Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Book Royalties

Royalties are this big mystery to writers. Seriously. You think you’ll get this royalty statement and it’ll all make sense. Not!

Well, finally, we have an explanation. I found it, oddly enough, on Twitter. Not the explanation -- it’s definitely not something that can be deciphered in 140 characters or less. What I came across are links to two blogs, one by author Lynn Viehl and a follow-up by agent Jennifer Rappaport. (Thank you @Maya_Reynolds for sending out the links.)

You’ll want to go read both. I suggest you read Lynn Viehl’s first, then Jennifer Rappaport’s.

Viehl is a best-selling author. She had made a promise that if she ever hit the top 20 of the New York Times mass market bestseller list, she would share all the information about the book. And she does that, from the initial print run, to the (little) promotion she does, to her advance, to expenses, to how much her agent received, to her royalty statement.

Why did she do this?
In Publishing telling the truth about earnings smashes the illusions publishers and writers want you to believe and, like breaking mirrors, it never brings you good luck. Thing is, when I was a rookie I wanted to know exactly what it took to have a top twenty Times bestselling novel, because that was such a big deal to writers. Everyone I asked gave me a different answer, told me a bunch of nonsense, or couldn’t/wouldn’t tell me at all. For that reason I want you to see the hard figures, and know the reality, and the next time someone asks you what it takes, you can tell them the truth.
Once you’ve finished reading her post, click over to Rappaport’s analysis of Viehl’s royalty statement. Jenny Rappaport is not Lynn Viehl’s agent, but she definitely knows how to dissect a statement. She tells us what is meant by US Regular Sales, discounted copies, US Regular Returns, Export Sales and Returns, Reverse Against Returns, and BOOKSPAN subsidiary right sale.

Bet you thought a royalty statement would be easy to untangle, didn’t you?

Here’s a snippet of her explanation about returned books:
For every book returned, as you can see on the royalty statement, the publisher did not pay Ms. Viehl any money. This makes sense from an accounting standpoint, since the publisher had to pay the booksellers back the money they had purchased the book with, and therefore didn't really "sell" it.
If you want to see the actual royalty statement, click here.

Shoot, I’ll go buy Viehl’s latest book just to acknowledge her for posting her statement! And kudos to Rappaport for taking the time to explain the terminology and ins and outs of a statement.
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23 comments:

  1. This is some good information. I'm definitely off to read up on it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Me again. Just had to come back and comment on how enlightening those reads were - A, the balls it took for Viehl to come right out with the bare naked truth, and B, Rappaport's analysis and explanation.

    Excellent post today, Helen.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm with you, Marvin. It took guts to post your royalty statement online for all to see & then talk about it. And I so appreciate Rappaport for taking the time to explain the statement.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'd read those posts and learned a lot though I found the overall information a bit discouraging.

    Jane Kennedy Sutton
    http://janekennedysutton.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  5. lol Jane - the information is discouraging. Now factor in those of us who work with a small publisher. I haven't even seen a royalty statement yet so I haven't a clue really what my figures are like. Anyway - it was very enlightening as I'm sure small publishing companies don't give that much detail on a royalty statement.

    Thanks for posting this, Helen - see you all in the postings - E :)

    -------------
    Elysabeth Eldering
    Author of the Junior Geography Detective Squad (JGDS), 50-state, mystery, trivia series

    STATE OF WILDERNESS, Book 1 of 50 now available.
    STATE OF QUARRIES, book 2 of 50 now available
    STATE OF RESERVATIONS, book 3 of 50 coming 2009

    WHERE WILL THE ADVENTURE TAKE YOU NEXT?

    http://jgdsseries.blogspot.com
    http://junior-geography-detective-squad.weebly.com/
    http://elysabethsstories.blogspot.com/
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/jgdsseries/ (series newsletter forum)

    ReplyDelete
  6. It is a bit discouraging, Jane, or maybe "sobering" fits.

    Hi Elysabeth. I love your idea of the three series. 50 states = 50 books in each series! Brilliant.

    ReplyDelete
  7. LOL - Helen. I have one series with a contract for 50 books. I think that should keep me busy for a while (at least the next 12+ years). I'm enjoying them so much because I'm learning a lot along the way.

    Book 2 is available as is book 1. So if you know of anyone who teaches social studies in the 3rd through 6th grades, I'd love them to check me out and see where the adventure will take them next.

    See you all in the postings - E :)

    ---------
    Elysabeth Eldering
    Author of the Junior Geography Detective Squad (JGDS), 50-state, mystery, trivia series

    STATE OF WILDERNESS, Book 1 of 50 now available.
    STATE OF QUARRIES, book 2 of 50 now available
    STATE OF RESERVATIONS, book 3 of 50 coming 2009

    WHERE WILL THE ADVENTURE TAKE YOU NEXT?

    http://jgdsseries.blogspot.com
    http://junior-geography-detective-squad.weebly.com/
    http://elysabethsstories.blogspot.com/
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/jgdsseries/ (series newsletter forum)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Helen, I see today you hit 100 followers. How great! You seriously know how to work this blog thing!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Isn't that something, Lauri! I hadn't been paying much attention to it, then looked over and there it was. 100. Kewl.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Some mirrors need to be smashed. New authors need to know the truth!

    Can you imagine getting a negative royalty check because more books were returned than sold?

    L. Diane Wolfe
    www.circleoffriendsbooks.blogspot.com
    www.spunkonastick.net
    www.thecircleoffriends.net

    ReplyDelete
  11. This is a fascinating read. Thank you for compiling the three links. Seeing it all broken down can be discouraging, but it's important that the information gets out there at all. I'm not quitting this writing game any time soon.

    Congratulations on your 100 subscribers!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Yes, quite eye-opening. Just goes to show you write for the love of it, not for fame and fortune!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Great posts. Very simple, straightforward, and eye opening. Just goes to show that even (most) of the bestsellers aren't scraping in a mint's worth of coin!

    --Lisa
    http://authorlisalogan.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  14. So true, everyone. This dispels the myth that if you're a best-selling author, then you're rich. Shoot, some people believe if your published, you must be rich.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I saw those posts and agree, very eye opening. So glad I have a day job I really love.

    You have way more than 100 followers, Helen. They're just not all up in that little box. :)
    ~jon

    ReplyDelete
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