A Cirsovanomics Lesson: AmazonKDP Vs. IngramSpark

Here are some numbers the indies & selfpubbers who follow us might find interesting…

IngramSpark charges 3.85 per unit for the Summer Special + their BS $1.99 handling fee on top of any orders.

30% retailer discount [minimum allowable] off 14.99 SRP gives me $6.64 compensation per unit sold.

On the other hand, Amazon KDP charges 2.57 per unit.

The 60% of the cut I get at $14.99 is only 6.43, but:
  • -I can order copies without a BS $1.99 S&H fee per order on top of already outrageous shipping costs
  • -Amazon has cheaper shipping with tracking and delivery guarantees + international
Confession:

The reason we wait until after the release date to send gratis copies of Cirsova to contributors who do not put in an order for additional copies is that what costs <$7 to fulfill through Amazon with tracking costs ~$11 to fulfill through IngramSpark without tracking.

Plus Amazon has cheaper, more reliable international shipping than IngramSpark.

So across about a dozen contributors per issue with several issues, it saves us a few hundred dollars per year to wait until we can fulfill gratis copies through Amazon instead of using IngramSpark.

The ability to fulfill directly and affordably through AmazonKDP prior to an Amazon go-live date would mean we could sell subscriptions through crowdfunding once again, which would be hugely beneficial.

The buried lede in this post:

The break-even on something like the Cirsova Summer Special is ~300 sold

  • Content: $1150
  • Art: $500
  • Editing: $200
  • Gratis copies: ~$100

So please buy a copy!

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Some Thoughts on Retail-Markdowns, Wholesale Rates, Returnability and Comics

The other day, after talking with Michael Tierney about getting into stores as indies, I found myself thinking about my own experience experimenting with “cheap” and returnable product and the Alterna Comics experiment.

These days, I always recommend writers publishing books minimize the retailer markdowns and avoid returnability.

You can set your book at 55% or 30%.

I tell people “Always mark down for as little as you can and still be available for purchase on platforms that people buy books.” Anything else is just handing money to the platform selling your book, and you don’t actually increase orders or sales, because all stores order and stock to market. If you’re returnable, you risk losing your shirt if your books don’t sell and get stripped.

With Alterna Comics, the gimmick, we’ll call it, was that they are incredibly cheap to produce [Alterna prints on newsprint], so they could be offered to retailers at incredibly cheap rates [their SRP is $1.50; wholesale is probably 50 cents]. The problem is, retailers order and stock to market.

Just like Barnes & Noble isn’t going to see that your book is 55% off wholesale or more and say “we’ll order a ton of these and push them because we can order them cheaply!”, comic retailers aren’t going to order a ton of issues to stock just because the SRP is low and it’s “low risk”.

For independent comics, just like independent books, you’re largely looking at a market that serves existing fan niches. Copies are fulfilled when people who want to buy them ask for them to buy, whether it’s through Amazon or through a LCS retailer.

Even shops that go heavy on indies might buy one of any title just to check it out, whether it’s a $1.50 book or a $5 book. But they’ll order as many as people ask for. Just like if my book is only 30% off, Amazon will still order as many as people pre-order.

So, the solution is not to minimize unit costs in ways that appeal to retailers, but to effectively market your product to readers so that they’ll demand it from platforms. And if there’s demand on the platforms, you can charge a reasonable rate that will make you money.

I’d be remiss to leave out at the end of this that the new Cirsova is out through Amazon this week! [Both in softcover and eBook]

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On With Silver Empire, Talking About Indie Publishing

It’s been a bit since this went live, and quite a bit since this was recorded, but I was on with Russell and Morgan Newquist of Silver Empire Publishing and author William Joseph Roberts talking about some dos and don’t in publishing, what has worked and what hasn’t, etc. It was a lot of fun. Check it out!

 

 

And don’t forget!  Back Mongoose and Meerkat today. We’ve still got some big tier rewards left. Get a piece of original artwork, or be written into the story.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cirsova/mongoose-and-meerkat-volume-1

Summer Special Advertisements Available!

The Summer Special will be upon us soon [slated for May 23rd]!

We need to fill advertising slots ASAP! Our rates are here.

