copy printing cost. This allows for a reasonable margin that will cover book-related costs and your profits after trade discounts are factored in. The retail price also helps establish the net sales payment amount. That's the amount you, the author, make from each sale. To make a nice profit per sale, and staying competitive, you price your book at $12.95.

But, there are some other things to consider when you set the price for your book. Remember the word discounts? Here's how it relates to the retail price.

Find out more about how to price your book HERE.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

22 Writers' Conferences in September 2015

With the end of summer comes a renewed interest in getting back to work.

For a writer, the work never really ends. In addition to getting your ideas out of your head and onto paper, you need to get your manuscript into the hands of people who will publish it, which entails a great deal of effort - as well as knowledge, preparation, and encouragement.

Fortunately, there are many conferences this coming month that will accomplish just that, as well as enabling you to get connected with the larger writing community. (Speaking of getting connected - check out Dragon Con. Even if sci-fi is not your genre, this conference sounds like a hoot!)


DragonCon, Sept. 4–7, Atlanta, Ga. HUGE sci-fi event, with parade, autograph sessions, live performances, readings, wrestling (!), workshops on belly dancing, writing (yes, there's even some writing), art show.

Kentucky Women Writers Conference, Sept. 11–12, Lexington, Ky.The Kentucky Women Writers Conference is the longest running literary festival of women in the nation. Presenters: Angela Ball, Bianca Bargo, Ann Beattie, Martha Billips, Emily Bingham, Meghan Daum, Kathleen Driskell, Joy Harris, Allison Joseph, Carson Kreitzer, Jessica Helen Lopez, Hannah Pittard, Sonia Sanchez, Jacinda Townsend. Numerous workshops.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference, Sept. 11- 13, Westminster, CO. Keynote Speakers: Jeffery Deaver and Desiree Holt. Faculty includes a wide variety of published authors, marketers, editors, and agents. Opportunities to pitch projects to agents and editors.

San Francisco Writing for Change, Sept 12, San Francisco, CA. This event is for writers of nonfiction AND fiction who want to change the world for the better through their work.

Light Your Fuse Creativity Retreat, Sept 12, Bethlehem, PA. Writing workshop. "The event will focus on craft and motivation, and after our fabulous speakers do their thing, there will be brainstorming and writing sessions in a supportive, casual, and fun environment."

Slice Literary Writers’ Conference, Sept 12 - 13, Brooklyn, NY. craft workshops, panels, and one-on-one agent meetings for poets, fiction writers, and nonfiction writers. Participating writers include fiction writers Ben Greenman, Julia Fierro, Bret Anthony Johnston, and Nicole Krauss; and creative nonfiction writers Leslie Jamison and Rebecca Mead. Participating publishing professionals include Sarah Bowlin (Henry Holt), Katie Freeman (Riverhead/Penguin), Brigid Hughes (A Public Space), Maris Kreizman (Kickstarter), Vanessa Mobley (Little, Brown), Benjamin Samuel (National Book Foundation), and Rob Spillman (Tin House); and agents Michelle Brower (Folio Literary Management), Lisa DiMona (Writers House), Kirby Kim (Janklow & Nesbit), Stephanie Kip Rostan (Levine Greenberg Rostan Literary Agency), and Renée Zuckerbrot (Renée Zuckerbrot Literary Agency).

New York Pitch Conference, Sept 17 - 20, 2015, New York NY. Features publishing house editors from major houses such as Penguin, Random House, St. Martins, Harper Collins, Tor and Del Rey, Kensington Books and many more who are looking for new novels in a variety of genres, as well as narrative non-fiction. The event focuses on the art of the novel pitch as the best method not only for communicating your work, but for having you and your work taken seriously by industry professionals.Workshops, homework & pitch training, agent/editor feedback, market study, publication plan.

THE MAGIC OF 13 - SCBWI: Northern Ohio 13th Annual Conference, Sept 18 - 19, Cleveland, OH. Hosted by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Northern Ohio. Faculty: Nikki Garcia (Little Brown Books); Loraine Joyner (Peachtree); Maria Lamba (Jennifer De Chiara); Kendra Levin (Viking's Children's Books/Penguin Young Readers); Jodel Sadler (Sadler Literary); Vicki Selvaggio (Jennifer De Chiara) and many authors.

North Coast Redwoods Writers' Conference. Sept 18 - 19, Crescent City, CA. Workshops on writing, poetry, memoir, editing, social media, marketing, fiction, submitting.

Brooklyn Book Festival, September 20, Brooklyn, NY. Readings, panels, workshops, and a book fair. Participants include poets Elizabeth Alexander, Tina Chang, Colin Channer, Nick Flynn, Saeed Jones, Gregory Pardlo, and Tracy K. Smith; fiction writers Daniel Alarcón, Carmiel Banasky, Paul Beatty, Edwidge Danticat, Andre Dubus III, Angela Flournoy, Ann Hood, Phil Klay, László Krasznahorkai, Joyce Carol Oates, Francine Prose, Salman Rushdie, and Laura van den Berg; and creative nonfiction writers Kate Bolick, Sloane Crosley, Geoff Dyer, Vivian Gornick, and Jon Ronson. All events are free and open to the public.

The Florida Heritage Book Festival & Writers Conference, Sept 24 - 26, St. Augustine FL. Faculty includes Vicki Hendricks, Elizabeth Sims, John Dufresne, Laura Lee Smith, and more. Book Festival authors include Mary Kay Andrews, Lisa Black, John Dufresne, Scott Eyman, Jon Jefferson, Connie Mae Fowler and many more.

