How much in royalties do book authors get paid?


R.P. BenDedek 85I recently had the dubious pleasure of going through the hoops to have my book ‘Finding Myself in China: A Politically Incorrect Story’ published through a vanity publisher. I dealt with a particular ‘self-publishing’ company and from that experience I want to share with you what I learned about author royalties. I should however point out that the money I paid was not paid to that organization. Instead I was required to pay ‘Author Solutions’ which, from what I have read on the internet since, is the publishing company that most self-publishing companies funnel into. I am also led to believe that they are also in some type of partnership with traditional publishers such as Penguin Books and Simon & Schuster Publishing House.

Since the title of this article is about author royalties, I will get straight to the point and explain what I learned, and then elaborate further on the whole process.

I was told that my book, since it was between 200 and 300 pages long, would sell for $30 and some cents, and that I would receive twenty-five percent of that amount in royalties. When you look more closely however, you discover that that only applies when your book is sold on that publisher’s website.

If you sell through Amazon or other online sites, your royalties drop sixty percent which is to say that instead of getting twenty-five percent royalties, you get ten percent royalty. So your $7.50 becomes $3.00, and if like me you are not an American citizen, a further thirty percent is withheld to satisfy the American IRS. This then brings your net payment down to $2.10 from which, if you are not American, you may be required to pay another fee to your government.

If you want your book in bookstores, that same deal applies as above, with the added bonus (but not for you), that you are required to pay an annual fee that allows bookstores to send back unwanted books – but you still get paid your royalty (which basically you paid yourself by paying that fee).

When you buy an author’s book from someone other than the publishing house whose name appears in the book, you are effectively robbing the author of sixty percent of his royalty and in the process, filling the coffers of big businesses.

In my case, the publishers refused to publish the book because they fear libel suits. They informed me that I could use a completely different name and not list any connection to my website and it would be okay to publish libelous material.

Because I would not agree to using a different name, or removing who knows how many sections of the book to allay their fears, the company would not publish it, but at the same time, they also would not void the contract. For a little while I could not understand why they kept playing games by refusing to publish it but not wanting to void the contract. Then I remembered that within the contract there are two particular sections, one of which allows the publisher to continue publishing your book for one year after you cancel the contract and the other which stated that they could portion off your book to various amenable sites.

So I had to wonder if what they were doing was trying to manipulate ‘ME’ into cancelling the contract so that they could make use of these two sections of the contract, and I must further point out that as far as I can tell, the contract does not definitively state that the author receives any payments during that year.

On April 30, 2016 I published an article titled “Holding Authors to Ransom” in which is recorded the email I sent to the company informing them that their less than definitive email statements were leading me to mistrust their less than definitive contract statements and therefore I could only infer that there was some financial manipulation going on behind their reluctance to formally reject the book. The following day I received notice that I was being refunded my money.

Since it has been less than two weeks since receiving that advice, I naturally don’t expect their bureaucratic procedures to have spit out a refund so quickly, but if after a month I am still not in receipt of my monies, I will append a little note here.¹

From what I have learned through my experience, I want to leave you with these thoughts.

Authors don’t get much of the total percentage of their books unless the books are purchased from the publisher.

When you support big billion dollar companies like Amazon, you are undercutting authors’ income.

It is virtually impossible to get published by a traditional publisher. To quote Penguin Books, ‘We don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts.’

When you deal with ‘vanity publishers,’ also known as self-publishers, understand that they are fronts for a big corporate monopoly and be very wary of their contracts. You literally need to read and understand everything on their website before you sign a contract. (Unfortunately you will find that until you pay cash and then sign a contract, you are not likely to get any answers at all – and I did get the order right – cash first and then contract.)

When you read that you can cancel your contract to go with a traditional publisher, ask yourself ‘Why?’ Why would they give up their source of income? And if the job they do is so good, why would you want to change publishers? And what is it that the traditional publisher is offering you which is better than Author Solutions? And finally ask yourself ‘Is this traditional publisher trying to help me or help themselves?’ When you know that traditional publishers are tied up with this company, you just have to wonder.

Finally understand that under no circumstances can you publish anything that is real or true – unless you provide an abundance of permission slips (even from the professional photographer you pay to take your photograph) and waivers from absolutely everyone listed in the book. If you want to write the truth, you have to use a fictitious name and give everyone in the book a fictitious name and call it ‘fiction.’ I guess that is what the Bible refers to as ‘those who call the truth a lie and the lie truth.’

As for my book, it has now been published directly from my website as a pdf book. I don’t expect many people will want to read a pdf book. Since Google manipulates search engines to favor those sites which pay for or allow Google advertising on their sites, my site doesn’t attract much attention. When Google first began manipulating their algorithms in favor of favored clients, my monthly unique hits dropped 70%. It built up again over time, but after writing another article about them again this year, my monthly hits have dropped 60%. The site is actively being held back my Google. Google actually prevents my statistics counter from seeing things like keywords that brought people to the site or where they came from etc. Bottom line is that no one is really going to know about my book, which is a pity because you are not likely to get such honesty in any publisher’s published book.

I hope you have better luck, and I hope that this article has answered some of your questions.

R.P. BenDedek
Holding Authors to Ransom.

¹ Prior to publication I received a phone call from a ‘supervisor’ of the front publisher, who wished to talk to me about resolving the problems that ‘I’ have with them. After telling the supervisor of some of the inferences I have drawn from their correspondence, I informed that person that I had no intention of asking for termination of my contract and pointed out that the problem is theirs not mine. Then I said ‘good-bye’ and hung up on that person. I then sat down and sent an email to the person I had been dealing with in that company and when I receive the reply, I will probably publish emails. I will leave the link here if I do.

June 11th Addendum:

About a week after the incident above I received an email informing me that the refund is being processed. Two weeks or so later I am still waiting. I guess Author Solutions doesn’t like to part with easily earned money. (The refund finally arrived in July.)

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Author of
The King’s Calendar : The Secret of Qumran -and –
Finding Myself in China: A Politically Incorrect Story

Recent BenDedek articles on the issue of Political Correctness

Author: R.P. BenDedek

Born in 1953 in Brisbane City, Queensland, Australia, R.P. BenDedek (pseudonym) is a divorced father of five who has been living and working in The People's Republic of China (Mainland China) since 2003. He is currently (2016) working in Suzhou City, Jiangsu Province.

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