Pub Rants

A Very Nice Literary Agent Indulges in Polite Rants About Queries, Writers, and the Publishing Industry

Agenting 101: Royalty Statements: Lack Of Detail

STATUS: Interestingly enough, I’ve got more film interest for one of my clients. This will be the fourth of fifth deal we’ve done in this year alone. Go film!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HOLDING BACK THE YEARS by Simply Red

Just this month I received a royalty statement that only had the following info on it:

Total copies in print
Copies printed during period
Copies shipped during period
Total copies paid during the reporting period [note: because royalties are based on net—not retail price—which is sometimes true for smaller independent houses)
Total copies returned during the reporting period
Net amount earned during period.

That’s it. That’s all that is on the statement.

So right off, we have some legwork we are going to have to do in order to review this statement. Lots of info missing.

Not to mention, I’m going to have to create a whole separate excel spreadsheet so I can track earn-out. On this royalty statement, the advance paid isn’t listed. So it’s going to be up to the agency to track it so we know when the title has earned out because that info isn’t on the statement.

Also a problem? All sales are lumped together in “total copies paid during the reporting period.” That means there is no break-down of format (as in hardcover, trade paperback, electronic). We didn’t grant translation, audio, or other rights so that won’t be an issue (as we’ll sell separately) but I want to know how many of those sales are eBooks. This statement won’t remotely tell me that. And let’s not even get started about high discount, special sales, export, etc.

Do you see what else is missing? No mention of reserves held. Now maybe this publisher isn’t holding any but I won’t know that unless I ask. Some publishers do hold a reserve but don’t list that info on the statement. If that’s the case, we’ll have to make a note to always ask separately.

And the list goes on. For me, less is not more.


7 Responses

  1. MeganRebekah said:

    It’s fun to see how publishing as a whole is similar to most other industries. There are companies that excel, and are always ahead of the ball and reliable. Most of the business follow similar, basic procedure. And then there are the few organizations that make your job much more difficult with questionable practices and reporting.

    Good luck with deciphering and breaking down that statement!

  2. Nicole Chardenet said:

    One wonders if, while the publishing biz struggles to remodel and reinvent itself to compete in the 21st century, if they can’t also address how ridiculously complicated and time-consuming paying an author royalties is.

  3. Annie Jones said:

    I’ve never understood my statements. Every time I get one I stare at in until I need an aspirin then file it away in a box. I like to think of them like cryogenically preserved bodies waiting for the day when I know how to bring life to them. Until then… pass the aspirin.

  4. ann foxlee said:

    I suppose I could understand if the writer and agent didn’t have a great relationship to begin with, and in that case, perhaps a change might be beneficial. Short of that, it just seems rude to bail on someone like that.
    Maybe it’s because I’m a good midwestern girl too, but unless someone has really wronged you, or you’ve given them a chance to do their best and they’ve obviously slacked off, it’s just not nice to do that. I’m sure some would say ‘nice, schmice’ when they’re worried about their careers, but does it really do them that much good to switch to another agent when the market is to blame? Seems like it could cause word to get around that they’re fickle or difficult to work with, which would only make it harder to advance.
    Sigh. Some people just don’t think ahead very well…

    By the way, been reading the blog for a while now, and finally bothered to get an account so I could post 🙂
    Thanks for all the info, especially nuts and bolts things like royalty statements, which no one explains. If I am eventually published, I feel like I’ll have a much firmer grasp on this sort of stuff!

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