Be a Better Freelancer - Take it to the 10th! Sept 25 - 26, Rochester NY. Annual conference for freelance writers, editors, proofreaders, indexers, graphic artists, website managers and developers, etc., with presenters offering guidance and tips on marketing, promotions, new skills and other business aspects of freelancing. Focus: Nonfiction.

Chicago Writers Conference, September 25 - 27, 2015, Chicago, Ill. Join other writers, editors, publishers and agents for a weekend of learning and fun! Panels, pitch sessions, and educational talks, along with a Friday night kick-off party. Sessions on publishing, self-publishing, how to pitch, craft of YA, meet the publishers, websites, nonfiction, and many more.

Creatures, Crimes & Creativity, September 25 - 27, Hunt Valley, MD. A writer's and fan's conference for genre fiction covering mystery, suspense, thriller, sci-fi, fantasy, steampunk & horror. 

SF:SE 2015, September 25 - 27, Orlando, FL. Focus: Speculative fiction. Workshops, panels and editor one-on-ones, together with convention debauchery like werewolf LARPing, masquerade balls and a tattoo gallery. All events to be shared with authorial greats like Orson Scott Card, Jacqueline Carey, Peter V. Brett, Kelley Armstrong, and industry icons.

A Weekend For Words: 13th Annual Southern California Writers’ Conference, September 25 - 27, 2015, Irvine, CA. "Having facilitated some $4 million worth of first-time authors’ book and screen deals since 1986, the SCWC remains devoted to writers of all levels working to become both exceptional authors and modern, entrepreneurial self-advocates. Through our uniquely tailored, inclusive programs the SCWC empowers writers with the vital recognition, encouragement and understanding to better succeed in today’s ever-changing transmedia marketplace." Limited to 150 participants.

LiTFUSE Poets’ Workshop. September 25 - 27, Tieton, WA. Faculty includes poets Elizabeth Austen, Ellen Bass, Sally Green, Sam Green, Tara Hardy, Christopher Howell, Talena Lachelle Queen, David Schein, Derek Sheffield, and Chad Sweeney.

Rom Com: Reader Weekend/University. September 25-27, Denver, Colorado. 60+ Authors of all genres of romance - Contemporary, Erotic, Historical, Inspirational, Sci-Fi, Paranormal, & Suspense. 20 Author-led games and events- Interact with authors. 10+ Intimate Chats.

Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference. September 25 - 28, Whidbey Island, WA. Evaluation and discussion of book-length and chapbook-length manuscripts with poets, editors, and publishers. The faculty includes poets Joan Houlihan and Fred Marchant; and editors Rusty Morrison of Omnidawn Publishing, Martha Rhodes of Four Way Books, and Jeff Shotts of Graywolf Press. 

9th Annual Chattahoochee Valley Writers Conference, Sept 26, Columbus, GA, "Whether you write prose or poetry you can explore capturing thoughts, observations, and reflections with the written word. The sessions will be criticism free. You will be exposed to various writers and their styles, and work on editing, polishing and expanding writings into something that is reflective of your personality and talents. You should leave with a piece of original work and a sense of writing as an avenue to discovering self."

2015 Flathead River Writers Conference, Sep 26 - 27, Kalispell, MT. Faculty: Margie Lawson, James W. Hall, Keith McCafferty, agents Annie Hwang (Folio) and Kerri Buckley (Carina). 

Chanticleer Authors Conference 2015, September 26 - 29, Bellingham WA. This conference is about increasing books sales and the business side of writing: Book Marketing, Branding, Promotion, Distribution,New Publishing Avenues and Social Media Mastery for Authors. Faculty: Harvey Chute of KBoards, Kiffer Brown of Chanticleer Reviews, Pamela Beason, Bennett Coles Promontory Press, Elizabeth DiMarco, Rochelle Parry, Wendy Delaney, Wendy DeWar Hughes, Robert Dugoni, Karen Brown, and others.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

20 Writing Contests in September - No Entry Fees

There are a lot of great contests coming up in September, some with hefty prizes.

The Sunday Times is offering £30,000.00 for a winning short story. Published books can win £10,000.00 and $35,000 in two of these contests, and there are also substantial prizes for short works.

The Silver Linings contest is giving $2000, and Life Lessons is awarding $3,000 for personal essays. There are also prizes for poetry, fiction, and non-fiction.

Good luck!


Good Housekeeping "Silver Linings" Contest. "Tell us about a time when a wrong turn took you to the right place or you found unexpected happiness at the end of a long road." Restrictions: Open to anyone age 21 or older who is a legal resident of the United States, the District of Columbia, or Canada (excluding Quebec). Genre: Story of 1,500 to 2,500 words. Prize: $2000. Deadline: September 1, 2015. Read more details here.

Helen Schaible International Shakespearean / Petrarchan Sonnet ContestGenre: Poetry. Prize: First Prize $50. Second Prize $35. Third Prize $15. Deadline: September 1, 2015. Read more details here.

Hudson Review Short Story ContestGenre: Short stories 10,000 words and under. Prize: First prize is $500, second and third are $250 each. Deadline: September 1, 2015. Read more details here.

Payton James Freeman Essay Prize is sponsored by the Freeman Family and the Drake University Department of English. Restrictions: Open to U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Prize: $500 and publication in The Rumpus magazine. Genre: Unpublished non-fiction essay of up to 3500 words on the subject: THE STUPID LITTLE THING THAT SAVED ME. Deadline: September 1, 2015. Read more details here.

