There's a lot of confusion from would-be authors about how advances and royalties work. In short, an advance is an advance against royalties--meaning that the publisher offers you money to write the book against your share of what the publisher expects the book to make. However, the majority of books fail to "earn out," or make enough that the author receives royalties. That's why I suggest that authors assume that the advance is all that they'll see for a book--and one of the major reasons I started doing more ghostwriting.
So here's the scoop on my latest royalty statement for Writer for Hire, and case in point--I'm still not making royalties. Between January and June 30, 2014, Writer's Digest sold the following (the company breaks different types of sales into different categories, which I've noted below:
Export sales 4
Dom L sales 411
Dom G sales 1
Dom M sales 172
Total Sales 701 (minus returns of 57) = 644 sales during this period, 4642 total since its publication. I've produced $4096.22 in royalties, which offset against my $5,000 advance, means I'm still $903.78 in the hole. That's the bad news.
The good news? My sales were higher during this royalty period than the previous one, from July 1-December 31, 2013. (And the latter royalty period included back-to-school sales and holiday sales.)
Export sales 69
Dom L sales 370
Dom G sales 8
Dom M sales 113
Total Sales 639 (minus returns of 70) = 569 sales during this period.
What does this mean? You might think "nothing." I disagree. Both the print and electronic sales are up, even though the book has been in print for more than two years, and I believe that's a good sign. It may be due to the fact that I'm constantly marketing all of my books on freelancing. It may be due to the fact that it's a great book, and that readers are recommending it to fellow writers. (I hope so.) But it may also be due to the fact that it's been around long enough to get noticed, and picked up at a bookstore, or ordered because it's been mentioned by another writer, or in one of my bylines, or at a writer's class, conference, or event. Or a combination of all of these factors.
All that matters to me is that it's continuing to sell--and that means a year from now (sooner than that if sales really take off), I should be seeing my first royalty check for a book I wrote three years ago, and that was published two years ago. Good things come to those who wait.
**Readers, do you have questions about royalties, publishing, book contracts, or POD? Comment here with them and I'll be happy to answer!