An author wrote me over and over again a couple of weeks ago concerned about royalty payments she still hasn’t received from her publisher. It started out with, “Destiny, do you mind to tell me if your publishers have paid out all 3rd party payments?” It quickly became, “How long does it take for a publisher to pay their royalties?” And finally ended with, “Have you actually been paid by your publishers?”
My first response was: “All of my publishers have paid out all 3rd party royalties with the exception of one, which I’m not worried about.”
My second response: “Read your contract. You should be paid on a certain date following a calendar quarter or paid each month ‘on or around’ a specific date, if the publisher pays monthly.”
The third response—“Are you serious?” If it had been a bad hair day, the response would’ve been somewhere along the lines of, “No, I like working 17-hour days and anticipating the arrival of a check that will never come.”
The conversation was ongoing. Finally, I made a few difficult choices. I stay invisible at Yahoo because I can't check email without a chat notice. I avoid Facebook like the plague because I can’t go there since we’re Facebook friends. In short, chatting day in and day out about royalties has become such a drag, not to mention an ongoing loss of productive time that I don't have the first inclination to waste.
Eventually, I wrote my dear author friend a long letter explaining what I knew about royalty payments and included some of the links below. However, by early last week, I’d exhausted all efforts to help her grasp—yes, I told her to grasp the concept—that she probably wasn’t going to get paid by her publisher. And I told her to watch my blog for this post and not to take it personally.
This blog will come across incredibly crass but if you read it in its entirety, you’ll probably understand why my patience wore thin. Let me explain:
The publisher in question is all over Google. Their bad reputation for refusing to pay their authors has been duly noted on blogs, author loops, and industry watch-dog sites. I don’t make a habit of slamming publishers who haven’t done a darn thing to me so I’m not going to post their information here. I’m not interested in earning a ‘publisher police’ badge so mentioning these folks won’t serve any purpose right now.
Sidebar to bloggers: Please don’t leave links or even mention these non-paying publishers for this particular post. Heck, I don’t even want these guys linked here through keywords used. Yes, it’s that bad.
Anyway, back to my author friend—With the letters going back and forth, I finally had to scratch my head, shake it a couple of times, and bow out. I just don’t have time to help someone sort out the details of their unpaid royalties. There are sites out there that track the non-paying publishers regardless of their size and there are some pretty big ones said to be struggling right now in our industry. In short, my friend didn’t do her homework and when she did ask others what they thought, she ignored their advice.
Most of the time, there are caution lights to ward off an affiliation with a publisher that refuses to pay authors. Frankly, I’m amazed at how many people ignore the warnings.
This particular disgruntled author actually received strong recommendations from me and a few other authors to submit to our more reputable publishers. As of this date, I know that she didn’t submit to those reputable publishers several of us recommended, opting instead to go with another house with a very poor reputation.
What can I say?
Well you know me. After fifteen emails and too many chats on Yahoo and Facebook, I said a lot.
In short, at the end, my emails shot below the waist. I told her like I tell my children, “You should’ve listened to me. I’ve been around the block a few times. I won’t steer you wrong, at least not on purpose.”
It’s a tough world out there. Publishing is a volatile industry. There are so many hard knocks in this business, sometimes it might be easier to take a two-by-four and give yourself a few wallops on the head. You know, just so you can prepare for what may come your way.
It’s also a very lucrative business and friends, I gotta tell ya—there really isn’t any excuse for authors tolerating non-paying publishers in this day and age. N-o-n-e.
A long time ago, a very wise man told me, “The most money a person will ever make is selling a piece of paper. Learn how to make your living from a piece of paper and you’ll never want for anything.”
Well, I can’t say I don’t want for anything. Then again, my Bucket List is so long it’s my own fault.
The e-publishing industry made a believer out of me. For many authors and publishers, ebooks have become a cash cow. The grass is only greener over here on my side of the fence because I look for paying publishers.
There are many publishers out there building solid foundations and because of that, I can’t think of one reason any author should suffer without payments due them. See authors, here’s your sad truth—if your publisher isn’t paying you, chances are real good they are living high on your dime.
I’ve tried my best to provide straightforward answers when new authors have questions. I don’t candy-coat anything. However, if someone won’t listen, it's hard to help them. It goes back to that adage of leading horses to water and watching them drink from the wrong trough.
If you’re out there in the World Wide Web today and you’re looking for a publisher, go to www.google.com and type in key phrases such as: “Warning on Publishers” or “Writers Beware”. This is how you discover what publishers to avoid during your submissions process.