Jerwood Awards for Nonfiction. Sponsored by Royal Society of Literature. Restrictions: UK and Irish citizens and those who have been resident in the UK for the past three years are all eligible. Genre: Open to writers engaged on their first commissioned works of non-fiction. Prize: £10,000.00 and two awards of 5,000 pounds each. Deadline: September 7, 2015. Read more details here.

Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers ProgramRestrictions: Publishers recommend writers making a strong literary debut. Authors cannot submit their own work to the program; self-published writers and titles published via print-on-demand or available only as NOOK books are also ineligible for submission. Genres: Literary fiction, short story collections and literary non-fiction, such as travel essays, memoirs, or other non-fiction with a strong narrative will be considered. Books should be intended for an adult or a young adult audience. Prize: $35,000 to six writers. Deadline: September 10, 2015. Read more details here.

Princemere Poetry PrizeGenre: Poetry. Prize: $300. Deadline: September 14, 2015. Read more details here.

Drake Emerging Writer AwardRestrictions: Authors must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents and must agree to attend and participate in the reading at Drake University in April 2015 to receive the award. Genre: First published book of poetry. Prize $1,000. Deadline: September 15, 2015.

Ethnographic Poetry Award. Sponsored by The Society for Humanistic Anthropology. Genre: Poetry associated with any of the five fields of anthropology: Archaeological, Biological, Linguistic, Sociocultural and Applied. Prize $100. Deadline: September 15, 2015. Read more details here.

Past Loves Day Story ContestGenre: Personal essay. Nearly everyone has memories of a former sweetheart. Write your true story of an earlier love, in no more than 700 words. Tell us about someone whose memory brings a smile or a tear, or both. Prize: First Prize: $100; Second Prize: $75; Third Prize: $50. Deadline: September 17, 2015. Read more details here.

Life Lessons Essay ContestRestrictions: Open to legal residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia, age 19 or older at time of entry. Genre: Personal essay. Would your world now be completely different—even unthinkable—if, at some point in the past, you hadn’t made a seemingly random choice? Tell us about it. Prize: $3,000. Deadline: September 21, 2015. Read more details here.

Sunday Times EFG Short Story AwardRestrictions: Open to authors from anywhere in the world, as long as they have a previous record of publication in creative writing in the UK and Ireland. Stories must be previously unpublished, or first published after 1 January 2015. Genre: Short story. All entries must be 6,000 words or under and entirely original. Prize: £30,000.00. Deadline: September 24, 2015. Read more details here.

L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest is held four times a year. Restrictions: The Contest is open only to those who have not professionally published a novel or short novel, or more than one novelette, or more than three short stories, in any medium. Professional publication is deemed to be payment of at least six cents per word, and at least 5,000 copies, or 5,000 hits. Genre: Short stories or novelettes of science fiction or fantasy. Prizes: $1,000, $750, $500, Annual Grand Prize: $5,000. Deadline: September 30, 2014. Read more details here.

Lee & Low Books New Voices Award is sponsored by Lee &Low Publishers. Restrictions: The contest is open to writers of color who are residents of the United States and who have not previously had a children’s picture book published. Genre: Children's books - fiction, nonfiction or poetry. Prize: $1,000. Deadline: September 30, 2015. Read more details here.

Authors First Writing Contest is sponsored by Authors First, located at P.O. Box 4331, Stamford, Connecticut 06907. Restrictions: The contest is open to international submissions from aspiring writers anywhere in the world. However, if the novel or story has been published in any form (including any self-publishing outlets), then it is ineligible for entry in the Contest. Genres: Novels of at least 40,000 words and short stories less than 20,000 words. Prize: Novels: Publishing contract with The Story Plant, $5,000, An iPad Mini, One year’s supply of books from The Story Plant. Short stories: A contract to publish the story in the Authors First anthology (to be published by The Story Plant) with a pro-rated share of royalties. Deadline: September 30, 2015. Read more details here.

Eric Hoffer Award for Short ProseRestrictions: The contest is open to everyone. Genre: Works of short prose less than 10,000 words, previously unpublished, or published with a circulation of less than 500. Prize: $250. Deadline: September 30, 2015. Read more details here.

Intergeneration Short Storytelling ContestRestrictions: The contest is open to everyone. Genre: Stories must be original, unpublished, and include at least two generations. Stories may not exceed 300 words (not including title). Prize: $100. Deadline: September 30, 2015. Read more details here.

Iowa Short Fiction and John Simmons Short Fiction AwardsGenre: Short story collection. The manuscript must be a collection of short stories in English of at least 150 word-processed, double-spaced pages. Prize: Publication by the University of Iowa Press, royalties. Deadline: September 30, 2015. Read more details here.

Jerry Jazz Musician Fiction ContestGenre: Short fiction. Prize: $100. Deadline: September 30, 2015. Read more details here.

Student Travel Writing ContestRestrictions: Open to currently enrolled undergraduate and graduate students, students who have graduated within the past year, and students currently on leave from school. Genre: Personal essay about living/working abroad. Prize: 1st Place: $500; 2nd Place: $150; 3rd Place: $100; Runner-up: $50. Deadline: September 30, 2015. Read more details here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

6 Calls for Submissions: Speculative Fiction, Essays, Poetry - August 31 Deadlines

Here are six calls for submissions with deadlines coming up at the end of the month.

Not all of of these publications offer payment, but note that RHINO nominates winning poems for a Pushcart Prize and The Collagist prints excerpts from forthcoming novels (especially if you are publishing your novel with an Indie press).


