Monday, November 14, 2011

Royalty Payments Question -- writing tip

Author K. S. Brooks posted this on Facebook, thinking it was a joke.
A testimony to the economy for authors: "I got my royalty statement for last quarter and instead of a check there was a bill with it."
This whole thing started at my hairdresser yesterday. She asked how the "book market" was and I was trying to explain to her that last quarter had slowed down a lot for everyone I've spoken to. She actually came up with the "bill" with the royatly statement instead of a check! I thought that was pretty funny. :)

This is not really a joke.

Actually, some sales sites charge authors an annual fee to list their books for sale. Some charge $12 a year, some more. We have seen listing fees as high as $35 annually.

Amazon would never do this, but some other sites do. In some cases, the fee gets billed whether or not there are sales to deduct it from! So this actually DOES happen to some authors who list books for themselves. Publishers with more than 25 titles are usually exempted from such fees...

Self-publishing makes perfect sense if your name is already known. Recently self-published authors like Steven King and J.K. Rowling will have no problem finding an audience. Authors who are prolific, technically adept, and good at self-promotion, can make a good living just selling e-books.

But there can be disadvantages, there, as well. Those "listing fees" for instance that only crop up in the finest print, where it stresses they will be deducted from your royalties. It may not mention that you will still have to pay the fee if there are NO royalties. When a slump comes along, as it did last quarter...well, authors get bills instead of checks. That's not a joke.

We have more than 300 authors. Only 78 got checks last quarter. But NOBODY got a bill for their titles being listed for sale on our website! Or for our listing their work for sale in anybody else's on line store, either. And it takes quite a bit of technical expertise to get the books listed on the other store sites. Each site requires submission in a different format, for instance. Converting all the book files takes us a lot of time, but it also gives our authors more of a chance to offer their work to a growing audience of e-book readers. That's not being good-natured. When our authors make money, we make money. It's work we SHOULD do.

There are, though, sales venues we don't pursue. Some venues are in business to sell books, even some who charge fees are in business primarily to sell books. But the plain fact is that some venues are in business to make money by charging authors for services. We deal only with those sites that we genuinely feel have the authors' best interests at heart. We choose not to deal with sites that may be designed to make money from selling services to the authors, rather than from actually selling books.

One venue we queried, after authors mentioned it to us, offered to sell us a book on how to prepare our files to be uploaded on their sales site, and the book was available to anyone who wanted to post books with them, at only $25! Most sites provide a free PDF with file prep directions to anyone who clicks on "download."

We read their contract VERY carefully, and decided to opt out of that venue, even though other publishers were (at the time) shouting that they were the best thing ever, the "only place you need to be!" and the answer to the prayers of all self-published authors who wanted to "maintain control."

Now, on some private lists, those same enthusiastic people complain of non-payment.... And for the record, I'm not saying they aren't being paid for sales at the venue. We are quite certain the company adheres to the letter of their contracts. We have no personal knowledge of how that venue operates financially, as we are not participants there. We only know that after reading their contract, we chose not to sign it.

Many fee-charging venues are Big Business with well-recognized names. Others are smaller. It's the Internet. ANYone can set up a web site. If you are self-published, check out all venues carefully. Note how many hits they get per month, see how many books they have of their own, or how many are the result of being an "affiliate" of a larger site. Check how many larger sites they list their original titles with. Then read the contract again.

Not all sales venues charge fees, of course, and I won't name the ones that do here. I'm just saying to READ all contracts carefully. Be aware that such fees exist and then choose whether the price is worth it to you.


  1. You're one of a kind.
    You could list Write Word Books on my site. Of course so far I don't get a lot of hits but I don't charge a penny now or in the future.

  2. I appreciate that, CM...You are the best. But there are just too many.

    In my comments above, I meant only to look at the "high traffic" sites. I expect a high-traffic site to take a slice of the price. That's okay. Retailers always take a cut.

    What isn't okay is promising the authors that they are the ONLY distributor site where they need to list their title, promising that THEY will take charge of sending the book along to other sites, without following through. Then they charge the authors so much per month or per year to be listed for sale there.

  3. It's so sad that authors pay for these things. I feel very lucky to have a wonderful publisher who protects the writers. Thank you Arline!