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I’m going to be vulgar and un-British now, and talk a bit about money, the love of which is the root of all evil.

Yesterday Sam at Kristell Ink contacted me with the lovely news that “The Art of Forgetting : Rider” had earned out its advance and that a royalty payment would be heading my way, prompting Chris to ask (when I had stopped skipping about), how writers get paid, because all he knew was that it was “weird”.

So here’s how writers get paid, for anyone who was wondering.

When a publisher takes on a book, they normally pay the author an advance on their royalties (always refered to as an advance). This is, theoretically, a payment made to the author for them to live on until the book comes out. In practice, especially in the smaller press where advances are low, it’s more of an expression of good faith – “We believe you will earn at least this much from sales of your books.”

This is not a wage. It’s an advance on money earned. That means that if, say, your advance is £1000 (unlikely!), you have to earn £1000 in royalty payments on that book before you get any money from it. It’s kind of a loan, with the proviso that if the book never earns £1000 in royalties, you don’t have to pay it back. That first £1000 goes back to the publishers to cover your advance. The rest of the royalties, if there are any more, come to the author.

ROYALTIES are the percentage of a books sale price that comes to an author after the stores have taken their cut and the publisher has paid printing costs, etc and taken their own cut out of it. It’s a small percentage, usually around 7-10% of the cover price, and that’s standard whether you’re Joe Bloggs with a book about The History of Screw-Top Jam Jars, or J K Rowling. Course, J K Rowling’s 7% is 7% of a lot more money than our lovely screw-top jam jar author, but the percentage is the same.

Royalties on e-books are usually slightly higher, because the overheads are lower. But the selling prices are also lower, so swings and roundabouts…

So when an author talks about earning out, what they mean is that their advance has been paid back to their publisher, and all the royalties that come in from that point are theirs and theirs alone *maniacal laugh*

Which means I can afford to buy Sammy a pint at World Fantasy Con. Maybe even two 😉