Qu – Qu is a literary magazine sponsored by the MFA Department of Queens University of Charlotte. Genres: Fiction, essay or script excerpt under 8,000 words, or three poems. Payment: Prose $100; poetry $50. Deadline: August 31.

RHINO – RHINO is looking for previously unpublished poetry, translations and flash fiction. Genres: Submit three to five poems, three to five translations of poems, or flash fiction under 500 words. Payment: None, but all poems are considered for the Editors’ Prize, which offers cash awards for the top three submissions of the year. The First Place winner will be nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Deadline: August 31.

The Collagist – The Collagist is a monthly journal associated with Dzanc Press. Each issue contains short fiction, poetry, essays, book reviews, and one or more excerpts from novels forthcoming from (mostly) independent presses. Genres: Stories, essays, novellas, one to three short-shorts, or one to three poems, but only submit twice during each reading period. Payment: None, but if you have a novel that is due to be published in the next three months, The Collagist publishes an excerpt in each issue. Deadline: August 31.

Crossed Genres – Pronouns & Genders. Genre: Speculative fiction. "We want stories that feature, examine, explore, and celebrate the many and varied human genders; and stories that explore the ways in which pronouns are used to acknowledge, accept, oppress and deny gender. [NOTE: We’re looking for stories about humans. No shapeshifters or robots, please.]" Payment: 6 cents a word. This is a SFWA Qualifying Market. Deadline: August 31.

Eat, Pray, Love Made Me Do It –  This anthology is a compilation of personal essays inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert's book. Genre: Essay of no more than 1500 words. Payment: $50. Deadline: August 31.

The Myriad Carnival – An anthology of ‘queer, weird and dark’ stories themed around carnivals. LGBT. Payment: $40/£24, plus 2 x copies of the anthology. Reprints accepted. Deadline: August 31.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Should You Hire a Professional Book Cover Designer?

Updated 1/27/23

You've finished editing your novel and decided to self-publish. Now you are faced with a choice. Should you spend the money on a professional book cover designer or design a cover yourself?

Unless you are a graphic designer, hire someone. People do indeed judge a book by its cover. And just as an attractive cover draws the eye, a dull cover can cause readers to move on to a more appealing image. Your best chance of making sure people stop to look at your book cover is to make sure it is designed by a professional.

Judging a book by its cover 

The problem that faces self-publishers is how to evaluate an effective cover. "Good" and "bad" reside in the eye of the beholder. Depending on cultural tastes, what is considered "good" can vary widely. Standards also change over time.

Consider Baen Press, a publisher of speculative fiction famous for its ridiculous book covers. (Some of the most horrendous covers can be found on Good Show Sir, along with hilarious comments.) Those covers were not considered awful 30 years ago. (I know because I bought many of them.) Times change, and tastes change along with them.
Shumate thinks this is a bad cover, and I agree

In an article on Huffington Post, Nathan Shumate presents what he believes to be the 10 worst self-published book covers ever. According to Shumate, a bad book cover looks "amateurish." In other words, it looks as if the author designed it, which reflects what critics think of writers' artistic capacity (as well as industry norms in which DIY is considered déclassé).

But are professionally-designed book covers any better? Frankly, I can't tell the difference between what the NYT considers the best book covers, and what Huffington Post says are the worst. Books lists "20 Best Book Covers" that are only slightly less trendy. What is currently popular does not always stand the test of time, or of good taste, so I would caution you against anything that smacks of trendiness.

Ultimately, a bad cover is one that makes your eye move on. If you don't want to gaze at the cover, chances are you won't want to read the book.

What are the qualities of a good cover?

The basic components of a good cover are 1) being able to easily read the title and author and all subheadings, 2) an image that doesn't interfere with the written information, 3) a thumbnail that stands out, and 4) the ineffable quality of memorability. Just like a piece of art, a book cover should be memorable.

My idea of a memorable cover is Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. It is simple, evocative, and aesthetically pleasing.

The theme, expressed beautifully by the image, is spelled out below - for those who need words. And you can easily read both title and author's name. When I close my eyes, I can still see the image and the title. (Those not only stuck with me, they persuaded me to order the book.)

For more memorable book covers - and an analysis of why they do (or don't) work - see Joel Friedlander's Ebook Cover Design Awards.

The bottom line for good book covers is that they make you want to read what's between them.

How do you find a book cover designer?

There are many excellent book cover designers, but locating one who is perfect for your project can be a challenge. To narrow the field, go to Amazon and look at covers for books in your genre. When you come to one that is enticing (would you want to know more about this book based on the cover?) find out who the cover designer is. (You can type "cover design" and the title of the book into a Google search. Alternatively, you can type "cover design" into the "Look Inside" feature in case there is an acknowledgement.) If those methods fail, you can always contact the author (especially if the book is self-published; in traditional publishing authors have no control over cover art). Even if the artists you find through this method do not do freelance work, you now know what you like. When you approach cover designers, you can show them examples of the styles that appeal to you.

An example of a bad pre-made cover
Another strategy is to conduct a Google search for "book cover designers." This will yield you 16 million hits and will make you want to run screaming from your computer screen.  But it is worth it to look at some of these sites. You won't necessarily find the best designers with this method, but you will get a feel for different types of design options - of which there are exactly two: pre-made designs and custom designs.

Pre-made covers

Pre-made book covers are usually cobbled together using stock images. The way it works is you choose an image you like, the designer adds your name and book title, you buy it, and the image is then taken off the market, never to be used again.

