Pub Rants

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

eBooks and Royalty Statements

STATUS: Remember when I said we were reading a lot? Yeah, that was before the Olympics began. Bad Kristin but I can’t tear myself away from the TV in the evenings!

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

As you know from a previous post, I’m not all that enthusiastic about this move by Publishers to switch an eBook royalty rate based on retail price to a royalty percentage based on net amount received.

As I ranted about this topic previously, my issue is the lack of transparency on the statement. It’s impossible to track actual amount received by the publisher unless you can get more detailed accounting info

So what have we been doing? Asking Publishers to included language in the agreement that contractually obligates them to provide more accounting information upon request. The only way to verify the accuracy of the Publisher’s stated amount received is to get info such as a list of customers purchasing and disseminating the electronic product, the business model used (wholesale or agency commission or maybe something not even invented yet), the actual retail price, the discount, any deductions made to establish the Amount Received figure from which the royalty calculation will be based.

And I could go on.

Notice that yet again, the onus is on the author/agent to go out of their way to request this information. It won’t necessarily or automatically be stated on the statement.

If we are having such a revolution in publishing over the electronic book, is it too much to ask that publishers have a revolution regarding the info provided on a statement? You got to change the system anyway to account for these new royalty structures. Why not make the whole reporting process more transparent. Heck, why can’t all this info be readily available online and the author can access it at anytime.

Now that would be a step in the right direction.

10 Responses

  1. NipponBeck said:

    Re: your status: Ha! That’s a relief to read, actually. I was a little worried that my query had gotten swallowed by cyberspace or something. But I’ve ignored my fair share of work to watch figure skating, so I salute you, madam.

    Thank you for these posts by the way, seriously. I was totally ignorant of all these little contractual things, and now I have a better idea of what I’m (hopefully) getting into.

  2. Kristi said:

    Knowledge regarding complex issues such as this (at least I think they’re complex!) is yet another reason why agents are a necessity for an author.

    Also, I’m right there with you on the Olympics thing. I rarely watch television, but it’s been on every night for the last week — and the figure skating isn’t even over yet. 🙂

  3. Stephanie Thornton said:

    There are so many changes in the publishing industry right now- I’m glad you’re doing these posts to keep us writers in the loop.

    On an unrelated note, I just started Hester by Paula Reed. I’ll admit that The Scarlet Letter wasn’t my favorite read in high school (maybe I should pick it up again), but I’m loving Reed’s book! I hope it’s as good as Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet!

  4. Chantal said:

    Man, this makes me cringe! Thanks for putting this out there and letting the world know your grief. As a writer, it really feels good to learn all this stuff up front–before you even have an agent–so you know what kind of world you’re walking into.


  5. Maryann Miller said:

    It has been my experience that royalty statement have been complicated almost as a standard in the business. So are contracts. It would be wonderful if both were simplified and made more accessible to authors and agents.

  6. JaredNGarrett said:

    Holy Crow.
    First off, good tunes as nearly always.
    Secondly, this is fascinating info. The only problem with more transparency is that the companies will just have to be even sneakier!

  7. Jimmy Ng said:

    I think with transparency becoming more popular in big business, my health insurance company included, wouldn’t this be important for publishers? Or do they not see the need since the author/agent is still dependent on them for distribution of books?

    Jimmy Ng

  8. Anonymous said:

    If it’s too hard for the publishing house to stuff your manuscript into a SASE and drop it in their outgoing mail basket, do you really think they’re going to go through all the trouble of putting accounting info on line?

    Yes, it would be beneficial to writers and agents, but when have publishers ever considered the needs of writers over their own needs?

  9. said:

    That’s a great article. I would like to believe we will see changes in the future, regarding the practice of nebulous reporting by publishers. As traditional publishers lose market share to self-publishers, maybe…just maybe traditional publishers will get the point.

    The point is: the practice of fair reporting and accountability (transparency) may help to distinguish quality publishers from run-of-the-mill traditional publishers. From a writer’s point of view, a “good” publisher is accountable. On the other hand, should traditional publishers, collectively, maintain the status quo of undereporting and maintain the practrice of lack of transparency, they may very well continue to at times, deceive writers.

    Thanks for your article.


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