Here's a conversation I had recently with my publisher. He has insisted I remove all numbers from our dialogue on the basis of some dodgy confidentiality clause in our publishing agreement; so you'll just have to use your imagination as to those.
But you'll get the gist of his argument.
Pub: John, it's that time of the year when we need to review our publishing agreement.
Me: I can't wait.
Pub: OK. Here it is. First of all, your responsibilities. You write the books, proofread and edit them, and design a cover. If you want to use editors, proofreaders and designers, that's up to you, but you have to pay for them. I get exclusive worldwide rights over your books in whatever form they are published, and I determine the prices of them.
Me: And what do you do?
Pub: I supply the ISBN number and pay out of my own pocket for lodging the copies with the various libraries.
Me: The total cost of which is less than fifty quid per book, right?
Me: And what else?
Pub: I load up your books onto Amazon as soon as they are ready. At the start of each year, I agree with you a budget to spend on marketing and advertising, and I organise that. This year the budget will be X pounds. I will also I spend Y hours every week doing tweeting, retweeting and other social media stuff for you.
Me: And how is the money split once the retailer and printer have had their cuts?
Pub: First, the money will be used to pay for the marketing and advertising costs. Then there is my cut. Since I am spending Y hours every week, and my hourly rate is Z, the cash next goes to pay me. You get whatever is left.
Me: Your hourly rate seems a bit steep!
Pub: It's the opportunity cost of my time. If I wasn't doing this for you, I'd be spending those hours as a management consultant and that's the rate I'd be earning. Sorry, no discount. I have a wife and kids to support. And a dog.
Me: Just a minute. When I look at your sales projections and the average earnings from my books, the marketing and advertising costs plus your cut will account for everything. There'll be nothing left for me.
Pub: True. And your point is?
Me: What the hell do I get out of all this?
Pub: Look, John, it's very simple. You get to enjoy writing the books; and the pleasure of meeting fellow writers and readers on social networks; and of reading all those glowing reviews on Amazon.
Me: And the lousy ones.
Pub: Well, if you wrote better books, maybe there wouldn't be any lousy ones. Plus, if your books get made into movies or a TV series, you get to keep all the money from that - I don't get ANY.
Me: So I'm basically writing all these books for no financial reward, other than the remote possibility of their getting picked up by a TV company or movie studio?
Pub: You've got it. Without me as your publisher/marketer/advertising guru, your books are worthless. Your books might be the most amazing works of literature ever produced (although I doubt that), but if nobody knows they exist you won't sell a single copy. Well, except maybe the one to your mum. You see, John, you're essentially an amateur writer - in the true sense of the word 'amateur' - and I'm a professional publisher, and this is how I make my money. End of story. Sorry, that last sentence makes me sound like a writer **shudders**
Me: Where do I sign?
Pub: At the bottom of the page, in blood.
Now you may well ask, "Why don't you change your publisher?" And the answer is simple: I am my publisher. And my/his logic is sound. The part of me that writes does it because he loves it, and because he loves the interactions with like-minded folks, and he loves it when people enjoy his books. The part of me that sells books does it for business reasons - and he has to be compensated for his time. So the businessman pockets the cash, and the writer enjoys his art.
And do you know what? My publisher might be a git, but at least he's my git.
Happy writing, starvelings.
If you want to read about someone else who has conversations in his head, you might like to pick up a copy of my latest book, 'Chaos is Come Again'. I am sure my publisher would be suitably grateful.
For Amazon.com click HERE
For Amazon.co.uk click HERE
Also available at all other Amazon sites worldwide
If you don't want it, don't click anywhere. Just go and have a nice cup of tea instead.