[Note that the back cover ad slot is already taken for this issue!]

This is a particularly good deal for editors, artists, designers and other freelancers to find clients who may be looking for work from indie authors.

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Tales of the Mongoose and Meerkat Volume 1: Pursuit Without Asking

2020 is the Year of Mongoose at Cirsova Publishing!

We are incredibly thrilled to announce that Cirsova Publishing will be releasing Jim Breyfogle’s Tales of the Mongoose and Meerkat Volume 1: Pursuit Without Asking.

We will be taking pre-orders via Kickstarter beginning April 1st!

6 x 9 cover

This anthology collects the first five Mongoose and Meerkat adventures published in Cirsova Magazine, including:

  • The Battlefield of Keres – An ill-conceived bet brings Mangos and his new companion Kat to a vast no man’s land full of relics and magical anomalies in search of a fabled helm!
  • Brandy and Dye – High atop rock spires, above the breeze from the Devil’s Arse, men toil to collect the valuable guano of the Minix bird for Royal Dye, but when the production is threatened by distillers at dizzying heights, the dyers hire Mangos & Kat to bust a few heads!
  • The Sword of the Mongoose – When a shady merchant loses a bet with Mangos, he has nothing to pay with but the story of where a masterwork blade may be found! Can Mangos reach his prize before other treasure hunters?
  • The Valley of Terzol – Kat and Mangos are hired to accompany an adventurer to the ruins of Terzol in search of a lost delivery: a thousand-year-old receipt offers a clue to either fabulous rewards or certain death!
  • The Burning Fish – Seeking out the fabled Burning Fish for a client, Mangos and Kat instead find a strange cult devoted to keeping a simple life and protecting the secret of the fish at any cost!

As a bonus, this collection will feature Deathwater, a never before published original novelette!

This volume will be illustrated by the incredibly talented Chelsea, aka DarkFilly!

Also, don’t forget — our Spring issue, out March 13th, features an all new adventure from Jim Breyfogle, The Golden Pearl, and we’ll be running The Hunt of the Mine Worm later this year.

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Cirsova Spring 2020 Issue Available for Print Pre-Order!

Our latest issue is now available for print pre-order on Amazon!

This is an all-star issue you won’t want to miss!

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Alpdruck! by Michael Reyes

Clock has been dispatched to the private hell of a powerful demon–and only a being of true evil on its own path towards redemption can aid him in this deadly fight!

Pour Down Like Silver, by Cynthia Ward

Banished for refusing to follow her order-pair into death, Rhesanna seeks the Tower of Ancient Time to free her comrade’s soul from the demon they failed to slay!

Lest Darkness Wreck the Stars, by Robert Zoltan

When Dareon and Blue uncover a mysterious gemstone in the wastes, a strange violet star appears in the sky and visions of a lovely woman invade Dareon’s dreams!

The Golden Pearl, by Jim Breyfogle

After a harrowing experience in their search for Burning Fish, Kat and Mangos are determined to never be poisoned again–could a Golden Pearl be the answer?!

Slave Girls for Sacrifice, by D.M. Ritzlin

A powerful sorceress with a bestial lover requires a blood sacrifice to complete her vile rites… Will Avok’s brawn and bag of tricks be enough to stop the witch?!

Praying to Thasaidon, by Tais Teng

No one prays to the Charnel God–but when a necromancer comes to collect on a family’s debts, there may be nowhere and no one to turn to but a god of death!

Adeste, Fideles, by G. Scott Huggins

Long ago, the “Last Fleet” was sent to find a new world for Earth’s orphaned children! That expedition to the fringes of space had been thought lost… Until now!

Return of the Dark Brotherhood, by Adrian Cole

Aruul Voruum nears completion of his witchfinder training… but the remnants of Daras Vorta’s cult have worked their tendrils into the heart of Mars’s government!

Outside the Outside?, by J. Comer

A review of The Tingleverse and Feast of Legends

My Name is John Carter (Part 8), by James Hutchings

James Hutchings continues his longform poem…

Interesting Demographic Breakdown of Publishing

For a number of years, people have pointed out the publishing industry is overwhelmingly geared towards women, in positions of leadership, in terms of authors published, and in terms of audience.

