Authors and illustrators get an equal percentage of every book sold. Since printing costs of picture books are high, that percentage is usually about 10% of the list price, split between them 50/50. Which means for every $10 book sold, I would get $.50 for the hardback, or $.30 for the board book. As you can imagine, the goal is quantity, and any way you buy is good for me in the long run. For example:
- Buy from your local, independent bookstores. This supports authors and local business at the same time, and you definitely do you civic duty going this route. Check Indiebound.org to find out who's carrying in your zip code. If your favorite store isn't listed, please go and request the book -- chances are they'll order more than one.
- Borrow from the library. The author and publisher are only paid once for a library sale (not every time the book is borrowed). But considering that there are 120,000 libraries in the U.S. (compared to about 11,000 bookstores), and that librarians are an author's best friend, getting into libraries is very important to us. Our books stay on library shelves a long time and entice readers who don't have the money for new books; I personally get 95% of my books at the library. So if your library doesn't have a copy, please request they carry it.
- Buy straight from the publisher: In this case Penguin RandomHouse distributes for my publisher Little Bigfoot. Buying here gives the publisher a larger percentage of each sale -- and they will apply their profits to produce more good books -- and hopefully 'hire' the author again.
- Buy from Amazon (or BarnesandNoble.com): I always check customer reviews and comments on Amazon before I buy anything, and these sites add legitimacy and ease for lots of book-buyers. As a giant, they are able to set rates that can hurt the creators, so beware buying anything that's been marked down, and avoid buying "used" unless something is out of print.
- Buy from the author: Authors can buy their own books at wholesale price and sell them in ways that don't compete with these other sellers. The author gets a larger percentage of the book this way ($5 vs. $.50) though the sales don't apply towards royalties and there is the added hassle/cost of shipping. If you'd like to buy a bulk amount for a good cause, live in the neighborhood, or want an autographed copy, this is a good option. (Just email me, but note: there isn't space for inscriptions on Go, Bikes, Go! because it is chock full on every page.)
What about e-books?
These generally function the same way as paper books do, though authors and publishers have been arguing about e-book royalty rates. (Creators believe that the lack of printing costs should translate to larger portions for them -- the standard split is currently 12-20%, which would be halved with the illustrator.) Since board books like Go, Bikes, Go! are made for toddlers, they are not usually offered as e-books, and e-book sales for picture books still make up a small percentage of all sales.