Yesterday, I talked about how covers can make or break a book. Today, I’m going to address royalties.
While most writers will tell you the money isn’t important, that they write because they love it and they’d do it anyway, even if all they got in return were words of praise, the truth is, many writers count on the royalties they receive to pay some or all of the bills.
I look at publishers as I would any other business. How professional are they? Do they meet their obligations? Can I count on them getting my money to me on time? The following is my opinion based on personal experience or anecdotes from trusted friends.
I’m going to start out by saying I really like the people I’ve dealt with at every publisher. Their niceness is not the issue here. We’re talking business.
Royalties are generally paid every month or every quarter. Statements go out first. Sometimes, third party sales lag an additional time period, because the publisher is waiting for the numbers to come in.
In this day of fast, electronic transactions, I don’t understand the lag, but I’m the first one to admit I haven’t been on the inside of this particular business, so I have to trust that the lag is necessary.
Publisher 1: Statements and payments go out on time. Without fail! I love this about them. I know I’m gonna get my money when promised, miniscule as that amount might be. Also, when a publisher gets statements/royalties to me on time, I never stop to question the numbers. I figure they’re reporting sales accurately. A+ for professionalism.
Publisher 2: Every single quarter, statements go out late and sometimes payments are delayed. The publisher always has some excuse (family emergency, system problems, new system install). A few writers always respond, saying, “Hey, that’s okay, I don’t mind,” but generally, there is heavy silence. I suspect the bulk of their authors are fuming over yet another delay but are too nice to say anything publicly. I also suspect that some of them quietly creep away, taking their new manuscripts with them. I know I won’t submit to them anymore.
I’ve worked in small offices. Employees have to wear many hats to keep things running smoothly. I keep wondering why this publisher hasn’t designated a back-up in bookkeeping so statements go out on time even if they are unavailable. To me, this is a disaster in the making. What if you get hit by a bus? Does that mean the business ceases to function and authors get screwed? Come on. If you’re going to run a business, run a business and do it right. Additionally, I constantly wonder how accurate the sales report is. If they can’t get statements out on time, what makes me think they don’t screw that up, too? D for professionalism.
Publisher 3: Pretty much the same excuses as Publisher 2. A writer doesn’t care if your system crashes. They expect you to get it fixed asap and give them their money. D for professionalism.
I get the feeling a lot of online publishers are “mom and pop” outfits, but take a look around. How many of those still exist? It’s okay to start small and build to something larger, but never sacrifice professionalism along the way. Make sure the systems you use are robust and allow for the unexpected, because sure as shit, something will happen. Planning for it is what separates the companies who survive from those that don’t.
AJ and I have been talking about publishers and their various problems for months. We’ve come to the conclusion that, if we want to do it right, we have to self-publish. To that end, we have founded Voodoo Lily Press. We are not accepting submissions at this time and may never do so.
Put simply: We want total control over our titles. Between us, we have most of the skills required to run a small publishing business. Quality is important to us. We intend to maintain a high standard. Also, we get to keep more of the money, and that’s also important to us. We write for months to produce a manuscript; I’m tired of giving the bulk of sales to publishers, some of whom do very little to earn it.
Our first title release is already planned, and there are two more ready to go. More about that when the time comes.