Authors haven't received royalty checks from a few of their publishers. Please don't mention publisher names here. Right now there are several under the umbrella of suspicion for their payment policies. In light of recent blog topics, it seemed like a good time to ask writers to post their opinions on the subject of royalty payment procedures and how they spot red flags—the early warning signs of a publisher in trouble.
Some very talented writers pace the floor waiting for their checks to arrive. In the distance we see another crowd forming, a large group of authors waving new contracts high above their heads. And there they go. They’re off, forming a long line behind another new publisher pitching more promises than a politician.
I watch industry blogs and shake my head when the topic open for discussion is another publisher, one finding the spotlight because of their inability to pay their authors. This wouldn’t happen if authors conducted a little research prior to submitting their manuscripts.
Fortunately, there are respectable publishers out there, publishers with proven track records and years of experience to back up the contracts they issue to their authors. Best of all these publishers pay their authors a nice lump sum every pay period.
These are the publishers authors tend to remember when submitting their manuscripts, or at least we should. That’s why I’m asking—why would any writer ignore or make excuses for a publisher unwilling to pay authors their fair share of earned royalties? I’d love to hear from you.
If you're new to the business and want suggestions about where to submit your manuscript, drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll send you a list of recommendations. I support and remain loyal to reputable publishers. However, regardless of who signs my royalty checks, the fact remains—I’m self-employed. If I’m not seeing a return on my books, I can take appropriate actions and call for an audit or pull my books.
I’ll never show loyalty to a publisher unwilling to follow his or her own payment policies. If there’s reasonable doubt over monetary relations, authors should investigate. If their suspicions prove justifiable, then they should pull their contracts and go. If a publisher is smart, they’ll let their authors leave quietly and get their act together.
Self-employment brings a little independence and in the publishing business, it brings the freedom of choice for authors and publishers. Authors choose where they submit their manuscripts. A publisher has the right to choose whether or not they want to publish an author’s books.
Like many of you, I’ve been burned a time or two and I’m not one to leave my palm on a hot stove. I don’t join a new army and follow an inexperienced leader just because it’s the thing to do. Writing is an obsession but it’s also my full-time J-O-B, a career I never take for granted.
I’m very serious about the business behind the writing and feel it's very important for authors to form professional business relationships with their publishers. If you look into past promotional efforts, you’ll see that I truly enjoy seeing other authors succeed. An author isn’t able to find success if they don’t receive royalties. They’re too busy chasing down payments. Very often, once this process begins, great writers become discouraged.
Writers work hard for sales and because they do, most of us never lose sight of what’s important. Today, I hope my attitude will rub off on some mighty fine writers who need to see the spotlight glowing at the end of the tunnel.
By the end of this post, new publishers will realize one thing if nothing else—they shouldn’t sign me or any author like me if they don’t plan to pay their authors. Believe me, it’s hard to pitch a line of “oops, sorry, no royalties this month” to someone writing books in several genres under four or five names.
For those of you interested in the check amounts you should be cashing from the publishers refusing to pay you, I keep up with book ranks. If you’re interested in numbers and would like a rough estimate of what you should expect, ask me. I don’t mind to give you a ballpark figure and it will be pretty darn close. Chances are pretty good I have a book ranked somewhere near yours. I’ll be happy to provide whatever information you need.
I read several blogs over the weekend. I’m curious why any author stays with a publisher clearly operating in the red and unwilling to pay royalties due. Right now, a couple of publishers are cashing in and talented authors aren’t seeing their earned royalties. Below, I’ll explain what I would do in a similar monetary relations situation. This may enrage a few folks but a few points need to be made regardless of toes stepped on.
Writers are involved in a writing business. This isn’t a tea party on a hot afternoon down in Louisiana.
First, let me give you an example by using a fictitious author: Jane Smith publishes one book. Her title is about forty thousand words and this little book that could sells for $5.50 on Amazon Kindle. Jane notices a #2000 rank on Amazon Kindle. Her publisher sends a statement and sure enough Jane’s book sells 777 copies the first quarter on Amazon. At $5.50, this e-book should produce somewhere around $1,709 for the 777 copies sold on Kindle assuming Jane is paid gross royalties. She’s excited and can’t wait to see her first royalty check.
Then, catastrophe strikes. *And the crowd gasps in anticipation*
Jane receives the statement but royalties never materialize. Unfortunately, Jane and her fellow authors are learning the hard way and the old adage “here today and gone tomorrow” rings loudly in her ears.
It’s difficult to tolerate nonpayment from any publisher and when the lame excuses begin, it’s all over. The reason I have a hard time believing any excuse given by a publisher failing to pay authors is because they have the money to pay their authors. Why? Someone paid them for the book sales you received at third party distributors.
Publishers receive their checks from third party outlets and some publishers receive very large amounts. Sales materializing from third party distributors is money in the bank. Whether that cash makes it to your bank account or not is the question, but when you aren’t being paid by a publisher, stop and think about those third party websites where your books are sold. Third party distributors pay your royalties to publishers believing on good faith your publishers will pay you.
