For those who choose to go the traditional publishing route, it can seem nearly impossible to navigate the labyrinth of corridors of the publishing house. But, of all the things that can be confusing in the publishing world, the money you receive for your writing is likely at the top of the list.
First, you must understand why compensation works like this. Writing isn't a job. You're not getting paid for the hours of intellectual energy you've invested. It's a craft and that means you're being paid according to what your publisher thinks your book will be able to earn when released.
For most writers, that means a standard advance on royalties, followed by royalties on all sales that go beyond your advance. The publishing house will pay you an upfront fee to gain rights to your book. This advance is applied against future royalties from your book sales. The publisher then takes on many roles with your book including editing, polishing, titling, artwork and some marketing.
After you've received an advance and handed over your manuscript, done the requested edits and posed for your fancy head shot on the dust jacket, and your book begins to sell, you’ll receive royalties on each sale. Royalties from sales of your book, merchandise or other rights are negotiated when the book is purchased by the publishing house in the initial contract. Most authors and experts acquire a literary agent to represent their interests. Publishing contracts are notoriously complex and can lead to unsavory relationships, if you’re not careful.
An advance is an early payment on your royalties, which will be negotiated in your contract. After the advance is fulfilled you will start to earn the originally agreed upon royalties. These rates are usually 10% to 12.5% for hardcover books, and 7.5% to 10% for paperback books. There are certain exceptions to these rates, however, including high discounts when large quantities are sold to chain stores, publisher’s discounts and whether you opt for “published price” or “price received”, the latter being the total income earned by the publisher.
In short, your book revenue will depend greatly on the method in which a contract is set up when you first sell your manuscript. Pay close attention and acquire a top literary agent. You’ll be happy that you did.
Laura Cross is a writer/author, producer and founder of Rebel Seed Studio - an independent film production company, book publisher, and podcast network. Laura has worked as an author-strategist and professional ghostwriter of narrative nonfiction and how-to books. She is the author of the books EXPERT AUTHOR: Turn Your Expertise into a Profitable Business, Self-Help or How-To Book and BESTSELLER BOOK PROPOSAL: Develop a Winning Pitch, Acquire a Top Literary Agent and Land a Publishing Deal... Before You Write Your Nonfiction Book.