Pre-made covers tend to be quite inexpensive. Cheap Book Cover Depot offers pre-made covers for as little as $5. Fiverr is another service that starts at $5. But while cheap pre-made covers are passable, they have a bland, generic quality that does not make them memorable. If you pay a bit more, you can sometimes find a pre-made cover that looks as if it were commissioned.

Book Cover Zone offers covers for $69. Images are from Shutterstock, and authors have the option of rejecting covers as many times as they please.
Nice pre-made cover by Go On Write

Among the pre-made cover designers, there is one who stands out. Go On Write offers pre-made covers starting at $45 that are more than worth the price. The designer, James, has real flair and a solid sense of design. Some of his pre-made covers rival any of the commissioned work you will find. (James also does commissioned work.) Take a moment to browse through the categories on his site. (And compare them to the image of Sci-Fi Book One. See the difference?) If you have to buy a pre-made cover, James is your man.

Commissioned covers

Covers that are individually designed cost more (in the hundreds) but will give you the security of knowing your book cover is the equal to anything designed by an artist working with a major publisher. There are two methods of obtaining a commissioned book cover: 1) competitive services in which you place an ad to be viewed by hundreds of designers, and 2) contacting individual designers directly through their websites.

Bidding Sites

99 Designs is a graphic design service that allows you to post your project in a pricing category ($299-$1199). Depending on your plan, a set number of designers - between 30 and 60 - submit their book cover designs. You have a week to give feedback to designers. After that you choose which design you want. In essence, 99 Designs is a contest.

Crowdspring, another bidding site, allows you to see all submissions for a single cover. This is a highly instructive feature, as it allows you to see a huge variety of cover concepts.

There are advantages and disadvantages to this system. The advantage is that you get to compare a number of different styles and interpretations, which may broaden your horizons. The disadvantage is that you are under the gun in terms of time. Making a decision quickly, especially if you think the design needs tweaking, may not be in your best interests.

Individual designers

My personal preference is to work directly with a designer. Hiring an individual designer allows you to hone your book cover until it is exactly what you want - and the final product will be unique. You will pay more for the design than pre-made covers, but the promise of complete satisfaction may be worth it. I've listed a couple of good designers below. Look at their portfolios and terms to get an idea of what a designer should offer.


Nu-Image Design

Dan Yeager, the owner of Nu-Image Design, is very professional. You have to pay half up front, but he won't quit until you are completely satisfied with the final product. Turn-around time is very fast, and his prices are quite reasonable. The cover for my ebook cost less than $250. He also does full print set-ups.

To the left is the book cover Dan Yeager designed for me. It is elegant, memorable, and the information is easy to read.

Ness Graphica

Alexander von Ness has almost 20 years of professional experience in graphic design and over a decade as Art Director in a branding agency. He is a multiple winner and finalist of international graphic design contests in the category of book cover design. I have not worked with him, but his covers are impressive. Like Dan Yeager, he will do limitless revisions until you are satisfied. Prices are generally in the $400 range.

Von Ness works quickly. He promises a first draft within three days.

Design for Writers

Andrew Brown ans his team have been designing book covers for decades. You can see examples of his work on his Facebook page.


Mark's List

Smashwords provides a list of affordable ebook cover designers - both pre-made and commissioned work.


While I don't normally recommend making your own cover, if you have an eye for design there are plenty of resources at your disposal.

Making Your Own Book Cover? Best Free Programs for Graphic Design

40 Sites Where You Can Get Fabulous Free Photos

Once you have finished your cover, however, don't assume it's ready to grace your book. Get a second opinion from a professional. (I can almost guarantee that you'll have missed something crucial.)

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Graphic Novel Market Rises to 10-Year High in 2014, Print Holds Strong

Building on its previous year's high of $870 million, 2014 saw an increase to $935 million in graphic novel sales, divided equally among digital and print.

These figures are encouraging, because graphic novels may be the last great print holdout. (All we really need is one.)

Why am I such a fan of print?

It is because there is something irreplaceable about the smell, feel, and look of a book on paper (or papyrus). Holding one in your hands, cuddling up with it, or flinging it across the room when the author fails to deliver a satisfactory ending, are all things that enhance reading, and make it an experience that cannot be replicated on a screen.

Also see:


From Publishers Weekly, July 1, 2015

By Calvin Reed

Led by increases in the book trade, combined sales of graphic novels and periodical comics in North America reached $935 million in 2014, a 7% increase over 2013, according to a joint report by comics trade news sites and Comichron.

Sales of graphic novels in the book trade rose 16% to $285 million, while periodical comics sales in the comics shop market grew 4% from $340 million to $355 million.

Digital download-to-own sales were estimated to be about $100 million in 2014, an 11% increase over 2013. Though the ICv2/Comichron report noted the rate of digital growth declined from the 29% (on sales of $90 million) reported for 2013. Once again the report noted that “digital appears to be complementing, rather than cannibalizing, print."

Comichron’s John Jackson Miller called 2014 the “biggest year for print since 1995, adjusting for inflation.” Indeed, the report noted growth across all formats, print, periodical and digital. Print (both periodical and book) sales grew $55 million to $835 million in 2014, up 7% from 2013.

Read the rest of the article HERE.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Pitch Wars 2015 is coming! Are you ready?

Sadly, #Pitmad has come to an end.

Brenda Drake hosts the popular Tweetfest, #PitchMAS. During #PitchMAS, writers tweet their pitches along with their category. Agents following the feed then contact the writers who grab their attention.

