So, I had this conversation with various authors signed to the same publisher. Although they all had books out for several years, none of them ever saw a royalty cheque, let alone a statement. One of these authors even went as far as claiming that the statement she did see underestimated her sales.
My own experience.
With a previous publisher, I had to remind them to pay my royalties when they were due. The person in charge didn’t even realise that payment time had arrived. Why was it my job to remind him?
So this got me to ask around. I found out that one highly regarded blogger never reviewed books from a certain publisher as they never paid their authors. At least my publisher paid up after many emails asking ‘Show me the money!’ I counted my blessings.
The Goodreads Thread
So in order to write this blog, I started a thread on Goodreads asking simply about royalty payments. One naive author paid $4000 to a vanity press to get published, and although she knew of many people who had bought her book, she never saw a cent. This same author did no promotion. She assumed at the price she paid, that side of the business would be taken care of.
On the flip-side, one fellow Sydney-based author was disappointed that he had only made $20k over four years, even though his agent and publisher say he’s selling well. I’m no expert in what a good writer’s wage is, but to me, this author should feel blessed that he made that much. After all, he did pretty well compared to others on the forum.
Self-published authors – beware!
But some of the main culprits in not paying royalties seem to be those courting self-published authors. One very annoyed US writer on the Goodreads forum had his book out since 2005, yet never received a cent. A friend in the UK found his book in a store back in 2011. Apparently this same store had been selling his book since its release six years earlier.
When the writer chased up his vanity press, they claimed to have sent him cheques every six months. He asked for the name of the bank his payments came from, and the cheque numbers. They declined to tell him. Needless to say, he cancelled his contract.
Major publishers can make mistakes.
One story on the forum that surprised me regarded a major publisher who overlooked payments to a co-author. Although this writer received an advance, he never got paid a cent in the first two years. Then a sales sheet came out that matched the one he had from two years prior. Further investigation showed that the forward author of his book was paid $30,000. The editor who never responded to his queries was eventually fired.
Just as bizarre was that this same writer found that a smaller publisher who’d printed two other books of his, buggered up their sums, owing him several hundred dollars.
What you can do.
Read up on your publisher before you sign. I did once, and decided not to follow my dream of being a author with a legit publisher. Plus, the contract had some bizarre stipulations that made it more of an exercise in selling my soul than publishing my first born.
If your book is out, you can at least find out how many Amazon sales you have by either joining up to their Author Program, or by using Novel Rank. Although one word of warning with the latter, once you set it up, it’s public. So if someone Googles your book, they’ll also come across your Novel Rank page and see how your sales are going.