Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Truth About the New York Times Best Sellers List: Lynn Viehl Steps Up

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Lynn Viehl is the author of a series I have really liked, The Darkyn novels. She also took an amazing step of generosity to other writers by making a promise that if she every hit the New York Times Best Sellers List she’d share the numbers.  What people (even writers) THINK about the NYT BS is… well, BS.  It’s an elusive, mysterious dream to most people, even those who enter the inner sanctum. 

It took a great deal of guts to bare her soul and her spread-sheets.  And it’s important information.

This past year I made the Amazon Best Seller’s list a few times, and it was a lot easier to understand, particularly the mathematics.  Part of the reason I made it was price—my novella started at .99 cents, and went free.  I held my position (and recently regained it) for several weeks at FREE.  But I also sold quite a few at .99.  I get .35 of that .99. Simple. It’s easy math, and I don’t have to deal with advances, hold backs, and other stuff most people who have never dealt with a publisher have ever heard of.

I still get snorts of disbelief, coupled with “if you were a best seller you’d be a millionaire.” No, I wouldn’t be. Even if I were selling paperbacks at $7.99 a copy.  As Ms. Viehl notes:

for the sale period of July through November 30, 2008. my publisher reports sales of 64,925 books, for which my royalties were $40,484.00. I didn’t get credit for all those sales, as 21,140 book credits were held back as a reserve against possible future returns, for which they subtracted $13,512.69 (these are not lost sales; I’m simply not given credit for them until the publisher decides to release them, which takes anywhere from one to three years.)

My net earnings on this statement was $27,721.31, which was deducted from my advance. My actual earnings from this statement was $0.

Yeah.  Look at that again.  The woman is on the NYT Best Sellers List. She got bupkiss.  And in the end?

After expenses and everyone else was paid, I netted about $26K of my $50K advance for this book, which is believe it or not very good — most authors are lucky if they can make 10% profit on any book. This should also shut up everyone who says all bestselling authors make millions — most of us don’t.

The rest of the article goes into greater detail, and shares actual images of Viehl’s statements. Honestly, this is incredibly generous of her, and incredibly educational for the rest of us. Read The Entire Article HERE.  And if you, like me, think this was a swell thing to do, go buy her book.

Twilight Fall: A Novel of the Darkyn

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