What to Expect When You Are Expecting a Royalty Payment

 If you elect to publish with a traditional publisher, you will be paid in the form of a Royalty. Rates vary on the publisher, type of book … the deal that you agree to. There are standards and in most cases, they’ve been around a long time—as in decades.

Royalty rates are calculated either on the retail (or cover) price of the book, or on the net price which is the price at which the publisher sells to the retailer (usually around 50% off).

In the past, the major New York publishers always paid royalties based on the cover price. Judith’s 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Russell, warned her students not to use the words “always” and “never.” As the case is here. Gradually, we are seeing NY publishers shift to the net price … meaning that the Royalty is basically cut in half.  Royalties can be negotiated … so if a publisher says this is what they pay … your response is … maybe.

In most cases, the percentage of a Royalty payment will increase with the number of books sold.

      10% of the cover price, up to 5,000 copies
      12 ½ % of the cover price on the next 5,000 copies
      15% for all copies sold thereafter

Trade Paper:
      6 ½ % of the cover price, up to 25,000 copies
      7 ½ % of the cover price for 25,001 and above

Mass market:
      8% of the cover price up to 150,000 copies sold
     10% of the cover price thereafter

Audio edition:
      8% of the cover price up to 25,000 copies
     10% of the cover price thereafter

E-book royalties:
     25% to 85% range—it’s all over the map

Books that are published by Christian publishers (CBA) usually pay on net and could look something like this:

      16% of net, up to 15,000 copies
      18% of net for 15,001 to 30,000 copies
      20% of net for 30,001 copies and above

Special Sales can range from foreign, book clubs, large print, movie rights, etc. These will be spelled out in the contract—for foreign and movie, it’s not uncommon to see 50%. If there is a deep discounted sale or your book is remaindered, don’t expect much, if anything. Braille and handicapped editions are typically licensed without payment to either author or publisher. It’s just a nice thing to do.

Remember: numbers vary and can change at the whim of a publisher. If your contract says one thing and the publisher notifies you that it is altering the original agreement, usually for its benefit, not the author’s. If this happens, immediately check out the AuthorsGuild.org for guidance. It is usually on top of all things relating to authoring and contracts.

4 Comments on What to Expect When You Are Expecting a Royalty Payment

  1. This is tangible, relevant advice. I will save this link and refer to it more than once. Thank you Judith and Katherine.

  2. The Book Shepherds says:

    Hi Leigh,

    Glad you found some beneficial advice. We will posting more information soon. Are you working on a writing project? Something spiritual in nature? Love the metaphysical mom!

    Katherine and Judiht

  3. Gabs says:

    Thanks for the information-I´m wading my way through my first contract and trying to understand what it all means. This was really helpful. I´m hesitant about getting an Agent. What is your view on a small publisher not offering an advance? I don´t really have anyone in my life to have a look at the contract and say if it seems fair or not. Thanks in advance 🙂

  4. Gabs… rarely do small publishers offer advances; in fact, many of the larger ones are on an author diet and have trimmed theirs as well. If your goal is to publish with a traditional publisher, my belief is that an agent is a good thing.

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