Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Anyone for royalties?

Last Saturday's post was not headed Pre-holiday clearance for nothing: Mrs GOB and I are having various days off and out this week, so posts may be sparse to non-existent.

However, there is plenty for you to ponder in the meantime.

I did give a mention last Saturday to Richard Charkin's provocative prod into the body politic, with his proposal that the old (alleged) royalty system should be abandoned as a means of recompensing authors for their efforts.

I say alleged royalty system because in practice the author's advance is often all they get, and royalties are more theoretical than actual, and in any case the calculations are so bloody complicated that no one can understand them half the time, and certainly no one other than a chartered accountant with three weeks to spare and unlimited access to the company books could possibly know whether the calculations on the six-monthly statement are right or wrong, and -- Pause for breath.

If you go read Mr Charkin's prod today, you will see that, predictably, it has attracted some comment. What I would not have predicted, perhaps, is the high quality of the thinking that is demonstrated in these comments. You need to be fairly well versed in existing practice in order to follow it all. But, if you're a writer, or intending to become one, and you are interested in the money, then by golly you'd better get to grips with it.

One further essential port of call, in your search for enlightenment, is the OUP blog, where Evan Schnittman has some specific proposals to offer. These are not official OUP policy, but are part of the continuing discussion in that office.

Whichever way you look at it, the business side of publishing is an area (if I may mix my metaphors) which needs seizing by the throat and shaking hard. It's a mess. A hopeless jumble and jungle of impenetrable past practice, special deals, returns, and god knows what else.

Mercifully, it ain't really my problem. Not these days.


Anonymous said...

I never tire of quoting Jules Renard--"Writing is the only profession where no one considers you ridiculous if you earn no money."

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Richard Havers said...

A little late to the party here, but just to show the scale of the problem. I have had fourteen royalty statements over the last seven years from a VERY large publisher and not one of them has been correct. Mistakes range from leaving off a whole territory’s sales, to perhaps best of all, being unable to calculate 10% of a number.

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