Pitch Wars is a preliminary event in which writers apply for critiques from mentors. Published and/or agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each, read their entire manuscript, and offer suggestions to prepare it for agents.

The process is as follows: First, go to the wish lists of all mentors and make a list of those who represent your genre; on a second pass go back to the mentors on your list and select those who have an editing style that suits you; and on a third pass narrow that list to five. On August 17 send your application to those five. You only get one chance at finding a mentor (and all five may reject you), so read your prospective mentors' pages carefully.

Note: Brenda has opened the submission window early. It is now open, and will remain open until August 17 at 11:59 PM EDT. After you submit your information, the submission screen will re-appear. Scroll down to the bottom of the screen to see the notice that your submission has been received.

To submit, click HERE.

For all you YA fantasy writers out there, I have assembled a list of all the mentors seeking YA fantasy. (This will save you a little time.) You have to narrow your list down to five, so read these pages with an eagle eye for those you feel would be a good match for you. (For a full list of mentors go HERE.)

Mindy McGinnis (co-mentoring with Kate Karyus Quinn)

Jenni L. Walsh (co-mentoring with Trisha Leaver)

Sarah Glenn Marsh

Rosalyn Eves

Linsey Miller

Lisa Maxwell

Wendy Spinale

Sarah Cannon

L.L. McKinney

Elizabeth Briggs

Ron Walters (co-mentoring with Meredith McCardle)

S.M. Johnston (co-mentoring with Stacey Nash)

Laura Salters

Megan Grimit

Katie Bucklein

Brianna Shrum

Kim Graff

Stacey Trombley

Susan Gray Foster (co- mentoring with Monica Bustamante Wagner_

Sarah Nicolas

Renee Ahdieh (co-mentoring with Traci Chee)

Janet B. Taylor (co-mentoring with Kathryn Purdie & Shannon Parker

Jessie Humphries (co- mentoring with Mara Rae)

Erica M. Chapman

Summer Spence

This is an excellent opportunity to get a solid critique of your work. Good luck!

Pitch Wars 2015 is coming! Are you ready?

Posted By Brenda Drake on Jul 19, 2015

We’re so excited for Pitch Wars 2015! For those unfamiliar with Pitch Wars, it’s a contest where published/agented authors, editors, or interns choose one writer each, read their entire manuscript, and offer critiques on how to make the manuscript shine. The mentor also critiques his/her writer’s pitch to get it ready for the agent round. Those entering Pitch Wars submit applications (query plus first chapter of manuscript) to our mentors. The mentors then read all their applications and choose the writer they want to mentor for two months to get them ready for the agent round. Writers can pick up to four mentors to submit to. How will you decide what mentors to submit to?

Come back August 3 for our Mentor Wishlist Blog Hop. The mentors’ bios and wishlists will be posted to their blogs and linked from a post on my blog, and you can hop around and find the right matches for you. And visit the Twitter hashtag #PitchWars to get to know the mentors personally (virtually). The hop will go on until 8/17, which is submission day!!

This year, we won’t have alternates. Instead, I’ve added more mentors and there will be 92 mentee spots up for grabs. Applications will be sent through an easy submission form. The form will go live just after midnight (EDT – New York time) August 17 and remain open for 24 hours. What will you need to enter in the form? Your top four (max – you don’t have to pick 4, but you are limited to 4) mentors, your email address, title of the manuscript, category and genre, your query letter (sorry no personalized queries this year), and the first chapter of your completed manuscript (Word .doc or .docx format).  The sample chapter should be manuscript formatted pages (12pt, double-spaced). All of this will be fill-in-the-blank on the form.

Submission Guidelines:
  • Only Middle Grade, Young Adult, New Adult, or Adult manuscripts will be accepted.
  • This is open to completed, full-length, fiction manuscripts only.
  • You may only enter one manuscript.
  • Only the genres requested by each mentor will be considered for the contest.
  • Writers may only apply to 5 mentors max.
  • Mentors will only consider the categories they’ve signed up for. (The mentors’ categories – MG, YA, NA, or Adult – are set.)
  • Writers cannot apply for a mentor that is not in their category or the application will be deleted.
  • No nonfiction, picture books, chapter books, or previously published works. (If you’re an unagented author and have self-published before, you may enter the contest with a never-before-published manuscript.)

WARNING: Just like an agent, mentors may request more pages or a synopsis of your manuscript to help them make their final decision, so get them ready! Mentors may also pass your application on to another mentor they feel would be a better match. If a mentor you didn’t apply to picks you invites you to be his/her mentee, you have the right to pass on said invite.

Please note: Being kind to one another is mandatory in this contest. Should I find someone isn’t being kind and respecting others, I will remove you from the contest. Also, if you are difficult with your mentor or if you aren’t working well as a team or if you don’t take any of your mentor’s advice, your mentor will have the option to opt out of being your mentor. Remember your mentor has other obligations like deadlines, book promotions, and family life, please be mindful of their time. They are only required to read your manuscript once and give an edit letter. They aren’t required to do line edits. Our mentors are very generous with their time, so please be patient. We’ve had close to forty successes from last year’s Pitch Wars and it’s because of our mentors and the care they take with their mentees that it’s been such a great success.

If you were a mentee in Pitch Wars 2014 you may not enter Pitch Wars 2015. If you were a mentee in 2012-2013, you may enter with a new manuscript. If you were an alternate in any of the previous Pitch Wars, you may enter the same or a new manuscript for Pitch Wars 2015.

