Thursday, May 16, 2013

Writer royalties and advances

Recently a friend asked, "Are royalties the same across publishers? I understand royalties  to be author gets a percentage of each book sold? Is that correct? What is the percentage?"

Here is my answer...

Royalties are usually between 5 to 10% of the cover price of the book. (The exception is an eBook publisher. They offer a higher royalty because they generally don't offer an advance.) For example, a paperback sells for $20. The author receives $1 or $2. And if you have a literary agent she gets 15% of your royalties. It doesn't look like much when you think in terms of a small number of books. But remember most publishers make large print runs.

Yes, you can make money writing. Two examples:  J.K. Rowling and Stephen King.

This weekend I bought an excellent book on the craft of writing:  The Breakout Novelist:  Craft and Strategies for Career Fiction Writers by Donald Maass (literary agent). And I immediately  skimming though it. I stopped dead in my tracks when I got to chapter 25--a chapter called Numbers, Numbers, Numbers.

Donald Maass writes:  'Advances are an estimate of eventual royalties .. A nonreturnable advance is money you keep, but advances levels are not permanent [and]...can go down suddenly and sharply.' He explains that the publisher's estimation on the amount you will earn is based on the net sales of  'your last novel.'

'[B]ookstore chain buyers...order new novels by the numbers, meaning according to the net sale of your last book. [If] [y]our last book sold poorly...there's no reason for a chain buyer to imagine that things will [improve]... So well known is this pattern that publishers' sales reps have a term for it:  selling into the net...

'Weak sales on one book become a self-fulfilling prophecy on the next, and so on and so on... 

'[And] there's no bouncing back.

[The solution:] Earn out. That starts with an advance that you can exceed in royalty earnings.' [p. 307 - 308]
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4 comments:

Laurie Buchanan said...

Leanne - I can always count on finding good information on your blog. Thank you!

Leanne Dyck said...

As I continue my author journey, I find it helpful to report back to you--my reader--on what I've learnt. Your kind comments bouyed me up as I continue writing and submitting.

Pat Amsden said...

I keep hearing about numbers. Maybe because math was never my first love it scares me. I'm just concentrating on writing the best book that I can and hoping that will be enough to get me the numbers I need.

Leanne Dyck said...

Oh, believe this dyslexic knows what you mean. But I think it's very wise for authors to educate themselves. It helps me to look at an advance like a loan--only I'm re-paying it with books. As in, estimate (to the best of your ability) that you will sell sufficient books to cover the advance. If you don't, you'll become a "bad credit risk".