Thursday, May 10, 2007

Front Runners

My primary goal right at the beginning when EREC was formed to help writers make good publisher choices in the area of erotic romance e-presses. I often skirt a difficult line in terms of sharing honest information fairly, and gossiping about my colleagues inappropriately. I can only hope that for the most part I have judged the difference correctly. Certainly I have received not so much as a single negative comment about EREC from any publisher so far--whether this is due to my dubious tact or my undeniable insignificant I cannot tell. There is still an implicit rule of silence out there about sales and income and so reliable information remains difficult to find.

I am gradually sneaking the sales figure data up on the website. It is clear that sales are creeping up across the board so it is likely that all figures posted are under-estimates of how a new release would do coming out today or in the near future. Please do keep sending me new data and updates: for each book send as much as you have out of the following 1) Publisher 2) sales to the first payment (approximately one month) 3) sales in the first year, 4) sales to date, 5) sales to end of contract (to: veinglory AT

The early figures give this top five in terms of initial first month sales only 1) Ellora's Cave, 2) Loose Id, 3) Samhain, 4) Liquid Silver Books, 5) Torquere Press*. Please bear in mind that these data are not representative and give a rough estimate only. Other sales-based information suggests similar front runners. For example, the RWA recognise: Ellora's Cave, Triskelion, Loose Id and Samhain while Brenda Hiatt's 'Show Me the Money' shows 1) Ellora's Cave, 2) Renaissance Ebooks, 3) Changeling, 4) New Concepts Press and 5) Triskelion as the higher earning e-publishers.

We are all working with highly incomplete and partially out-of-date data but I would suggest that writers seeking higher sales should place some emphasis on these publishers and be aware of how sales data is collected and handled on each of these sites. Be aware also that some publishers that are not powerhouses now are clearly moving up through the pack, and publishers vary in their ability to sell niche material and their willingness to put up with certain authorial quirks and foibles.

Interestingly if you go by online 'buzz' newer publishers with a fresh stable of authors are often more frequently and vehemently recommended to novice writers. I can only hope that, after spending months or years writing a book, new authors will invest a few days in researching publishers and developing some idea of what to expect upon the book's eventual release.

I have dithered for some time over whether to develop a firmer system for recommending epublishers but in the end I can see no acceptable empirical way to do so. Instead I will continue to collect together what information I can find or solicit. Any recommendations I blog remain entirely my own personal opinion based on that information and my own flawed judgement. If you want to know just how flawed I should post my own meagre monthly earnings... in fact, that's a great idea, I think I will. I also embody a conflict of interest in being published by presses including Loose Id, Samhain, Torquere, Lady Aibell and Cobblestone Press--and having submitted unsuccessfully to one other (Changeling Press, as it happens, whom I continue to hold in high regard, and not just based on the Groucho Marx principle**)

The better selling epublishers do seem to be those mentioned above (do you agree?), but I lack data on other likely front runners including Amber Quill and Changeling Press. I also have favorites from amongst the smaller and newer presses with good market plans and skilled management (including Mojocastle and Drollerie). And any author will have to take into account many factors other than gross sales. In the end one thing I agree with RWA on (and this would not be a long list) is that authors have to do their own research, make their own decisions, and wear the consequences.

* Torquere gets an unintentional empirical advantage in providing figures quarterly so their data is actually for anything up to the first three months.
** "I would not join any club that would have someone like me for a member."


Anne Douglas said...

This post just popped up on my net newswire.

I blogged yesterday at about money. I cut a significant portion of what I started with (since my post started getting to gigantic proportions) but I thought you might be interested in my musings about actual figures that I didn't post (heres the link for the rest of the story to put this piece in context:

" ePublishing is very mysterious when it comes to numbers. No one wants to pony up and publicize just how many units they are selling (or at least not to my knowledge, please leave a comment if you can direct me to some publisher released statistics). No genre averages, no publisher sales totals, nothing. (And thus far enquiries on my own behalf have met with a “good, very good sales”- hrmm, doesn’t tell me a lot there).

It stands true, just like in every business model, that volume = profit. In this business that means a backlist of good books that continue to have good residual sales months, even years, after their initial first release month (and those first few months are the bulk of your sales—no different that NY I would hazard to guess).

I wanted to sell it to prove something to myself, but the idea that I might actually make some money was rattling round in the back of my head, so I did some research before I decided where to submit Persuading Jo. The only figure I found at the time (goodness knows where it was now—though I’ve now found others since that give some guesstimates) was that 100 copies the first year was a good earnout(if I've used the term correctly) figure.

Kind of sucks when you calculate $3.99x100x35% = $140.00. All that work for 140bucks? Damn.

With a top ePublisher—I’m going to go out on a limb here: EC, Samhain, LI, Changeling, LSB (going by gut feeling with this one, not stats)—100copies should be bypassed if not in the first day, at least the first week, and definitely the first month. I would make another assumption and say sales volumes in the first month could be as high as 1000 (possibly more at the ‘big daddy publisher’ EC), as low as 50 (an off trend genre), with a median range of from 150-400. Very vague there aren’t I?

The only figures I can guarantee are my own. And I can tell you that they fit into my very vague assumption :) – I’ve a story at either end of the spectrum. "

I based any personal 'guesstimates' on our own (AOER) in-group sales survey - it's limited data, but data none the less :)

Emily Veinglory said...

Great minds think alike? ;)

I am this close [insert vague gesture] to just posting my gross earnings each month but I am not sure if any of my publishers would have a legit issue with being that specific.

FWIW our figures correspond pretty closely assuming you are thinking mainly of the top 10 or so in the genre.

Anne Douglas said...

I was going to post my rounded figures yesterday, but though I double checked my contracts I didn't see a non disclosure clause that related to this. But since I skimmed it I decided not to, just incase (I'm just a tad paranoid about being sued (it's a foriegner in the USA thing))

Emily Veinglory said...

Ditto... wow, talk about syncronicity

Ciar Cullen said...

I think this is fascinating and wish I really had figures I could send you. I have rereleases, and my first EC book was one of those, and also a book I gave away for a while. My Samhain figures have varied wildly from book to book. But I'm not far enough along in any title to send even a year's worth of data. I will say that I think something is kinda wonky there with the "tops" you list, but I think your approximations/generalizations about numbers and timeframes reflects my experience. Really intersting.

Henri de Montmorency said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kis Lee said...

i think the top 5 you mentioned are solid because they are mentioned a lot in blogs and yahoo groups. I think e-readers tend to be loyal to a core group of e-publishers, so the same ones get mentioned over and over.

personal bias: I have been published by one of the top 5)