It’s a big debate going on right now–ebook pricing.

Should ebooks be less than their paperback counterpart?

And the argument goes something like this:

Ebooks should be much cheaper, because there’s no physical copy of the work, no paper costs, only digital file storage of the book. They never run out, and never have to do “more runs” of them. Therefore, they shouldn’t cost as much as a mass paperback, trade paperback (the larger, 8 1/4 x 5 1/4 size) or even a hardcover. 

I saw on Facebook, an author had a very interesting answer to this:  It doesn’t take the author any less time or hard work to write the story, whether it be ebook or paperback.

I agree with this whole-heartedly.

And the rebuttle is always the same:

Well, if the author gets the difference, then fine, but they don’t, it lines the publisher’s pocket.

And that’s where people are wrong!

Authors do get more. A lot more, when a book goes ebook than in physical copies, compared to what they make with printed copies.


So, let’s take an average, Mass Market Paperback, written by June. (Pretend Author, btw)

June sells her book to a large, traditional publisher. They release this book in both mass market paperback and ebook, with a basic $3,000 advance.

Book price: $7.99 in mass market paperback.
                   $6.99 in ebook format.

(Now, we could talk about discounts offered by vendors like Barnes and Noble and Amazon, but it’s not necessary for this. I just want to show the difference to what an author makes)

Okay, so it’s time to pay the author…

Here’s how it breaks down:

*Mass Market, we shall say, (for fun) sells 3,500 copies.

*Ebook sells, we shall say, (again, just for even numbers) 1,000 copies.

Many times, Authors will get a much higher percentage for ebook sales than they do for print.  Average amount is 30% of the cover price for ebooks, and 8% for paperback.

So, when Author June gets her royalties statement, (we shall assume this is six months after release, because many large publishers pay every six months)  this is what it will break down to:

Advance: $3,000 (Already paid)
Reserve (held for returns on books) $1,000 (I am just guestimating this amount, for easy math–but any print publisher holds back an extra amount to cover the return of unsold books)

Already Author June is -$4,000 to the publisher.

So it’s time to see what her sales did and what she earned in that first six months of sales.

Mass market paperback — 3,500 copies @ 8% ($0.64 a copy) = $2,240

Electronic book  sales — 1,000 copies @ 30% ($2.10 a copy) = $2,100

Total gross sales:  $4,340
Less what is owed: -$4,000

Total earnings for the author after six months of sales: $340

Basically, the ebook sales made it possible for June to get a check six months after release. Many authors after their book releases, barely make enough to earn their advance back. If they get to earn their advance back, depending just on paperback sales.

And, if you’ll notice, June earned more, selling 1/3 of the ebooks, at a dollar less, than she did selling the paperbacks. That higher percentage makes a huge difference.

In my opinion, that higher percentage is why so many authors are self-publishing ebooks–because places like Amazon offer authors as much as 70% off the cover price of digital sales. (I am not sure what the book price is to qualify for that, but I do know it’s an option with their publishing program)

In the end, authors do earn more. A lot more, with ebook publishing, compared to what they earn on paperback sales.

If you see an ebook priced at the same price, or very close in price, know that, yes, the author does get more when you purchase an ebook, and it’s not just lining someone’s pocket.

*Assuming Author June is a fairly new author (possibly 1-2 books already available), and has done some promotion for her book, these numbers are fairly reasonable for a large, traditional publisher. But they all are made up, just for easy math.

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