Cost of Localization


  • Premium Member

    Since this tread is straying from the original topic a little (licensing suggestion), I started a new topic. Rahul can move it as he sees fit if I did wrong.

    @legitpancake said in Cube x Cursed x Curious:

    Sam has answered this question before, and it usually takes about 2000 digital sales for every volume.

    I wonder how much of that 2000 book sales covers the cost of a license and how much of it covers the cost of localization.


  • Staff

    One thing that’s more concrete that we can look at now is the Invaders of Rokujouma Kickstarter campaign.

    The initial goal was set to be $50,000, for 33 volumes worth of material to be printed on 10 omnibus size physical books, and they provided this chart
    alt text


  • Premium Member

    If we assume the Kickstarter chart is a good snapshot: the royalties are pretty low, like $0.20 a volume. (30 volumesX1000 copies for $5000 =$0.167, but I’ll round)

    Then we look at Sam’s statement that 2000 copies need to sell to make back his costs, I don’t know what % Amazon takes of ebook sales, but for the sake of argument, let’s assume that JNC makes more from a membership/premium credit than they do on an Amazon transaction, and they net $5.00 or $4.80 after paying royalties. That leads us to guess that the cost of translation, editing, typesetting, software, legal fees etc. is somewhere around $9,600 per volume (I imagine that’s a high estimate, there’s bound to be marketing, website, and other costs that don’t easily break down per volume)

    Most LN’s are in the 150-200 page range (Bookworm is the exception) so we’re looking at somewhere in the nature of $50 a page to translate.



  • @Farmerdad
    tl;dr: pulling numbers out of my ass, probably like $4K for localization out of $8K profits and like $2K for loyalties plus some immeasurable costs for legal stuff and talking to people to license

    cost of localization

    There's a post that gives $4k estimate for localization cost. iirc he also mentioned somewhere else that it's like $5000, with about half going to translator.

    cost of a license

    This one is way more tricky because licensing terms can differ. From what Sam said elsewhere it's usually some percentage of royalties and you need to pay some of it upfront (e.g. 1k copies' worth) so even if your whole company goes under licensor still gets something for their wasted time and license. For most of well-selling books it's probably going to sell more than that upfront part, so it's basically some set percentage of royalties. Some other localizers (e.g. book walker) would ask licensor to pay for localization and keep rights to it but j-novel doesn't do that.

    that 2000 book sales covers the cost

    Amazon takes either 65% fee (yes, really) or 30+% when right conditions are met. Other stores were about 30% last I checked (although I don't know anything about BookWalker because of it's secret club status). It should be safe to assume they get about $4 per volume after retailers' and payment processors' cut, and maybe about $1 from that is paid to licensor (10% above is for printing with less net gain than digital and hence lower royalties; on the other hand, retail price of those 10000 KS volumes would be way more than 100% of that chart).


  • Premium Member

    @jon-mitchell said in Cost of Localization:

    If we assume the Kickstarter chart is a good snapshot: the royalties are pretty low, like $0.20 a volume. (30 volumesX1000 copies for $5000 =$0.167, but I’ll round)

    Since digital copies of all the volumes have already been published, up-front licensing costs for the stories themselves have already been paid; presumably the 10% for royalties is a combination of any extra licensing charges for paper/printing rights plus the per-copy royalty for the additional copies. So I'm not sure it's representative.

    Also, the Kickstarter chart explicitly states that "Translation has already been completed so those fees will not be factored into the campaign!" - so one of the major costs of localization is left out altogether.

    Given these, I'm not sure how useful this chart actually is.


  • Member

    @_08 Sam has said before that Amazon/Kobo/Bookwalker/Google Play/Nook, etc all charge about the same commission, with BW only slightly lower than the rest. Premium epubs being about 10% more profitable. He of course didn’t give actual commission numbers, though.


  • Translators

    Our average revenue per ebook sale of our $6.99 ebooks is ~$4.35.
    Our royalties on ebook sales are a % of this revenue, not based on the MSRP, but rather based on the real revenue we get from 3rd party retailers.

    Localization costs scale with page count for the most part. Translation/Edit costs are per page, but have a ~30% component that's actually revenue dependent, plus there are fixed costs associated with cover design and quality checking (which as of today, doesn't scale with page count, but I'm considering changing the rates to be page count dependent).

    In addition to the upfront licensing minimum royalty guarantee, there are also fixed licensing costs for "Materials Fees" that are fixed (vary according to publisher), ostensibly to pay for illustration rights and "data conversion" fees (but also cover the cost of the free copies we get).

    So a true calculation of "cost", not including employee salary, server costs, and other non-series specific expenses, is something like:

    Translation/Edit rate per page * page count + (sales number - sales threshold)*localization bonus payment percentage * revenue per ebook sale + quality check number * quality check rate + cover design fee + frontmatter/additional graphic design fee + Materials Fees/Other fixed licensing costs+(the greater of: Minimum Royalty Guarrentee or Total 3rd party ebook sales revenue*royalty rate) + premium credit redemptions*premium credit royalty rate

    Things that vary for each books:
    page count
    frontmatter/additional graphic design fee
    sales number
    premium credit redemptions
    Total 3rd party ebook sales revenue

    Things that vary for each series:
    Minimum Royalty Guarrentee

    Things that vary for each publisher:
    royalty rate

    Occasionally there will be some varience in the translation rates or cover design rates but those are mostly consistent.



  • This topic made me wonder. What is the top 5 most credit redeemed series (normalised) and what is the top 5 most sold series on third party store.


  • Premium Member

    @zing said in Cost of Localization:

    This topic made me wonder. What is the top 5 most credit redeemed series (normalised) and what is the top 5 most sold series on third party store.

    It would be interesting if there were major differences between sales rankings for 3rd party versus premium credits.