Do your own research, folks. Ask around. Talk to authors. Listen to them! We’re a pretty good bunch of people and most of the time, if you ask us about our paychecks, while we may not tell you how much we make, we’ll darn sure tell you who’s paying us so we can pay our bills.
My advice is simple—collect information. Take your time doing it. Don’t submit to a publisher that is going down the tubes. You’ll need more than a little drain cleaner to help you out of the mess if you submit to a publisher known for stopping up the lines of communication whenever royalties are due.
What bothers me most about authors who aren’t paid for their work is how it ultimately affects their opinion on the publishing industry as a whole. Talented folks never get their writing off the ground. Why? Many of them chose the wrong ‘first’ publisher.
Unfortunately, new writers have a difficult time of it. They don’t know where to submit and some don’t know how to submit their manuscripts. When a writer finally lets go of his or her ‘baby’, they can’t wait until they see that first check. Often the first royalty check is disappointing, but imagine how some feel if they never see the first payment.
I’m often asked how much I make. Yes, it does happen. I found this site a long time ago: http://booksquare.com/just-how-much-do-those-romance-writers-make/
and it brought a few smiles when I revisited the link last night. I’ve been asked more times than I can count how much I make. On the flip side, no thanks to publishers who never pay their authors, I’m occasionally asked if I’m paid at all.
To get a good idea of what writers make in terms of income, there are countless resources on the net. As with the mention of key phrases above, you can do the same thing for income stats. That said, I’ve taken a look at various sites reporting various earn-outs and know that many of them are not indicative of my current earnings—thank heavens.
Now, there’s a specific reason I mentioned how much money authors make. First, because I’m asked—a lot. Secondly, I'm curious: “Wonder what some of these non-paying publishers would do if they were reported to polls asking authors for their income information?”
Well, I imagine they would eventually have to close their doors. If all unpaid authors reported their problems to the appropriate places, the findings would eventually look like this:
Non-Paying Publisher Exhibit A………Number of titles Reported 302
Average advance: $0
Advance range: $0 Standard royalty percentage e-format: $0
Standard royalty percentage print: $0Average earn-out: $0
A lot of folks check these income-reporting websites, but they can provide incorrect information because authors don’t report their incomes. Lord help me if I had to survive on the average earn-out reported by some of these sites. However, if you're looking for places to consider before you submit your latest manuscript, check out http://brendahiatt.com/id2.html. Author Brenda Hiatt seems to have the most data reported. Regardless of where you find sales data on books, the typical poll reports sales based on their per-title data.
When new writers ask me for information on where to submit and what route to take, they are often directed here first: http://espan-rwa.com/straddling-the-fence/. Shiloh Walker has an interesting article new authors should read before submitting their work.
E-publishing has been very kind to me. I make my living from e-books and trade paperback. I can’t say enough nice things about some of the publishers who have given me something I can count on— dependable royalty checks.
Something to keep in mind: In this business, there are several sinking ships you don’t want to board, but that’s something you find in any business. Just because ABC Burgers closes down the street doesn’t mean Burger Kingdom won’t give you a good burger for your buck. Same goes for publishing. Just because one publisher doesn’t pay their authors doesn’t mean you won’t find a few publishers who are paying and…paying well.
While I won’t report all numbers and never quote dollar amounts for various reasons, I will share this data with you: I have one western that has sold several thousand copies in a short period of time, another novel written by another pseudonym that’s sold well over 10,000 copies in about six months and yet another western under another pen name that’s sold over 5,000 copies.
And guess what? I’ve been paid.The money was in the bank when it should have been.
E-publishing is big business. Publishers and authors are cashing in on a piece of paper. The publishers out there with best selling authors in their line-up are making money, regardless of costs. I don’t care what you’re told. I’ve been around that block, remember?
If you’re an author who is affiliated with a publisher who isn’t paying you, then you might ask them where they’re spending YOUR money.
Watch Amazon ratings. Watch your books move on Fictionwise and visit ARE. Go to Mobipocket and BookStrand. See how high you climb on independent best seller lists for various genres. Most places have a best seller list. If you’re on one, you’re making money. You should see a check.
That’s it from me. You survived my rant for the month. If your publisher isn’t paying you, write them. Tell them all about it. I make no bones about where I’m published and why I’m there. I’m an advocate for publishers who pay their authors.
Come to think of it, if you want a publisher that pays, maybe you should just follow me. I’m sticking with the reputable ones.
Another Resource You Might Enjoy: http://www.genreality.net/the-reality-of-a-times-bestseller and follow the highlighted link: “Here is the first royalty statement”