A line from the NYT that seems to have escaped from an April fools edition: "Typically, authors earn royalties of 15 percent of profits after they have paid off their advances."
From Motoko Rich's article in today's New York Times, New HarperCollins Unit to Try to Cut Writer Advances:
Typically, authors earn royalties of 15 percent of profits after they have paid off their advances.
There are a couple of errors in this sentence, astonishing from someone who covers publishing for The New York Times.
- First of all, royalties paid are not a percentage of profits, but of the list price of the book.
- Second, the word "typically" is also incorrect: 15% royalties are typical only of million dollar writers in paperback where it is otherwise customary to cap royalties at about 10%, period the end. And in hardcover 15% royalties occur, when they occur at all, only on a really big book only after you've sold really a lot of copies. This is unusual, not typical, much more often stated in a contract as a possibility than occurring in fact and on royalty statements.
- Earnout of the advance is not sufficient to trigger a immediate 15% royalty on the vast majority of books published.