Pub Rants

Top 3 Culprits

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STATUS: It can’t be 2:30 in the afternoon already.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? NEVER, NEVER GONNA GIVE YOU UP by Barry White

One of the issues of writing a blog for so long (since 2006 for me) is that I often forget what topics I’ve covered and what I haven’t. And sure, I could scroll through some of my tags but I’m too lazy. *grin*

April/October is our biggest royalty period. It’s when we receive the most statements. So right now I have quite a pile on my desk so it’s first and foremost in my mind. And for one major publisher, their October statements always come the first week in November.

So after reviewing the umpteenth one today, whether I’ve already discussed this or not, I wanted to highlight the top 3 culprits regarding errors in royalty statements that I’m seeing:

1. Returns at a price point that didn’t exist with the original published edition.
If a book was published for let’s say $13.99, then returns have to be at $13.99. Any other number is a clear error.

2. The wrong percentage recorded for electronic books
This can happen in a variety of ways. Perhaps the royalty is supposed to be on retail price and it’s showing on net or it’s just the wrong percentage altogether.

3. A royalty escalator has kicked in but the statements don’t reflect it.
In deals, there are often royalty escalators at certain break points. For example, for an adult hardcover, a standard is 10% to 5000, 12.5% to 10,000 and 15% thereafter. The royalty statement might have an error putting all copies at 10% but let’s say 6000 copies have sold so 1000 of those copies should be at the 12.5% level.

12 Responses

  1. Anonymous said:

    Publishers have heard of computers, right? This really shouldn’t happen, especially the last two examples you cite.

    I work in IT software development, and I can tell you that it isn’t that hard to set rules to automatically assign a particular value once a certain quantity is reached. All they have to do is set it up once, and each time they run the statement, it will go into the database and count the quantity sold, subtract the returns, and apply the royalty amount based on the rule you showed.

    This isn’t hard stuff, and I’m not even a programmer. Why do they have so many errors? If my company delivered software that had frequent, basic errors, we’d be out of business in a flash.

  2. Anonymous said:

    @Anonymous: Some of the pay databases used are as old as I am.

    Technology is getting to a point where companies have to either abandon their old systems or build their own software to continue interfacing with their older systems. I have seen a publisher go the latter route (black screen, green text, Jobs in a garage kind of old).

  3. Rane Anderson said:

    I can imagine how it’s hard to keep track. But, even if it’s something you’ve mentioned before, it’s good to read about it a second time.

    Just curious:
    Have you blogged about internships within literary agencies? I haven’t found any on your site. I haven’t really found much about it on any agent’s blog, actually.

    (And I’d love to intern somewhere. This is why I’m curious. But, I don’t really know where to begin.)

    Maybe it would make a good topic? 🙂
    *fingers crossed*

  4. Catherine Blakeney said:

    Even if software is automated with rules, it’s still subject to human error, which is the root cause of 50% of IT problems. A user must still go in and define the initial rules based on the contract. If someone was in a hurry and left off the 12.5% and 15% rules, then the software doesn’t know that things are anything but the 10%. And yes – each entry in the database would have to be manually configured, since each contract may be different.

  5. Kate said:

    I agree with Catherine – since the terms are different for each contract, someone has to enter them for each contract. This also means that bugs in the software are harder to catch – because they will only appear in certain circumstances for certain contracts. That said, I suspect I could write a better system!

    Wordver: wenemi (1. Enemy as defined by tiny adorable things. 2. Slang for “when am I”. For example, “wenemi gonna finish dis freakin novel?”)

  6. Anonymous said:

    Q: Aren’t some of these “mistakes” made accidentally on purpose? (like @ the grocery chain where you don’t get the sale price cuz it’s not scanned in).

    I’ve heard they tend to make these “mistakes” in the publisher’s favor and then hope the writer is too “creative” or clueless to notice. Glad some agents like you pay attention to the important details.

  7. Stuart said:

    Ditto on who cares if you’ve blogged a topic before. If it comes to your mind as relevant and/or interesting, share it! 🙂

    Maybe I just have a short attention span or memory, but these regular reminders of the business workings of publishing is very welcome. Thanks.

  8. Shawn said:

    It seems like the software, in this case, should be written with default values in mind. If 10, 12.5, and 15 percent are the default percentages at those breakpoints, and it’s actually unusual to vary from those norms, then the software should default to having those values set. It would cut down on the number of errors, but not eliminate them. The next step would be to improve their process to highlight portions of a new entry that vary from the norm (e.g. different percentages or breakpoints).