* * * TAKE ME HOME... available in bookstores and online September 4
* * *
Note to Readers
Feature Article: SHOW ME THE MONEY
Best Book(s) I’ve Read This Month
Dog days of summer? In my neck of the woods, I’m not sure these hot days we’ve had are fit even for a dog. At least Rosie (my goofball German Shepherd) doesn’t think so. She shoots me a you’ve-got-to-be-kidding look every time I shoo her outside.
It’s been a great summer, though, filled with outdoor theater, the latest Harry Potter movie, Ozark lake weekends, the latest Harry Potter book, and a couple of jaunts to Texas. And this weekend I picked grapes? Not sure how I got into that.
I went to Dallas in July for the Romance Writers of America convention. The literacy signing alone was worth the trip—500 writers in a massive ballroom, signing and selling books to conference attendees and the general public. What high energy! Over $60K was raised to fight illiteracy.
If you’re receiving this, you’re on my newsletter subscriber list and eligible to win four books in the drawing I’ll hold mid-September. Good luck!
September 15, 12:30
Great Bend, KS
September 22, 3:15
Rainy Day Books
FEATURE ARTICLE: SHOW ME THE MONEY
The population at large generally holds the misconception that if your name’s on a book you must be swimming in a sea of green...
Uh huh. While a few writers, notably those with Rowling in their name, get paid a princely sum, most of us don’t.
So how much do authors get paid? And how?
Actually, I don’t know how much. Income statistics aren’t readily available. Authors (including this one), afraid of angering their editors or losing their agents and never seeing print again, don’t readily advertise their income except among a few trusted colleagues. Publishers and agents, understandably, aren’t sharing the info.
I can tell you advances vary from a few hundred dollars to the millions paid for highly-publicized books written by high-profile authors with Rowling in their name. They vary between publishing houses and also among authors on a single publishing house’s list.
What is an advance anyway? It’s a sum the publisher guarantees for a manuscript. It’s the income number an author can count on. Most of the time.
But not all of the time. Sometimes, even after the work is done, a publisher can elect not to publish because they’ve decided to change directions. Because a line or imprint is discontinued. Because the editor who championed the book moves to a new job. Or quits all together. Unless the termination clause in the contract is worded in an author’s favor, the publisher can refuse payment. So much for guarantees.
But usually an advance is paid. And usually most of it is paid in advance. Over a period of time. Sometimes lots of time.
For example, let’s say I agreed to a two-book contract for an advance of one million. (Oh, God, please give me the opportunity to agree to an advance of one million.)
First, I’d get a small chunk on signing the contract. Lest one think this is quick money in hand, the contract doesn’t appear until some weeks—sometimes many weeks—after verbal agreement. And once the contract is signed, the check takes some weeks—sometimes many weeks—to arrive.
Then I'd receive another after “D&A”—delivery of the final manuscript and formal acceptance by my editor (i.e. no further revisions required). The third chunk is paid when the second book’s proposal is given a thumb’s up. Ditto D&A of the second manuscript.
And that used to be that. But now it’s common practice to reserve a part of the advance for after publication date. Which, to my mind, means it’s no longer an advance, but I’m not the one writing the rules.
Beyond semantics, though, this practice presents a real problem for authors with this clause because—believe it or not—most of us don’t write for the sheer fun of it all. Publishers reserve the right to change publication dates. To delay publication dates. And that’s reasonable from their business perspective...
... but not so much from ours. If part of our income is determined by publication date and that date comes later than originally anticipated (which, typically, is already about nine months to a year post-D&A), then, from the time the contract is signed to the time the last check is received, several years or more can pass.
Of course, with my fictional one million dollar advance, I’d still have a very nice income. But since most authors’ advances--including mine--fall waaaaaay short of that fantasy, you can see why most of us aren’t quitting our day jobs.
There are, of course, other income streams that float an author beyond the advance. Like royalties. Different royalty amounts are paid for different formats. Usually 5 to 10% of the retail price is paid for paperback and 10 to 15% for hard. Sounds simple enough.
Except it isn’t.
Royalties also vary by outlet and discount. More for a traditional store like Barnes & Noble. Less for a drugstore or grocery store or mass merchandiser like Wal-Mart. More for books sold at full price. Less for those that are discounted. Even less for deep discounts. But at least some money is credited for each sale.
Not so for used books. Not even authors with Rowling in their name receive royalty payments for books sold via outlets like Half Price Books or on eBay or through Amazon’s used book option. Nor for books “leased” from airport outlets that offer this service. Nor those that can be borrowed-for-a-fee from online lending ‘libraries.’
(A percentage—sometimes a big one—of my contest entries are from people who flip my books unread into Half Price or eBay. Completely understandable. Also completely understandable why many authors no longer hold contests.)
Royalties aren’t paid in addition to the advance, at least not at first, and maybe never. They are credited against the advance. Only after a book has “earned out”—only after the royalty accrual has exceeded the advance—are royalties above the advance paid out, usually bi-annually.
Many times, a book doesn’t “earn out.” Ergo, no royalties. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the book has been unprofitable for the publisher, only that it isn’t earning more than the advance for the author. Author earnings don’t necessarily correlate with publisher profit. Publisher profit per unit is a more closely-guarded secret than author income.
On the author’s statement, there is also an amount listed as “held on reserve.” Books are one of the only consumer products that can be returned to the manufacturer for refund. Authors don’t receive royalties, if due, until reserve money held to cover returns from booksellers is released by the publisher and credited against the advance.
Confused yet? There’s more:
Authors can also earn money from sale of foreign rights, film rights (the Big Kahuna), serial rights, tie-ins (like Harry Potter merchandise), audio books, bookclub sales, large-print editions. There are sometimes bonuses built into a contract if we exceed expectations. For most authors, these income avenues are an unreliable trickle, if there’s any trickle at all.
Obviously, it's love of the work that drives most of us writers who don't have Rowling in our names (and probably her as well). Good thing. Because whatever we're swimming in, it ain't green.
BOOK(s) I’VE READ SINCE JUNE:
MORE THAN FRIENDS, Barbara Delinsky
An older release from a skilled writer.
NO LIFEGUARD ON DUTY, Janice Dickinson
Tell-all, darkly humorous autobiography from the supermodel of the seventies.
MODEL, Michael Gross
Expose of the underbelly of the fashion world.
HISTORY & GEOGRAPHY OF LAKE OF THE OZARKS, H. Dwight Weaver
I recently discovered a series of nonfiction books by this author detailing the Ozarks past and present. Anyone who loves the area will love the books.
HARRY POTTER & THE DEATHLY HOLLOWS, JK Rowling
Need I say more?
LAKE NEWS, Barbara Delinsky
Good book, great premise.
September 15, 12:30
Great Bend, KS
September 22, 3:15
Rainy Day Books
Fiction for and about women rediscovering themselves