    If there were any differences, I would guess that maybe less well-known stuff does relatively better as a percentage of sales on credits because people who buy them are probably following JNC on the site and trying out more new things that they hadn't heard of before through weekly prepubs and catchups. I would imagine that the top performers are probably largely the same, though. But only Sam and co. would know for sure.


  • Premium Member

    @yumenokage said in Cost of Localization:

    @zing said in Cost of Localization:

    This topic made me wonder. What is the top 5 most credit redeemed series (normalised) and what is the top 5 most sold series on third party store.

    It would be interesting if there were major differences between sales rankings for 3rd party versus premium credits.

    If there were any differences, I would guess that maybe less well-known stuff does relatively better as a percentage of sales on credits because people who buy them are probably following JNC on the site and trying out more new things that they hadn't heard of before through weekly prepubs and catchups. I would imagine that the top performers are probably largely the same, though. But only Sam and co. would know for sure.

    That's true for me. The catch-up and pre-pub access has gotten me to buy a lot (50+ volumes) of books that I never would have bought from just the description on Amazon and the short Kindle samples.



  • So from this can we then claim that selling ebook light novel translations can is fairly profitable even at "low" volume?
    I'd consider 2000-5000 books low volume.


  • Premium Member

    @sam-pinansky Sam, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to weight in.

    D



  • @seiya said in Cost of Localization:

    So from this can we then claim that selling ebook light novel translations can is fairly profitable even at "low" volume?
    I'd consider 2000-5000 books low volume.

    In trad publishing most fiction books are lucky to sell that many copies over their entire lifetime.

    While the economics of JNC might be somewhat different (I suspect that subscriptions make up for a lot of expenses, and that most sales are frontloaded), I can't imagine that 5000 sales over a year or two isn't something to be absolutely ecstatic about.



  • 5000 is high volume for traditional!?
    Maybe I'm just think of the popular authors... 😅


  • Premium Member

    The average print American fiction book (in 2006, at least) sells around 250 copies in its first year, and around 3,000 copies in its lifetime. The average digital-only self-published book sells 250 copies in its lifetime.

    3,000 copies would not be considered terribly successful by a traditional publisher, it wouldn't have even paid out its advance and started earning ongoing money for the author. 1,500 copies would be considered disastrous sales.


  • Premium Member

    @seiya said in Cost of Localization:

    5000 is high volume for traditional!?
    Maybe I'm just think of the popular authors... 😅

    For every Stephen King or Rolling Stones there are 10,000 Doris Piserchia and Michael Penn.


  • Premium Member

    @_08 said in Cost of Localization:

    Amazon takes either 65% fee (yes, really) or 30+% when right conditions are met. Other stores were about 30% last I checked (although I don't know anything about BookWalker because of it's secret club status). It should be safe to assume they get about $4 per volume after retailers' and payment processors' cut, and maybe about $1 from that is paid to licensor (10% above is for printing with less net gain than digital and hence lower royalties; on the other hand, retail price of those 10000 KS volumes would be way more than 100% of that chart).

    Sorry for necro-ing this but wanted to give some context on the Amazon commission figures. The 65% is actually 70%, but only if the sales price of the book exceeds a certain threshold ($9.99), otherwise it is nowhere near that high.

    So I'd think it makes more sense to say it is 30% unless certain conditions are met, in which case it jumps up. These conditions are the maximum price, as well as relative price vs physical print edition (at most 80% of physical price) and being made available everywhere publisher has a legal right to sell in. This is why you see a lot of prices under the $10 level in general, since going above that level would lose a publisher money on every sale compared to a $9.99 price (~$7 post commission) until the price reaches $23.33 to break even with a $9.99 price point. I do need to note that the commission structure is like this for the largest markets as well as a few dozen smaller ones.

    JNC I don't think ever goes over that price point as result, since the market likely would never support a price point that high for an ebook in this space and charging over $9.99 would both lose sales volume and money through the lower post commission revenue per unit. So on their $7 titles they get $4.90 from Amazon, while charging $10 they would only get $3 per unit, and would need to charge $16.33/book to break even with the $7 price level in terms of commission.

    Sam can correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think JNC is paying a 70% commission on their sales there, but I may be wrong or they may rights holders and selling a good deal of volume in some much smaller markets I'm not aware of that have the higher commission rate.

    The other major major caveat is file size since there is a separate delivery fee at the 70% commission level that is not charged for books receiving the 30% commission. Depending on how compressed JNC makes the files for Amazon (they definitely do this since they note the image quality degredation vs premiim epubs), that could change the whole equation and make the 30% commission more financially viable. But they would have to be like 20MB files to make the 30% one more profitable, and that is 20MB after compression and after any redundant versions in the MOBI file are accounted for, both of which reduce the file size from a delivery fee perspective.

    Again, sorry for dredging this back up and the info dump, but it seemed like it is relevant though since Amazon does have such a big sales platform. I also feel I should add a disclaimer that I don't work for Amazon so please don't take what I'm saying as some official representation. I got all this info from their pricing page before when I was looking into self publishing. I haven't checked on any udates to this because I probably should start actually writing something for real before worrying more about royalties ;)



  • @trashboat
    I'm aware of all that. Just didn't feel like posting borderline off-topic walls of text when the relevant info is available at amazon and easily googleable.

    The 65% is actually 70%

    It's 65% unless that page misleadingly describes something else.

    Sam can correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think JNC is paying a 70% commission on their sales there

    30% one is only limited to a number of countries. JNC sells worldwide so they have to give amazon 65% when the buyer's country is not on the list.

    Depending on how compressed JNC makes the files for Amazon (they definitely do this since they note the image quality degredation vs premiim epubs)

    JNC doesn't, Amazon does. You can see 10—50MB file sizes on the amazon's book page.


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