Historical and Contemporary Romance Author

Curious About Print Publishing Royalty Statements?

So was I! I still am, a little, but having received my first earnings statement (for sales of Behind the Red Door from release through December 31, 2009), I feel a little less in the dark. And since I don’t have any boundaries when it comes to sharing how much (or little) I’ve earned from the sale of that book, I’m going to share it all with you. Down to the last detail, including how much my advance was, how many units of the book are in circulation, and so on.

Ready? Here we go.

Descriptions List Price Rate Net Receipts Gross Units Return Units Net Units Earnings
Domestic Sales $13.95 7.50% 5,566 (2,132) 3,434 $3,592.82
Foreign Sales $13.95 7.50% 677 (57) 620 $648.68
Direct to Consumer $13.95 2.00% 38 (0) 38 $10.60
Special and Final Sales $13.95 5.00% $16.74 3 (0) 3 $0.85
Subtotal Royalty Earnings 6284 (2,189) 4095 $4,252.94
Return Reserves (1,855) (1,855) ($1,940.79)
Royalty Earnings Net of Reserves 6284 (4,044) 2,240 $2,312.15
Advance ($2,250.00)
Amount Due $62.15
Earnings Other Editions $213.87
Total Amount Due $276.02
Earnings Other Editions (ebook)
Direct to Consumer $11.86 25% $66.00 11 0 11 $16.50
Direct to Consumer $12.00 25% $768.50 162 0 162 $192.14
Direct to Consumer $13.95 25% $20.93 3 0 3 $5.23
Subtotal Royalty Earnings 176 0 176 $213.87

Okay, so, let’s deconstruct this a little bit.

First of all, it looks as through 6284 copies of the print book were either distributed to booksellers or sold directly to consumers. I don’t think it includes any copies that are still in the warehouse. That doesn’t give me an initial print run figure, which I’d hoped to be able to discern from this statement. However, my editor told me a few weeks ago there were 448 copies in the warehouse, which pushes the initial run up to at least seven thousand. In addition, this is only books distributed/sold as of December 31 of last year. The statement cycle is such that you get a statement in June that reports on July to December and another in December that reports on January to June. In addition, if your book comes out in the middle of a cycle, you have to wait until the NEXT cycle to see the first statement. For example, because my book came out in June of 2009, I didn’t get a statement in December of 2009.

Okay, so, I’m guessing my initial print run was in the neighborhood of 7,000-8,000 copies. Low, unfortunately, even for a niche line like Aphrodisia, but not a surprise to me.

Next, of the 6284 copies originally circulated, 2,132 were already returned, leaving net “sales” of 4,095 copies (e.g., books that are still in circulation and could theoretically be sold). A sale, as I understand it, doesn’t mean an actual consumer purchase (except in the case of Direct to Consumer and Special and Final Sales), but that it’s available for purchase. That’s why there’s an additional line item for return reserves, because the publisher is holding back some royalties in case more copies are returned by booksellers.

Okay, so what about those return reserves? I have to admit, I can’t figure out how they arrived at the 1,855. I thought it was calculated as 40% of the number of copies still in circulation, but that (4095 X 40%) doesn’t come out to 1,855. So, I have to throw my hands up in the air and assume there is some logic being applied that I can’t see.

Another thing that’s not quite right is my advance. The statement says I was paid $2,250 in advance. That’s incorrect. My advance was $2,500. If they had gotten that right, my net earnings would only have been $26.02. I notified my editor of the error and the royalty folks said they’d just catch it up/correct it in the next statement cycle, so I don’t have to send any money back (and I’m glad, not so much because I want to keep the money as that the agency already took its 15% off the top of the payment and the accounting hassle of refunding their portion and mine would have been quite a pain).

Last, the only reason I earned out is because of those wonderful ebook royalties. I get paid 25% of net on those, and even with the relatively low net, I still earn more per copy on ebooks than print. In recognition of that, I’ve decided to add some links to the website to point you to places where you can purchase Behind the Red Door in digital format, partly because I’d like to encourage you to buy digital if you can/want to and partly because, it turns out, my book isn’t all that easy to find in digital format. The only sites I’ve found it on so far, outside of Kensington’s direct site, are (in order of best pricing) Amazon Kindle, Sony, MobiPocket, and All Romance Ebooks.

Okay, so that’s it. Now I am naked before you all (at least in the figurative sense), and I’m happy to answer any questions you might have.


  • Cora Zane June 14, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Thank you many times over for sharing this and for explaining it.

  • Victoria Janssen June 14, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Congrats on earning out!!!

  • Jackie Barbosa June 14, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    No problem, Cora. I figure there’s no reason this information needs to be a state secret!

    And barely, Victoria, barely! Hopefully I don’t end up owing them money in December. It would be a bummer if I had to pay them at Christmastime, lol.

  • Cassandra Curtis June 14, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    Thank you so much for the transparency of a mind-boggling process. Whew. I had always been told that the author doesn’t get charged back on an advance, they just take it out of your next book, so don’t worry about it…but obviously the people who told me that were either fabricating some mathematical fiction, had no clue and wanted to act as if they did, or had a different arrangement with their publisher. And then to have 15% come off the top for the agent fee, omg.

    The long wait for royalties is also a negative, but less of one than if you had to pay back most return units, geeze.

    Ebooks seem a better prospect for the writer if you get a reputable epublisher and can trust their numbers.

    ((hugs)) One thing is for sure though. Now I have to get your book, to support a sister scribe. 😀

  • Jackie Barbosa June 14, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    Just to be clear, Cassandra, it’s not that I’m getting “charged back” on the advance. It’s that when they prepared my statement, the amount they subtracted out as having been paid in advance was $250 less than they actually paid me. They should have subtracted our $2,500 in advance, which means the royalty the calculated was $250 more than I’d actually earned.

    And since I don’t have a next book with Kensington, they will have to subtract that $250 from whatever I earn in royalties in the next period. Which, if you do buy my book, will be at least $1-and-change more than $0 :).

    Thanks again.

  • Cara Wallace June 14, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    Thanks for sharing this! It’s so rare to see the actual numbers. And now I’m off to buy the Kindle edition of the book.


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