Note: Updated February 2014.
- I wrote this page as I’m an author who was considering self-publishing. I am an Associate (meaning: junior) member of SFWA.
- I worked for Apple for over five years, but not in a capacity directly related to publishing or e-books. I wrote the initial version of this page while I was an Apple employee, but for my own personal edification as an author.
- I used to work as a bookseller for Kepler’s. I would like them (and other indie bookstores) to survive the e-book revolution.
Do You Have a Cover Image and ISBN?
Apple: iBooks’s royalty structure isn’t on a public page, but there are numerous posts about their royalty payment (e.g., here). Unlike Amazon’s 70%, there don’t seem to be any gotchas except ones that relate to relative pricing to print versions of the book.
Amazon: Amazon’s royalty structure can be found here. Note that 70% applies only to certain pricing and books delivered only in certain territories, and 70% books also are charged delivery costs. This means that poorly-optimized files may cost you money.
|List Price||Revenue %|
|$0-2.98 or $10.00+||35%|
Barnes and Noble: Barnes and Noble’s royalty structure can be found here in Service Policies -> Pricing and Payment Terms.
|List Price||Revenue %|
|$0-2.98 or $10.00+||40%|
Google: Google used to have an easy-to-find royalty structure when Google Books was in Beta. They apparently now use the word “publisher revenue” (which I have to admit is more technically correct for an indie publisher), but I could not find what the earnings rate was. While we can’t share the specific details of our agreements with publishers, which may vary, we can confirm that the majority of the revenue from the sale of books on Google Play goes to the publisher. Note: there is zero information about payment percentages that was available to me in my account profile. Accordingly, I have deleted my Google books items; I do not believe in random fait accompli royalty structures.
I believe Google’s royalty rate used to be 55%. Here is information from TK Kenyon about her experiences. Because of those notes and the discounting of books off cover price, I’ve used 52%, the lowest reported percentage, for the Calcumatic.
Smashwords: Smashwords is not only an aggregator, but also has an online store. Word from authors is that most of their sales come from other sources; it seems that mostly authors visit the Smashword book pages. However, you can publish books to a number of other sites, including Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Sony, Kobo, and quite a few global markets, including Rakuten in Japan.
|Sales Source||Revenue %|
|Direct via Smashwords||85% of net proceeds|
In the US, there’s only one place that sells ISBNs: Bowker, which can be found at myidentifiers.com. Note that they are not set up for sales of small numbers of ISBNs.
Payment: Time After Sale
Amazon pays 60 days after the end of the month by direct deposit. There is only a minimum payment threshold in Brazil: “R$20 for Brazilian publishers and $100/£100/€100 for non-Brazilian publishers.”
Google pays a few days after the end of the month. Minimum payment is $1. How much they pay as a percentage of gross is, however, a mystery.
iBooks pays 45 days after the end of the month. Minimum payment is $5 (note: used to be $150, but I have received a payment for just over $5, so…). This is in the contract, but not in a publicly-accessible document.
Kobo pays twice per year unless you meet certain threshholds, in which case they pay monthly.
Smashwords pays within 40 days of the end of the calendar quarter, making them only twice as prompt as Kobo. That said, they do extend reach to a metric ton of markets.
If you’re selling off your own site (or via something like Shopify):
PayPal pays immediately to your PayPal account, though a transfer to a bank account needs to be initiated manually and can take 2-3 working days.
In summary, if you sell 1000 books (where your share is > $150) on January 1, here’s when you can expect to see your money (note: I’ve assumed that Kobo’s payments are for Jan-Jun and Jul-Dec, but they don’t actually say that):
|Amazon||end of March|
|Barnes & Noble (Nook Press)||end of March|