I can’t count how many times I’ve seen the question “Why don’t more men/boys read?” Well, a big part of the answer is that the industry is more or less run by and for women.

Until recently, it has been considered improper to challenge this. But something has changed. The “problem” isn’t that the industry is run by white women; now the “problem” is that the industry is run by and for white women. At least according to LA Times writer Esmeralda Bermudez.

She does present some interesting and troubling numbers that do show how misweighted the publishing industry is.

In this industry overall, disabled persons, LGBT, and women are significantly OVER-represented compared to the general populace.

Among interns, the numbers are even more skewed.

The demographics of big publishing heavily favor gay women of any race compared to the actual demographics of the general population, which very well could account for WHY the market looks the way it does.

Efforts to meet market demands create something of a feedback loop; certain groups feel excluded by the product and therefore do not consume them; the industry sees those groups as non-consumers and therefore gears its production to meet the tastes of the groups that ARE consuming, further excluding other groups.

So, even though it’s kind of a meme that publishing has become the domain of cat-ladies, simping male hangers on, and the few folks that can fly under the radar, there are concrete numbers that show there may be some truth to it.

It’s shocking to think that less than 1/4 of those in the publishing industry are men, and only 1/10th of the interns who are interested in learning and participating in the industry are TruMalesTM.

Blacks, and I’d especially suspect black males, are also critically underrepresented, and I can’t help but think that a part of this is an exacerbation of the young male readership identity crisis along racial lines. In school, the written black experience was almost always from a female perspective. We would be handed the tragic tales of young black girls suffering abuse at the hands of men, who were black as often as not. There were few male heroic ideals presented in fiction at school, and virtually none were black.

Because of the nature of the beast, I don’t see any real change in the industry beyond becoming more LGBT focused and slightly more focused on minority women, if they find that those markets will consume everything that’s put on a plate in front of them. We’re still in a spot where “diversity” in publishing is actually a form of exoticism, where the big publishers can put their “diverse” stories on display like cakes in a desert case. There’s buzz around them, but at the same time, there’s the danger of “doing it wrong”, which has already led to the public crucifixions of several YA authors who either were not woke enough in their approach or woked wrong. And given the demographics above, it was especially ironic in those cases where gay white women were shouting down and dogpiling on minority authors.

So, do I have any answers or suggestions on how to fix any of this? No, I really don’t. It could be too broken to be fixed for at least another generation. I’m generally a story first guy, but I also understand that people write what they know, different people and cultures have different approaches to storytelling, and men and women have different approaches to storytelling. Unless the market actually collapses under what it’s doing, it’s going to continue chasing dollars in the way it has been, even if the market may actually be shrinking. Big changes in any direction are painful, and where retail is, a sneeze could kill a Barnes & Noble, which is one of the last bastions of trad-pub.

Indie and self-publishing has balkanized the market, and while it has allowed for a number of niches to be carved out and succeed, they’re still niches and very little seems to have captured the Zeitgeist.

Personally, I’ve never been one to tout the “diversity” of our publication. Because a) I feel the stories stand up and that’s what matters and b) to do so would be to reduce our authors to mere demographic data rather than living, breathing people with stories to tell. At the same time, I’ve been puzzled when I’ve seen other publications lamenting that they haven’t gotten enough of this or that kind of author submitting to them, when we’ve received and published stories from just about every corner of the earth without actively seeking the kinds of diversity that some others have sought out.

I think in some cases, it may come down to vision–desire to tell and publish certain kinds of stories vs. the desire to publish certain kinds of authors. I can’t deny that certain kinds of authors, though, will tell certain kinds of stories. And I think that the demographics in traditional publishing bear this out.

Anyway, this has already gone dangerously into rambling territory, so I’ll conclude by shilling.

Be sure to pre-order the new issue of Cirsova! It is filled with excellent and exciting stories of adventure, peril, and romance, if that’s the sort of thing that matters to you. Or, if it matters that we publish stories by women, ethnic and sexual minorities, uh… there’s that. But we’d really rather you check it out because of the excellent and exciting stories!

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Half-Way Through the Submissions Stack!

