Standard royalty for e-books?

I know we have a number of authors here on these boards. I’ve had a couple of my books published, but it was many years ago, and now I’m looking for info on current things.

I’ve been approached by someone I once had a business relationship with to write a couple of new books. They’d be sold to readers in e-book format and as real books via print-on-demand through Amazon. I may or may not make any money off them, but they’d be fun to do, and I have a little time right now.

My agent, however, has never handled an e-book or a PoD, and (understandably) doesn’t want to spend time on something that may or may not (she says “won’t”) make any money. So I’m left to hash out the general terms myself before sending the contract to a lawyer for vetting (I’m not totally stupid).

So my question is: Is there a standard royalty rate for e-books? What about for PoD paperback books?

Whoops. So my questions are: Is there a standard royalty rate for e-books? What about for PoD paperback books?

POD books should get the same royalty as print books – about 10-12% of the cover price.

E-books don’t have a standard royalty. Most publishers pay a percentage of the net – I’ve seen 50% and even more mentioned – but that’s an area ripe for abuse (see “Hollywood Accounting”). I personally would ask for the same percentage of the cover price as a hardcover book, but that’s pie a la mode in the sky. The important thing would be to define what they mean by the “net.” What expenses are taken off the top?

Hm. We asked Lois Bujold what she got paid from Baen selling the ebook advanced reader copies, and she mentioned $3. I know that Baen sells it for $15. Not sure what the regular ebook royalty is from Baen, but I know that each publisher has different scales for royalties, and also they negotiate the royalties by author so the royalty you got from Baen might not be what Lois gets.

Thank you both.

Chuck - These will be paperbacks. I believe the standard royalty for paperbacks is 5%, no?

But yes, whatever I ask for will be per copy sold.
aruvqan - These e-books will sell for $5, not $15. So the Bujold rate would be $1, and I’ll probably get less.

Good to have a data point. Thank you.

Mass market paperbacks is about 5-6% yes. Trade paperbacks has the same royalty rate as hardcovers.

General rule of thumb: if it’s small and fits into the book rack at your supermarket, it’s mass market; if it’s the same size as a hardcover, it’s trade. Some trade paperbacks are mass market size, but no paperbacks the size of a hardcover are mass market (the definition in the business depends on how returns are handled, not anything about the book itself).

I remember with my last book (trade paper), the publisher offered it to booksellers at a lower price if the booksellers gave up the right to return unsold copies. Is that what you mean?

Normally, publishers sell copies to booksellers for less than half of the cover price. In this case, the publisher will be selling them directly to the consumer for 70% of the cover price (Amazon takes the other 30%), so the standard hard-cover/trade-paper royalty certainly sounds fair.

Thank you for the help.