Today we learned more details about Apple’s latest gadget, the iPad. If you’re a writer, take note that the iPad features yet another new electronic reading device. I’m not talking about the iPad’s supposed ability to transform (yet again) the way magazines and newspapers and video are delivered on the web. Frankly, I don’t care about any of that. I prefer to watch my video and read my newspapers on my desktop computer’s 22 inch widescreen monitor. But maybe that’s just me. The point to focus on, my fellow writers, is the agreement Apple has made with several large publishers (among them: HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and MacMillan) to provide “exclusive” electronic books with prices ranging from $12.99 to $14.99. That’s quite a bit more than Kindle’s average price of $9.99, but let’s peer a little deeper into the ramifications for us, the authors.
If you’re selling a book on Kindle, you know Amazon takes 65% of the sale, leaving you with 35%. I’m not sure what the authors’ percentage will be for these new Apple titles, but I’d be surprised if it’s more than the standard 10% royalty they pay for books printed the old-fashioned way. Ten percent of $15 is a buck and a half. If you have an agent, you can subtract another 20% of that, leaving you with a grand total of $1.20 per book. And that’s for the “high end” price. Publishers, on the other hand, rake in $13.50 per sale. They will surely argue they don’t make nearly that much after deducting layout, design, and marketing costs. But the truth is, they do very little of any of that. Most POD companies offer those services at a very nominal fee; publishers who do their own in-house pay even less. So what does it all mean? I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it: any writer who denies the future of our business is quickly moving away from paper books to electronic-only files isn’t living in the real world. The question is, are we going to drag our feet while publishers move forward or will we lead the charge by taking charge?