Reading Royalty Reports
Blogger: Rachel Kent
Our agency just finished processing royalty statements from ten publishing houses, and we are expecting statements from ten more this month! Whew! We always check our clients’ statements for accuracy and are available to answer our clients’ questions about their statements as well. For those of you who aren’t yet published, you’ll want to keep this blog in mind for the future.
Royalty statements vary in readability–some publishing houses have very clear statements and others have statements that are so muddled that they’re nearly impossible to read. It’s important to figure them out so that you are sure that you are getting the money that is due to you. Your agent will be able to help, but here are three areas for you to look for on your report.
The first is your remaining advance or your balance. If this is a negative number, your advance hasn’t earned back. If it’s a positive number, you are most likely due a payment. If you think you should have a payment and you don’t, talk with your agent. The account balance number can grow and shrink depending on book sales and returns.
The second area to look for is your cumulative sales number. This number tells you how many books have sold during the entire time your book has been published. If your statement does not have a cumulative sales number, you will want to track your own life-to-date sales starting when you receive your first royalty report. (Or ask if your agent already is keeping track.) You will need to add and subtract sales and returns from your number to keep track accurately. Even if your royalty report does have a cumulative sales section, it is still a good idea to keep track by adding and subtracting all reported sales so you can easily see if your number and the publisher’s number match on future reports. Most of the reporting is done using computer equations, but these computer systems don’t always work perfectly.
The third thing you should be on the lookout for in your statement is if both physical and digital sales are being reported. Occasionally publishing houses will forget to send a report for one or the other, and this can affect your account balance. Not receiving a report doesn’t mean there weren’t sales. You should receive a report even if the book had zero sales for the royalty period.
Remember that your agent can help you if you are confused by a royalty statement. I wish I could go into all of the details of reading a statement here, but we would be here all night!
For those who are published, especially those who are self-published, how do you keep track of your life-to-date sales? Or would you rather leave that in your agent’s hands?
What would you do if you thought you spotted an error in your royalty statements?