We’ve read a little over 100 of our 200+ submissions, and I’ve got to say, we’ve received some truly excellent stories this year!

There are a LOT of stories we’re going to cry about having to turn away before everything is said and done.

With where we’re at right now, we’re looking at nearly 223K words of fiction that we’d love to publish… and reading the next 100 stories, that number is easily going to double [unless the bottom of the pile is all 2nd person elf stories written in the future tense]. The cost of that word count comes shy of $3k, and TBH, we really ought to not spend more than $2k on acquiring fiction right now [I’m sitting on a $7600 estimate to get my ducts replaced in my house that I’d rather not take out a huge loan on but probably will anyway.]

Quick Cirsova-nomics lesson!
1 issue is Approximately 50k words
At our rates, that’s ~$625 for content
We pay our editors $100 per issue for editing
Our covers are $300-$500
So, ~$1k-$1.2k per issue
We make about $3 per copy we sell on Amazon.
We need to sell ~400 to break even.

TL;DR: we really only have money for 3 issues, we want to buy for at least 4 issues, because we probably have 8 issues worth of solid content in our pile.

How to help us afford making 2020 a 4-issue year:

Please note: Cirsova Publishing DOES NOT and WILL NEVER require contributors or would-be contributors to purchase copies of the magazine featuring their stories or any other issues. Purchases WILL NOT be considered when weighing submissions.

Realities of Short Fiction Economics

The economic reality of short fiction publishing that authors and editors are both afraid to admit is that supply outstrips demand on an astronomical level.  Even token markets get more subs than they can publish. Only editors who insist on fiction having value try to pay reasonable rates, even if in many cases it’s not economical for them. Even Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld has expressed some frustration with the financial realities of running a pro-paying magazine.

Authors want to be paid, of course, but authors also want to be published. Some (many) authors REALLY want to be published–they care more about having their story out there than making money. And the ratio of authors/stories to editors/publications? It makes it so that stories lack value in an economic sense.

There’s no scarcity.

At all.

Even when there is quality, there is not scarcity, so there’s not a lot of economic incentive to pay “pro” rates [especially given the often decent-to-high quality of fiction/authors willing to accept less].

The scarcity of short fiction comes in name recognition, not the fiction itself. There are a gorillion amazing stories, but for instance, there is only one Sky Hernstrom–with only one Sky Hernstrom creating a limited supply of Sky Hernstrom stories, the value on those stories becomes a premium. If I can pay Sky more for a story than another guy because I want to be the pub carrying Sky Hernstrom stories, then that’s where the value comes into fiction, not through the slush pile of great undiscovered and unpublished fiction we see every year.

The addendum to this is that if we’ve published you once, there’s a much higher chance we will publish you in the future, because a) we like your stories, b) your stories become part of our “brand” so to speak and c) if our readers like your stories, they will buy us to read them.

Some have suggested that the only viable option for authors is a sort of donation/patronage system for their writing. And that, I gather, is what Clarke and other SFF pubs are doing to keep themselves afloat–small donors, subscribers, and whales subsidize the many non-paying readers like the ones Clarke is struggling to monetize. For an unknown author, building that level of patronage may be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be the only option.

Truly devoted fictioneers have the tools available so that they can really scrounge for every publication out there they could possibly submit to–Ralan, Duotrope, and Submission Grinder are a few examples of such tools.

Publishing across many outlets is a great way of increasing visibility to the point where releasing periodic anthologies is feasible.

As much as I’d like to publish everything a few of our authors put out, it would be bad for them because it would restrict the visibility of their works to our audience.

If they published 4 stories with us, they would have 4 stories that were seen by the same set of eyes more or less, but if they published 4 stories in 4 magazines, they’d have reached as many as 4 times as many readers, including those who would be interested in catching up on what they missed in a collected anthology.

If you’re interested in submitting to Cirsova Magazine, we pay semi-pro rates at approximately .0125 per word for short fiction up to 10,000 words. We will be opening in Mid-October for submissions. More details are here.

Our latest issue, the Cirsova Summer Special is available now, and our upcoming Fall issue will be out September 16th. If you’re interested in submitting fiction to us, it will be helpful to read at least one issue to get an idea of the kinds of stories that we are looking for!