About once every three months I get to be really depressed for a few minutes, and then really proud for a few minutes. O’Reilly, the publisher that released my YouTube book, sends me quarterly royalty statements. I just got one of those statements this morning.
This past quarter I sold 295 copies of my YouTube book. After two years of being available, that’s not too bad. The book sells at a retail price of $29.95, so that’s $8,835.25 for 295 copies sold. That means I’m taking everyone out to dinner at Red Lobster right? Hah, no.
For those 295 copies of my $30 book, I received $119.46 in royalties. That’s 40 and a half cents per copy. Of a $30 BOOK!
This is where that moment of depression sets in every three months.
Had I published that book through DFTBA Records – the record label I co-founded with Hank Green almost two years ago – those same 295 copies, retailing for a total of $8,835.25, would have paid me $6,184.68 cents. That means I would make 50 times more (that’s over $6,000 in this example) money per book had I published it with DFTBA Records.
DFTBA Records artists are paid between 60-70% of retail price for their releases. Yes, DFTBA does take a cut of every sale, because DFTBA has bills to pay in order to offer the valuable services that we do; bills like rent, and electricity, and server/hosting packages, and we have to buy all those pretty padded envelopes, and my salary…
But how O’Reilly (or any other large book publisher) can justify taking 98%* of retail on my book is just beyond me. I can’t imagine the overhead and waste and inefficiency of a company that needs to take 98% of profits earned by their artists and authors. Of course, some of that money goes to advertising and paying Barnes & Noble to face the book cover out on its shelves instead of the spine, etc, and a small distribution company like DFTBA Records can’t offer that to our artists. But most of our artists aren’t even interested in that.
That’s when the moment of pride sets in. I just finished sending out DFTBA’s payroll for last month. We paid out $48,799.42 for last months sales alone. That is an astonishing number for a company with no advertising or marketing department, no venture capital, no paid celebrity spokespeople… it’s just me and Hank and two dozen of our friends doing something we’re all passionate about. Something that enhances not only our lives, but the lives of the people who decide to support us, both with their word of mouth, and their money. This kind of thing doesn’t happen often. And it’s amazing when it does.
* Full disclosure: my royalty percentage from O’Reilly is actually 4%, but O’Reilly calculates that royalty on wholesale prices, not retail. For this comparison to be fair, I had to use retail prices for both companies, at which point, my royalty cut averages out to 2%.