Royalty Realities

My royalties came in last week, but I’ve been debating how exactly to approach this post. Going into writing, there’s this make it or break it mind set. It is difficult to move beyond the starving artist versus billionaire Rowling idea.

Reality #1 – your first royalty payment on your first book likely won’t be in the hundreds let alone thousands.

This may, of course, vary for those lucky few. If you’ve got a large platform (i.e. famous for something else), you’ve got a better chance of having a higher number. When my Paypal statement rolled in, I was a bit startled. Then I looked at the dates. The press I’m with pays quarterly; however, my first check wasn’t for three months. It was for one and technically not even a full month as the last month of the paid quarter was when I was published.

What it did tell me? Amazon is my main source of sales followed by Barnes and Noble. Good to know.

Reality #2 – your statement likely won’t give a date to each sale.

Without dates, matching sales to ads / promos can be difficult. There are others ways to measure the success of marketing efforts, but I think I can safely say most would like to see a more tangible connection between the two.

On one hand, this is the great thing about indie publishing. Self-published authors through Amazon can see their sales and do a much better breakdown than a traditionally published author can do with what a publisher might provide. An aspect I hadn’t considered in my pro/con list of indie publishing.

Reality #3 – you get a percentage of a percentage.

This isn’t really news to me, but I’ve found myself surprised with how often people mention how they didn’t consider this going in. Indie authors get a percentage of a whole depending on what websites they distribute through, so here’s another possible pro in the indie list. However, for us traditionalists, we get a percentage of a percentage. The distributor gets their cut followed by the publisher followed by the author and perhaps a literary agent depending. The author goes last. Period. That means your share of the pie gets smaller and smaller which – if the benefits of your press don’t outweigh it – can be rather frustrating when the royalty check rolls in.

For those of you who are in the process of making the indie vs. traditional publishing decision, I hope this helps give you some insight. There are advantages and disadvantages to both throughout the line, and whatever sacrifices you make, make them informed of what’s at stake because an informed author is a prepared author.

Good Luck.



2 thoughts on “Royalty Realities

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  1. If I understand the math of royalties then I guess it boils down to this. If you get something more than zero then that means that someone paid their cold hard cash to read your work. That is so freaking cool! I cant wait to have something out there to get a royalty check. I think I will frame my first one.

    And if someone is buying your work, then you are a professional, published, real life author. Wow, again so freaking cool! Good for you. You are now officially in the top 1% of the population having done something that the other 99% of us haven’t done.



    1. Making money isn’t always the difficult part. It’s making enough to counter the costs of what your publisher put into your work to ensure they’re continued efforts and dedication to your work.


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