I've been doing research to better understand traditional publishing contracts and payments so I will be well-versed in the math to assist other authors in making a decision regarding traditional versus self-publishing. And with the rapid changes in publishing, to understand some of the complexity.
For example, we're aware of Amazon. Amazon is more than a book and everything else online store and distribution powerhouse. Amazon also has both flavors of publishing under its octopus of a corporation.
There's CreateSpace for print on demand (POD) paper-style books, and also Kindle Direct to distribute ebooks in the Kindle format. Both of these can be used by self-publishers, but it is not unusual for a small publisher to have their printing performed by CreateSpace. CreateSpace is offering a cost-effective solution to their company. Amazon also has imprints which operate with a traditional publishing model - authors receive contracts, advances, and royalties.
So while I was on Facebook and someone posted a link to 'Hey Amazon, where's my money?', I clicked to read the article on Salon. I sell books on Amazon, and I have read some previous articles and blog posts that sounded like Amazon was letting some authors down. They were short on specifics or contradicted my personal experience. Such as if someone says they're going to Amazon today and will buy your book, and by the next day you don't see the sale - Amazon must have cheated you of that sale, rather than the acquaintance never following through.
I loved the Salon post by Patrick Wensink, except for the title [which has since been changed to My Amazon Bestseller made me Nothing and there may be more info in the article since I first saw it]. Wensink is not self-published so the publishing numbers and payments from Amazon are delivered to Wensink's publisher. Wensink's publisher collects all the numbers and payments, then they'll issue a royalty statement and pay Wensink based on his contracted terms. Even if the publisher is your buddy, they control the business relationship with Amazon or any other distributor.
Last year, Patrick Wensink received a cease and desist letter from Jack Daniels because the cover of his novel Broken Piano for President resembled their distinctive label. The polite tone of the request made the news and increased sales for Broken Piano for President.
The Salon post supplies the facts, and I love numbers rather than some hurt feelings and finger pointing. Wensink's novel climbed into the Amazon top bestseller list for a week. It sold approximately 4,000 copies during the 6-month royalty period (usually July-Dec), and Wensink received $12,000 (he didn't mention an advance, but we can talk about the $12k). That's actually a great royalty rate, without any of us knowing the specific contract terms with respect to printed on paper copies and eBook sales.
To validate those sales numbers, it's estimated it takes roughly 500 sales in a day to break into Amazon's top bestseller list. Wensink doesn't mention other sellers, but I found that a great deal of book sales go through Amazon because the shelf life of a book in a brick-and-mortar store averages six weeks, without automatic reorder if the title sells out.
And Wensink's post makes a great point - 'I had a bestselling book. I didn't make a decent wage.' That's spot on.
As a little BTW, the book currently only has 22 reviews on Amazon. Reviews are like hen's teeth.