Pub Rants

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

Ebook Royalty Glitch

STATUS: So excited! Leaving the office before 6! However, I’m just going to take Chutney for a walk and then continue working tonight as I need to read client material.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? POCKET FULLOF SUNSHINE by Natasha Bedingfield

Today I was reviewing a royalty statement from a book that had been recently released. In other words, this was the first statement for the title that we had seen.

In looking at the statement, I noticed that there wasn’t a single electronic book sold in the six-month accounting period this statement encompassed.

Red flag! And you don’t even have to be a rocket scientist (or a literary agent for that matter!) to be able to look at the statement and realize that if an electronic book is available but sales are not showing on the statement, something has gone awry.

Now in this instant, the problem was easily solved. The book released right at the end of the six-month accounting period (so in late December) and the ebook didn’t release until 2 weeks later (in January) so there was no way for ebooks to show on this statement. Problem solved.

However, I bring this up because I’ve seen this issue on other statements and the above situation was not the issue.

The issue ended up being this: the ebook ISBN was not tied to the print title of the book and thus the publishing house royalty system was recording ebook sales with that ISBN but it wasn’t linked to anything. There was no way for the computer to know what author to attach it to.

The only way the problem was solved was by me ringing up the editor to get the ISBNs for the ebooks and then ringing up the royalty department to say, look, there’s an issue here. You need to tie these ISBNs to the statement for these titles. Then have the publishing house regenerate the royalty statements.

So even though you trust your agent, it’s still good idea to read your royalty statements and see if they make sense. Lots of royalty statements can come in certain months (like April/October) and heck, everyone is human and something could be accidentally overlooked. Be your own best advocate.

10 Responses

  1. Stephanie said:

    Thanks for sharing!!!! I am entering the word of epublishing next month, YAY!! and I will soon be getting royalty statements! Double Yay!

  2. Amanda J. said:

    Wow, thanks for sharing. It’s scary to think about what happens to all that money if no one ever connects the dots… good thing you know about all of this, though!

  3. Joseph L. Selby said:

    The challenge is the dual-nature of product families. They’re an obvious means of tracking workload/workflow and are used for that purpose, not just tracking various platforms used to distribute a book.

    In the past, product families generally kept to themselves. Book people worked on books. Media people worked on media and never would the two cross. Now it’s become a Venn diagram and we have to cope with seeing irrelevant (to us) records in our product families. Why are all these dead tree things clogging up my orderly 1s and 0s books?

    So what happened? We changed the product families! Get those dead trees out of there. They’re confusing the computers, they’re confusing the workers. Keep to your side of the pool! (How many analogies can I mix in here?) Of course, this completely defeated the purpose of having a product family and we grudgingly accepted this new change in thinking.

    Still, this is a new process for the industry and we make mistakes. …often.

  4. Loree H said:


    Thanks for sharing.

    Always something more to learn.

    Your blog is a fountain of good info for writers. Thank you for taking the time for us.

  5. Marilynn Byerly said:

    Some of the ebook distributors are slow about reporting numbers and paying royalties. Several of my publishers have complained about Fictionwise, and it’s only gotten worse since B&N bought them out.

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