!!!! If you make it into Pitch Wars, you may not enter any contests or query during the mentoring period and until after the agent round, which is November 3-5. If you are currently in a contest (such as Pitch to Publish running at the same time as Pitch Wars), you may not enter Pitch Wars. When in doubt, ask.

For those who do not make it into Pitch Wars (and those who want to join in), we’ll hold a Twitter Pitch Party on #PitMad September 10 from 8AM to 8PM EST. If you make it into Pitch Wars, you may not pitch in #PitMad.

There will be an “Ask the Mentors” event on the Twitter hashtag, #AskMentor and on #PitchWars, on August 10 from 12:01AM to 11:59PM EDT. Stop by and ask mentors questions as you see them join the hashtag.

Some our Pitch Wars mentors will be chatting live with the Whiskey, Wine, & Writing gang at 8PM EDT. Make sure to watch and get to know the mentors. Here’s the schedule:
  • August 4 and 11: Middle Grade mentors - Read about them HERE.
  • August 5 and 12: Young Adult mentors - Read about them HERE.
  • August 6: New Adult mentors (Mentors who are mentoring either YA/NA or NA/A)
  • August 7: Adult mentors
For a full list of mentors go HERE.

Meet the agents HERE.

For the contest schedule go here.

For the submission form go here.

We look forward to seeing you August 3!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Authors Guild Pushes for Higher E-Book Royalties

Last week, I received an email from the Authors Guild which struck a chord. The subject was royalties for electronic books, which, as AG correctly points out, have been dropping even as the market for ebooks is booming. 

When I got my first publishing contract in 1997, the ebook split was 50 - 50. By 2006, when I signed my contract with Random House, the royalty was 25% of retail, and zero on deep discounts. I have no idea how much I lost through that arrangement.

What AG has done is to calculate what authors have lost. While publishers are not gaining as much as they did in the first heady days of ebook expansion (before Amazon forced them to lower their prices), they are still gaining - at the expense of authors. According to AG, authors are losing up to half of their ebook royalties.

Read it and weep... (or, alternatively, read it and self-publish)


Authors Guild, July 9, 2015

We announced our Fair Contract Initiative earlier this summer. Now our first detailed analysis tackles today’s inadequate e-book royalties. At the heart of our concern with the unfair industry-standard e-book royalty rate is its failure to treat authors as full partners in the publishing enterprise. This will be a resounding theme in our initiative; it’s what’s wrong with many of the one-sided “standard” clauses we’ll be examining in future installments.

Traditionally, the author-publisher partnership was an equal one. Authors earned around 50% of their books’ profits. That equal split is reflected in the traditional hardcover royalty of 15% of list (cover price, that is, not the much lower wholesale price), and in the 50-50 split of publishers’ earnings from selling paperback, book club, or reprint rights. Authors generally received an even larger share than the publisher for non-print rights (such as stage and screen rights) and foreign rights.

But today’s standard contracts give authors just 25% of the publisher’s “net receipts” (more or less what the publisher collects from a book sale) for e-book royalties. That doesn’t look like a partnership to us.

We maintain that a 50-50 split in e-book profits is fair because the traditional author-publisher relationship is essentially a joint venture. The author writes the book, and by any fair measure the author’s efforts represent most of the labor invested and most of the resulting value. The publisher, like a venture capitalist, invests in the author’s work by paying an advance so the author can make ends meet while the book gets finished. Generally, the publisher also provides editing, marketing, packaging, and distribution services. In return for fronting the financial risk and providing these services, the publisher gets to share in the book’s profits. Not a bad deal. This worked well enough throughout much of the twentieth century: publishers prospered and authors had a decent shot at earning a living.

How the e-book rate evolved

From the mid-1990s, when e-book provisions regularly began appearing in contracts, until around 2004, e-royalties varied wildly. Many of the e-rates at major publishing houses were shockingly low—less than 10% of net receipts—and some were at 50%. Some standard contracts left them open to negotiation. As the years passed, and especially between 2000 and 2004, many publishers paid authors 50% of their net receipts from e-book sales, in keeping with the idea that authors and publishers were equal partners in the book business.

In 2004, we saw a hint of things to come. Random House, which had previously paid 50% of its revenues for e-book sales, anticipated the coming boom in e-book sales and cut its e-rates significantly. Other publishers followed, and gradually e-royalties began to coalesce around 25%. By 2010 it was clear that publishers had successfully tipped the scales on the longstanding partnership between author and publisher to achieve a 75-25 balance in their favor.
The lowball e-royalty was inequitable, but initially it didn’t have much effect on authors’ bottom lines. As late as 2009, e-books accounted for a paltry 3–5% of book sales. Authors and agents ought to have pushed back, but with e-book sales so low it didn’t make much sense to risk the chance of any individual book deal falling apart over e-royalties. We called the 25% rate a “low-water mark.” We said, “Once the digital market gets large enough, authors with strong sales records won’t put up with this: they’ll go where they’ll once again be paid as full partners in the exploitation of their creative work.”

E-books now represent 25–30% of all adult trade book sales, but for the vast majority of authors the rate remains unchanged. If anything, publishers have dug in their heels. Why? There’s a contractual roadblock, for one: major book publishers have agreed to include “most favored nation” clauses in thousands of existing contracts. These clauses require automatic adjustment or renegotiation of e-book royalties if the publisher changes its standard royalty rate, giving publishers a strong incentive to maintain the status quo. And the increasing consolidation of the book industry has drastically reduced competition among publishers, allowing them more than ever to hand authors “take it or leave it” deals in the expectation that the author won’t find a better offer.

