Are traditional publishers honest?
This may seem like an odd and unexpected question, but it is one that must be answered. Do you think that traditional publishers are honest with their writers? Can traditional publishers be relied upon to pay their authors what they are due? I would like you to consider the question and answer it, for yourself, before reading on.
Kristine Kathryn Rusch has written an astonishing blog post, that shook up my outlook on the matter. The link is here: http://kriswrites.com/2011/04/20/the-business-rusch-royalty-statements-update/
Kristine writes of her own experience with royalty statements from a traditional publisher. She discovered through comparing the sales of her personally published ebooks, and those published by her traditional Big 6 publisher that her publisher was UNDERDECLARING her sales by at least a factor of 10. Basically, her publisher was not paying her over 90% of the royalties due on her ebooks. Curious and alarmed, she began to contact other writers and told them of her experience. They, too, on checking, discovered the very same thing. Shockingly, many of these authors had the SAME number of sales declared on their ebooks by their publishers. This is, actually, statistically impossible, essentially.
Further checks by authors have also uncovered underreporting of print book sales too. Book sales figures from Bookscan are greater for many authors of the Big 6, than the figures their publishers are declaring to them. This, again, is impossible, since Bookscan only monitors a fraction of the book market (50 to 70%), so, of course, the publishers’ figures should be higher than the Bookscan ones.
Now, Kristine Kathryn Rusch is very kind. She proposes that this may just be an innocent mistake, a product of archaic accounting systems. In so doing, she is being cautious with regards to possible lawsuits. My own view is not so forgiving. To my mind, it does look like a consistent tendency to deprive the author of earnings, by some of the Big 6 publishers.
For me, this revelation is decisive. There seems to be no point in seeking a traditional publishing deal when such a deal is likely to be with a publisher that would, for whatever reasons, not pay me what I am due, in royalties. I don’t have to state what is really going on here, but the fact that it is means that only a foolish author would seek a traditional publishing deal, anymore. From the behaviour of traditional publishers, in this regard, it is clear that no author should ever expect to see any royalties over and above their advance. So, when being offered a deal by a traditional publisher: think of it this way: the ONLY money you will probably see, will be the advance – for the figures the publisher will declare to you, for sales, may be so low, that you never “earn out” that advance – at least, ostensibly, anyway.
I had begun to look for a traditional publishing deal, for one of my books. I shall now cease to do so, anymore. There is simply no attraction to traditional publishing anymore. Such publishing involves the loss of control over your work, it involves giving up, as much as 94% of all the earnings on the book, even if you are actually paid. Furthermore, publishing for yourself can allow you to secure 30 to 70% of the revenues from Amazon, for ebooks. Why would anyone give up to 70% of revenues, for not being paid almost all of what one is due?
Traditional publishing has lost my trust. Without trust, I don’t have the confidence to place any of my books, with any of them. Yet that does not mean I should go unpublished. There are many tools now for the independent publisher (or “Indie”). As of yesterday, I decided that that was the route I would take. Thus, I hope to be able to begin to bring you my books, as an Indie publisher, in the coming year or so.
I have quite a bit of work to do, to get my books out in the world – but I am confident of this: it will be worth it, just not to face fictional royalty statements from a traditional publisher.
Of course, some might point out that the ebook retailers like Amazon, could also under declare sales to authors – but the thing is, I don’t think they would do that. Amazon is going to win the publishing war, of Indie vs Traditional publishing and all it has to do, to do that, is to be fair and honest with authors. I believe they will do just that. They have got too much to lose otherwise.
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