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Royalties in Book Publishing  

Royalties means money, and money means everybody looks at the matter closely. 

Ah, the big subject!

It's simple, right? You agree on a flat royalty of ??% on each copy of your book that's sold.

That's only the starting point. Here are other things which must be considered.

  • Sold at what price? The cover price? The wholesale price? (Bookstores pay only 50% to 60% of the price printed on the cover, keeping the difference as their markup).

  • Sold where? In this country? Abroad? In English? In translation? In bookstores? On newsstands (which may pay more or less wholesale for the book)?

  • Sold how? Through mail-order or a book club (in which case the publisher may get 100% of the cover price rather than the 50% or 55% received from a sale to a bookstore)? In hardbound or paperbound? As an e-book or podcast? Sold as part of a big discounted lot? As a remainder? Sold as printed sheets (unbound) for binding abroad?

You must spend lots of time quizzing your publisher about how the book will get to its audience in order to be able to construct the royalty clause to your advantage.

Your book contract should also include a clause allowing you to inspect and audit the publisher's royalty records to assure proper and timely payment. I once had an audit done on a publisher that produced $24,000 in unpaid royalties to me. More...

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Tom Brosnahan