Authors, if you’re thinking of signing with a publishing company, there are a lot of things you need to find out first. What are your legal rights? What does a publisher offer you in terms of promotion? Can you get out if you’re not happy with them? Are they legally formed? Who’s going to be working on your book? Who’s going to do your editing? Your cover art? All SORTS of things that I’ll probably go into later.
But one of the most important things you need to know before you sign on the dotted line is your pay. As the author of the book, you have every right to know exactly what’s going to happen to the money it earns. So here are some specific questions you need to get answers to before you decide whether or not a company is right for you.
How much will you earn in royalties? It’s a pretty up-front question. Will you be earning a flat rate for each book? Two bucks? Three bucks? More? Less? Or will you get paid a percentage? They might sound like the same thing, but they’re not. Sure, you might know how much your paperback is going to sell for, but there are more formats out there. Ebooks on Kindle and Nook don’t cost as much as paperbacks, and hardcovers (if that publisher even carries them) cost more. So find out. How much will you earn per ebook? Per paperback? Per hardcover?
Finding out your rate of pay per copy, perversion of your book is paramount. If a publisher can’t tell you how much you’ll be earning, specifically, Look for one that can.
When will you get paid? This is another biggie. As an author, you’re also a business person, having to deal with taxes at the end of the year and bills to pay up until then. You need to know when you’re going to get paid. Will you get paid every time somebody buys your book?
Will you get paid by the month? Services like Createspace pay you a check by the month, if you’ve earned a minimum balance. By the month regardless if you’re having your pay direct-deposited. Some pay quarterly.
Will you get paid quarterly? If you find that your book was published by a service like Createspace that pays monthly, but you’re only getting paid quarterly, you need to find out why. If your publisher is getting paid monthly, YOU need to get paid monthly. If you’re not, you’re probably getting robbed.
How are you going to get paid? It’s your job as the author to nail your publisher down on the details. Is your publisher going to send you a check? Are they going to offer you direct deposit? Or are they going to pay you by check or direct-deposit it into your bank account? Are they going to pay you via Paypal?
If you’ve got a publisher that wants to pay you via Paypal. I’d be very, very wary. The reason why leads us up to my next concern.
What’s the path that your money takes? As the author, you have every right to know exactly where your money goes and how it gets there. When somebody buys your book, where does the money go? Does their publishing service send your money to your publisher? Or do they send your percentage to you? If the answer is the latter, you’re good. Carry on.
If, on the other hand, your money is being sent to your publisher, you need to nail them down on exactly what happens to it. Is your money being deposited into an account that’s exclusive to you, from which you’re paid your royalties? Or is your money being dumped into one lump account along with everybody else’s? If so, you’ve got a legitimate reason to be concerned.
If your money is being mixed up with everybody else’s, how does your publisher know exactly now much to send you, and when? If they have one or two authors, it might not be that hard to keep up with. Or, in some cases, if they have a ton of authors, but most of them are the publisher him/herself under alias, it’s not hard to figure out. They keep most of it. But if a publisher has a legitimate roster of quite a few authors, it can get really confusing as to who earned what. If they’ve got it figured out, they should be able to prove it to you. So…
What proof will you have of your sales? How will your publisher prove to you that you’re been paid everything your book has earned? Will they print out sales reports? In what form? Will they print out your statement from the publishing service website? Will you have access to your book’s sales reports on the website? Or will they type out some sort of spread sheet?
Unless you can see for yourself on the publishing service’s website exactly how many books you’ve sold, you have no way to confirm for yourself whether or not you’re actually being paid all of the royalties your book has earned. If your publisher won’t show you this proof, you need to ask why. You also need to ask yourself whether or not you want to do business with a publisher that can’t prove to you that you’re being paid as much as you’re really earned.
When you get a job at a store or in an office, you don’t walk in and sign up without knowing how much you’re going to get paid, when, and how. You don’t TRUST your boss to give you money …whenever. So don’t accept that from a publisher, either. Nail down the basics. How much will you get paid, how often will you get paid, what path does your money take on its way to you, and how can you be sure? If a publisher can’t give you specific answers to these questions, you might want to look for another publisher. Or go it alone. Because…
One last question: If your publisher is using Createspace, Lightning Source and/or Smashwords to publish your book, what are they doing for you that you can’t do for yourself?