Challenge,  publishing

Interesting Math

A Focus I Didn’t Mention Yesterday…

I hinted at it.  That $20,000 plus I have made for the short story “In the Shade of the Slowboat Man” was for licenses (to magazines, anthologies, collections, audio play, and Hollywood options) before indie publishing. Those licenses were over the space of 30 years. So the average is about $55 per month. Considering that a full decade went by and the story made nothing, just sat in a file drawer, not bad at all.

So Looking at Indie Sales…

I calculated my licensing fee yesterday in that total. Now, because I own the company publishing the story, I can calculate the sales income. (Some would call this royalty income, I do not.) I license the same story now for $2.99 (It might be $3.99, but for this, I’ll go with $2.99.) I make over $2 per license to each reader.

So alone to make the same level of money, the story would have to sell ($55 divided by $2.00) about 28 copies per month. Not likely.

It actually sells about 5 per month on average over all the sites around the world or about $10 per month on average, some months higher, some lower. Not bad. (We do not yet have short fiction up on our own store, so nothing there yet.)

I have the story in three collections and an issue of Smith’s Monthly.  (From memory… the total might be more.) An average each of those sell about 3 copies each per month. Average over all sales and uses including book bundles. Total sales for all of them is about $70 per month average after all fees. The story is about 1/6th of all of them, more in some, less in Smith’s Monthly.  So the story could be credited for about $12 more income per month.

So with stand-alone income and collection income, the story is making about $22 per month on average. Again, not bad. But a distance from an average of $55 per month from the previous 30 years.

So the difference is the licensing. Radio drama license, option Hollywood license. And if you are taking the Magic Bakery workshop and/or the Bite-Sized Copyright class, you know that those two licenses don’t deplete in any way the copyright licenses possible from that story. And who knows next month or next year what licenses will go out of the story.

30 years ago when I wrote it, electronic licensing which is making me about $22 per month now on that story did not even exist.

The story has thousands and thousands of possible licenses more. And yes, I do mean thousands. You can slice that copyright pie as thin as you want.

So right now that short story written back thirty years ago is still earning me about $250 per year for electronic license.

It is a stand alone story, not attached in any way to any of my regular series.

So Here Is the Question…

With that sales history and with the yearly sales record now, how would the copyright for that short story be valued for the rest of my life plus 70 years past my death?

How much is that story worth??

And how would the track record of that one story make a difference in the valuation of my other short stories? (I have one story that has made more than this story over the years.)

Copyright has value.

If you do not understand copyright, or just haven’t gotten around to learning it yet, you have no understanding of your own work or how it can make you money. Time to start learning copyright and treating your copyright as the valuable property that it is.

Even an old short story you wrote years before in three hours that was rejected by the editor you wrote it for.

Or maybe the story you are going to write tomorrow.



  • Harold Goodman

    Thanks for this.
    What do you do if there is a copyright violation?
    Do you hire a lawyer? That could eat up all profits.
    Copyright is only worth it, I think, if you are willing to enforce it.

    • dwsmith

      Don’t have to enforce it, Harold. And someone takes a copyright, you determine what the theft is all about.

      And you have a different take on the cost of lawyers than I do. And copyright is statutory damages if your work is registered. In 50 years I have only had to call a lawyer once for infringement, and that was when SFFW stole a registered copyright of mine and published it against my express wishes. That’s correct, a writer’s organization stole copyright. My lawyer wanted to file instantly, but I settled out of court.

      Only once in 50 years, and that was because a baby writer in SFFA didn’t understand copyright. Learn copyright, folks. And stop being afraid of lawyers.

    • Kerridwen Mangala McNamara

      Dean, please correct me on this, but I think the “enforce it or you lose it” is about trademarks, such as company names, logos, etc. This is why Google is trying to get the been use “go Google it” out of our vernacular.

      Not afraid of lawyers (from a family of inventors, patent attorneys have always been around), but it hadn’t occurred to me to look for one as an author until I started reading your blog. I’m reading your WMG Business Bundle and the Copyright Handbook now…
      How hard is it to find an IP attorney who specializes in handling writers?

      • dwsmith

        You are correct to a degree on the enforce in trademark. Does not apply at all in copyright.

        Not hard at all to find an attorney who deals in IP.