1. Darkhorse
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    Darkhorse Member

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    What % of royalties should a first time author expect?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Darkhorse, Mar 25, 2013.

    Hi, can anyone please comment on the amount of royalties a first-book author should expect?
     
  2. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I was offered 6% but I think that's a rip off.
     
  3. Darkhorse
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    Darkhorse Member

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    My first thought was: that is a low offer. Then again, it is a first time offer.
     
  4. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    I wonder if sometimes it's often something where they low-ball you, and you have to try and negotiate it? Both parties start at extremes, and as you work out the terms of the publishing, that number works further and further toward the middle? Just a thought...

    This is what I found on a Google search:

    http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080314184437AAHgegr
     
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  5. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    My thoughts too. But the publisher was in a small country so there was no advance and I chickened out. I wasn't ready.

    @Thornesque: Thanks for the link, it was a great read :)
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you can't go by the percentage alone... what you actually get depends on the way the royalties are determined... such as if they're a percentage of total retail sales, or arrived at some other way... it can vary greatly, from one publisher to another...
     
  7. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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  8. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    It's just what I found online. I figured I'd share it with you all.
     
  9. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    Basically it says if your manuscript comes anywhere in the "just good enough to be published" to "possible blockbuster" bracket, because you're unknown, you are going to be screwed. You even have to spend your own advance on promotion even though the publisher/printer take 90% minimum.

    Another question though - Will a publisher (or anybody bar the writer) try to take a percentage of any possible movie rights? Or say for an action book, Gaming rights?
     
  10. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It all depends on the contract you (or your agent) negotiates and you sign.

    As Mammamia indicated. It depends. Most contracts have historically offered a royalty based on the cover price. I've heard of some, but never seen a contract that was based on the wholesale price. I've seen one contract that paid a flat rate (dollar amount per book). Some pay a percent on net profit--and how that is calculated can be important.

    But going by the common % of cover price way, it depends on the format. Normally a larger % is offered for hardcover, then trade paperback, and the least for mass market paperback. Normally it's a higher % for ebooks than for hardback. I don't know where audiobooks fall, but for me, on average I earn the most for the sale of each audiobook (as opposed to trade paperback).

    Some contracts are structured that after a certain threshold, the % earned by the author increases.

    Also, as the article linked to earlier, if one has an agent, that agent generally gets 15% of what the author earns (advance and royalty).

    There are many clauses that comprise a contract besides those that focus on the % royalty.
     
  11. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It all depends on the contract you negotiate and sign, and what rights you, the author, grant the publisher in that contract. Yes, you could assign rights to any videogame derived from the novel, where the publisher would take their cut. One question would be, is that publisher one that has connections and is likely to get such a deal with a game design company? And if so, what is that worth to the author? If the publisher doesn't, negotiate to get that struck from the contract. A good agent would likely have better connections and could negotiate a better deal, and could advise the author.

    If an author doesn't have a sound knowledge of literary contracts, and doesn't have an agent, then hiring a literary attorney to review a contract is a recipe to avoid a contract that takes advantage of an author and could come back to hurt that author's writing career moving forward.
     
  12. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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  13. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I believe what was meant was that hiring an attorney would prevent you from signing a contract that sets a bad precedent for future contracts - ie, if you sign a bad contract the first time, it weakens your bargaining position the next time.

    Publishing contracts are no different from any other contract - it's negotiable and you darn well better understand what you're signing before you sign. The only people who get screwed on a contract are the ones who don't read and understand it first.

    Oh - and nobody is required to spend their advance on promotion. I've seen this come up a couple of times lately and have no idea who's spreading that nonsense, but that's what it is (unless one is dealing with a third rate publisher or vanity press).
     
  14. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    erebh,

    Every publisher's boilerplate contract is different, even the contracts with imprints of a publisher can be different. Yes, you the author, are expected to read the contract, find what's burried and weed it out, if you want to call it that. A clause on videogame rights may or may not be included.

    I am unsure where you interpreted what I said into a writer getting blacklisted for having a literary attorney review a contract. Shadowwalker is correct in his explanation.

    For example: I know a writer who signed with an imprint of one of the big six publishers. This author's agent had a clause altered with respect to earning out an advance before royalties are paid. The contract linked the earning out of an advance of the first novel, with the second novel they published, such that royalties would not be paid for the 2nd novel, but instead applied to paying on any gap between the first novel's advance and what it'd earned toward paying out that advance. Only then would the author begin earning royalties (beyond the advance) from the second novel.

    I'm sure what I wrote may have been confusing. If the two novels advances and royalties had been linked this is how it would've worked. Say an author gets a $5000 advance on the first novel. That's a check cut to the author--an advance against royalties. Let's say for each novel sold, the author earns $2.00. That means the author would not earn another dime from that novel until it sold 2500 copies. On the 2501st copy sold, then the author would begin getting paid for additional novel sold.

    However, if the novel only sold 2000 copies, and the author had a 2nd novel published with that publisher, then any books sold beyond the minimum to earn out the advance for that 2nd novel, would be applied to the first novel's advance, before royalties would be earned. So, keeping with the same numbers. If the second novel's advance was $5000, and the 2nd novel sold 2500 copies, assuming the first novel did not sell any more copies, the second novel would have to sell 500 copies--which would be applied to the first novel's advance, before the author would earn any money from the second novel, beyond the original advance of $5000.

    So, it would be to the author's advantage to not have the novels linked with respect to advances and royalties.

    And then there is language on reserves against returns--how that is calculated, since every novel that is sent to various Walmart stores and Barnes & Nobles isn't sold. Often they are returned, or have their covers torn off and the novel is destroyed. But it's not sold—and doesn’t count a such. It takes a while (varying amounts of time in months or more for books to be returned or destroyed and reported as such) for the totals of sold vs. returns to be tabulated, and how and when this is done affects how and when an author is paid.

    Another example: There is language about a publisher getting first rights of refusal, especially for a novel written in the same 'world' or series, or with substantially the same characters--but not necessarily limited to that. How that clause is worded, and what limits and/or parameters are specified, can affect an author's ability to sell subsequent novels moving forward, affecting that author's career in a positive or negative fashion.

    These are just some examples, and why an author unfamiliar with literary contracts, or an author that isn't good at negotiating them even if they are knowledgeable with such contracts, has an agent or a literary attorney to guide them as to what is reasonable and in the author's best interest to sign or not to sign.

    And it should be said that not all agents are created equal. The best agents are very difficult to convince to represent an author's work, especially an unknown author. They have limited time and can only represent so many authors. And hiring any attorney to review a literary contract isn't necessarily effective. Would it be wise to hire a criminal defense attorney to review a real estate contract, instead of an attorney who specializes in real estate contracts?

    Hope that helps clarify things.
     
  15. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    If you self pub a book through kindle your royalties should be 35% if the book is sold for less than $2.99 and 70% for books $2.99 and up. (Now you know why so many books are priced at $2.99).

    For CreateSpace, you choose how much you want to get paid by simply adding your bit onto the price of the book. So for mine I'm mostly getting a bit over a buck a book.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    listen to terry and shadow... they're right on all counts...
     

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