Watching the loops and blogs, I’m amazed at what is considered acceptable in this industry. New writers seem to feel an overwhelming amount of gratitude when they’re published. Some new authors rise to the top and have no idea they’re even dubbed as a heavy hitter for their publishers. They haven’t cashed a check worth mentioning.
I don’t consider myself a heavy hitter but last year, two different publishers made a very nice profit or income from sales generated from my books under several pen names. I never expected a thank you note. As far as I know, they didn’t expect one from me. All I ever expected was my cotton pickin’ check delivered on time and guess what? These publishers deliver every single time they pay out royalties. To repay them, I promote myself and their authors as often as possible.
Back to what I would do about unpaid royalties. I would consider the contract null and void. The publisher would be notified and asked to drop the book from their inventory. A cover artist would be hired and a few days later, we’d slap a new title on the book and format for third parties. Within one week tops and—BAM—the book would be released to every third party distributor accepting self-published authors. This is one reason I find self-publishing so attractive.
Now, some of you may be thinking to yourself. “I can’t do that. I’m under contract.” Are you? Maybe you are, but I wouldn’t be. If a publisher doesn’t pay royalties owed, I’m selling the book myself regardless of fits and tantrums. I’ll grin and cash in, allowing my readers the courtesy of knowing why I pulled my books.
Over the last several years, I’ve noticed the gratitude mentality. I once had it too, although I can’t remember a time when I appreciated a publisher delinquent in royalty payments. I have tremendous respect for a number of publishers—typically those paying on time every month or quarter with a no-nonsense approach to doing business but gratitude? Well, I don’t know anymore. In my opinion, that works both ways.
I have a couple of publishers I wouldn’t trade for any big name in New York—yes, really—and the reasons are simple. I’ve established a strong business chemistry with these publishers and we’re in tune. They know what to expect from me and I know what to expect from them.
At the same time, I don’t rely on one publisher to pay my bills. Publishers don’t rely on one author to pay their bills. If they do, they’re in big trouble. In this day and age, publishing is a partnership. Authors are independent contractors.
I’ve said it over and over again—the only ‘bosses’ I have are my two teenagers and their platoon of friends. When life is better than a chocolate covered cowboy, I can send out six or seven manuscripts within a few months. Best of all, because of the reputable publishers publishing my books, we work as a team and everyone benefits.
When a book or short story is released, we make every effort to produce a good product, earn what profits we can and call it a day. Apparently, there are several misconceptions about the potential for income in today’s e-book industry.
So let’s set the record straight.
It is no big thing—yes that’s southern slang—for authors to take on three or more pen names. I’m open about my pseudonyms for the most part, but others choose not to reveal much about theirs for one reason or another.
In today’s market, savvy authors can, do, and will make six figures while the e-book industry is thriving, depending on what they choose to write. Why is that so hard to believe? Well, I have a theory. It’s easy to believe no one in the industry is making money when a writer isn’t getting paid. It’s easy to assume the publishing industry isn’t profitable for anyone when a writer aligns themselves with a questionable publisher and never sees a royalty check.
The facts are right in front of us but for some reason, many buy the fantasy theory. And man, what a dark fantasy we’ve created.
Independent sales figures aren’t provided here. Some publishers frown upon releasing book sales data. At the same time, authors need to open their eyes.
There are a number of authors in this business making over one hundred thousand dollars a year in e-books and trade paperbacks. Last quarter, one statement showed a total of 10, 384 books sold. I’m not giving out the pen name or the book titles because I don’t have permission to cross post the name with the Destiny Blaine pen name. The 10, 384 books sold were books sold by one pen name with only four titles released by one publisher.
My contract states I receive 50% of the cover price for e-books. You can do a little math and figure out whether or not you think I’d miss that income. I’m not trying to boast about earnings which is another reason why I’m not listing one pen name after the next with the number of titles sold for each pen name and book. Besides, there are several e-book authors selling far more than I am. I’m proud of them and their accomplishments.
This post is for those of you who aren’t seeing these numbers because your books aren’t with the right publishers and you aren’t being paid. Today, I hope you’ll read this blog and see it as your wake up call.
Don’t buy a publisher’s empty promises or listen to their boring excuses because you may throw away a solid chance for a significant income earned through a magnificent career. Writing can be very lucrative.
Authors, you can tell yourself only one in every ten thousand writers are making bank. You can get all cozy with that idea. The truth is several authors in small press cash very nice royalty checks.
For the authors out there unable to see the bigger picture, I’d like to point out that publishing is a business. If you want friends, sign up for a cooking class or join a gym. You can pay twenty dollars or so for a seventeen dollar registration fee and let the instructor keep the change if you’re feeling generous. However, when it comes to business, don’t let publishers pocket your profits. Some of them could buy new cars with the money they aren't paying their authors. My guess is, some of them already have.
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An award-winning, bestselling erotic romance author, Destiny Blaine writes under several pen names. She lives in East Tennessee with her daughter and husband. Her son is serving in the U.S. Navy.