Every writer will tell you the ultimate satisfaction is seeing their work in print. To a degree that is true but getting paid for your creativity is a thousand times more satisfying. When I wrote my first book “Are You Predestined for Divorce?” I was so excited about having a physical book in my hand that I didn’t care about royalties. Of course I dreamed of making it to the best sellers list but I was naive. I have grown since my first book and have learned all I can about the publishing process. There is a Royalty Game that all authors should know about.

What are Royalties?

Royalties are monies paid to the author when their books sell. Royalties are usually paid on a quarterly basis and accompanied by sales stats for the quarter. Publishing companies pay a percentage of net profit to the authors when their title sells. This percentage can range from 10% to 20% with traditional publishers and 10% to 100% with Print on demand or “self-publishing companies” Royalties should definitely influence your publishing decision.

What That Percentage Means To You

Royalties are the most misunderstood part of the publishing process. When you hear 10% or even 100% of the royalties you assume that means from the retail price of the book. That is incorrect and I had to learn that the hard way. The authors percent is calculated after the printing cost of the book is deducted and whatever fees is paid to the publisher. So for example your book’s retail price is $12.99 and the cost to print per book is $6.50 leaving you with $6.49 to work with. Now to calculate your royalty of 10% you must subtract 90% of $6.49 which leaves you the author with a meager $0.64 per book. Sounds wretched doesn’t it? With those numbers the “starving artist” sounds like an understatement. That example is based on the royalties from a traditional publisher. Now lets check out an example doing self-publishing.

Using an example from a “self publishing” company offering 100% royalties and there are only a few which I will be talking on later. Self-publishing allows you to select the retail price of your book. This is to your advantage because you can make your book’s price tag competitive. Readers will not spend $25.00 on an urban fiction title written by a new author with top name competitors priced at $9.99 in trade paperback. Using the same example the retail price of $12.99 and cost to print of $6.50 a 100% royalty is $6.49 per book sold. That’s more like it!!!

Traditional vs. Self-Publishing

The obvious choice according to the above example is the self-publishing route. However, before we get all royalty happy there are a few things to consider. Traditional publishers provide cash advances on titles they believe will sell. If you are picked up by a traditional publisher (Congrats!!) you may be given a small advance. That is the beginning of the royalty game. You will no longer receive royalties until that cash advance is paid back hence the name (advance) The traditional publisher may provide marketing for your book until they receive their money back. You will then be responsible for your own marketing campaign. You also don’t have control over your work any longer.

Self-publishing is a bit more expensive on the front end. You have to pay to have your book published but you receive more royalties compared to traditional publishers on the back-end. My next book “Until I see Blood” will be self-published because if I am going to spend both time and money on marketing I should benefit from it.


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