The elephant in the room

And then there’s the elephant in the room: Amazon, which has used its e-book dominance to demand steep discounts from publishers and drive down the price of frontlist e-books, even selling them at a loss. As a result, there’s simply not as much e-book revenue to split as there was in 2011when we reported on the e-book royalty math. At that time, publishers made a killing on frontlist e-book sales as compared to frontlist hardcover sales—at the author’s expense—because, as compared to today, the price of e-books was relatively high.

When we analyzed e-royalties for three books in the 2011 post, “E-Book Royalty Math: The House Always Wins,” we found that every time an e-book was sold in place of a hardcover, the author’s take decreased substantially, while the publisher’s take increased.

Since 2011, we have found that publishers’ e-gains have diminished. But the author’s share has fallen even farther. Amazon has squeezed the publishers, to be sure. The publishers have helped recoup their losses by passing them on to their authors.

These were our calculations for several books in 2011. The trend was obvious. Compared with hardcovers, each e-book sold brought big gains to the publisher and sizable losses to the author when the author’s royalties are compared to the publisher’s gross profit (income per copy minus expenses per copy), calculated using industry-standard contract terms:

Author’s Royalty vs. Publisher’s Profit, 2011

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett
Author’s Standard Royalty: $3.75 hardcover; $2.28 e-book.
Author’s E-Loss = -39%
Publisher’s Margin: $4.75 hardcover; $6.32 e-book.
Publisher’s E-Gain = +33%

Hell’s Corner, by David Baldacci
Author’s Standard Royalty: $4.20 hardcover; $2.63 e-book.
Author’s E-Loss = -37%
Publisher’s Margin: $5.80 hardcover; $7.37 e-book.
Publisher’s E-Gain = +27%

Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand
Author’s Standard Royalty: $4.05 hardcover; $3.38 e-book.
Author’s E-Loss = -17%
Publisher’s Margin: $5.45 hardcover; $9.62 e-book.
Publisher’s E-Gain = +77%

What’s happening now? We ran the numbers again using the following recent bestsellers. Because of lower e-book prices, the publishers don’t do as well as they used to, though they still come out ahead when consumers choose e-books over hardcovers. But authors fare worse than ever:

Author’s Royalty vs. Publisher’s Profit, 2015

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doer
Author’s Standard Royalty: $4.04 hardcover; $2.09 e-book.
Author’s E-Loss= -48%
Publisher’s Margin: $5.44 hardcover; $5.80 e-book.
Publisher’s E-Gain: +7%

Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande
Author’s Standard Royalty: $3.90 hardcover; $1.92 e-book.
Author’s E-Loss= -51%
Publisher’s Margin: $5.10 hardcover; $5.27 e-book.
Publisher’s E-Gain: +3.5%

A Spool of Blue Thread, by Anne Tyler
Author’s Standard Royalty: $3.89; $1.92 e-book.
Author’s E-Loss: -51%
Publisher’s Margin: $5.09 hardcover; $5.27 e-book.
Publisher’s E-Gain: +3.5%[1]

Exceptions to the rule

It’s time for a change. If the publishers won’t correct this imbalance on their own, it will take a critical mass of authors and agents willing to fight for a fair 50% e-book royalty. We hope that established authors and, particularly, bestselling authors will start to push back and stand up to publishers on the royalty rate—on behalf of all authors, as well as themselves.

There have been cracks in some publishers’ façades. Some bestselling authors have managed to obtain a 50% e-book split, though they’re asked to sign non-disclosure agreements to keep these terms secret. We’ve also heard of authors with strong sales histories negotiating 50-50 royalty splits in exchange for foregoing an advance or getting a lower advance; or where the 50% rate kicks in only after a certain threshold level of sales. For instance, a major romance publishing house has offered 50% royalties, but only after the first 10,000 electronic copies—a high bar to clear in the current digital climate. But overall, publishers’ apparent inflexibility on their standard e-book royalty demonstrates their unwillingness to change it.

We know and respect the fact that publishers—especially in this era of media consolidation—need to meet their bottom lines. But if professional authors are going to continue to produce the sort of work publishing houses are willing to stake their reputations on, those authors need a fair share of the profits from their art and labor. In a time when electronic books provide an increasing share of revenues at significantly lower production and distribution costs, publishers’ e-book royalty practices need to change.

[1] In calculating these numbers and percentages for hardcover editions, we made the following assumptions: (1) the publisher sells at an average 50% discount to the wholesaler or retailer, (2) the royalty rate is 15% of list price (as it is for most hardcover books, after 10,000 units are sold), (3) the average marginal cost to manufacture the book and get it to the store is $3, and (4) the return rate is 25% (a handy number—if one of four books produced is returned, then the $3 marginal cost of producing the book is spread over three other books, giving us a return cost of $1 per book). We also rounded up retail list price a few pennies to give us easy figures to work with.

Likewise, in calculating these numbers and percentages for the 2015 set of e-books, we are assuming that under the agency model—which is reportedly the new standard in the Big Five’s agreements with Amazon—the online bookseller pays 70% of the retail list price of the e-book to the publisher. The bookseller, acting as the publisher’s agent, sells the e-book at the price established by the publisher. The unit costs to the publisher are simply the author’s royalty and the encryption and transmission fees, for which we deduct a generous 50 cents per unit.   

The Authors Guild | 31 E 32nd St | Fl 7 | New York, NY 10016 | United States 

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