Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Money for Books (Part 1 of 3)

Most of us think of receiving royalties (money) for books we write, and that is the usual method. We call the other method a flat fee.
It's probably obvious but the second term means the writer receives a specific amount of money for writing the book and a publisher makes that clear in the contract. For example, if the writer received $30,000 and the book sells a million copies, she still doesn't earn more. That's the risk. Or the book may have sold only 2,500 copies and the writer comes out ahead.
Flat-fee contracts are easier for publishers because they don't have to figure out royalty payments. Sometimes it's to a writer's advantage, but usually not. I did one deal where I received a flat fee and something like 3 percent royalty after the book had sold 100,000. The book was about 20,000 short of that goal, so I received no extra money.
For me, editorial rights are as important as the money issue. Generally, when a writer receives a flat fee, that person has no editor input. I don't like my name on books where copyeditors can change things I've written without consulting me. The publisher may invite the writer into the editing process, but that's not a guarantee. Of the many flat-fee arrangements I did early in my career, only twice was I invited to participate.

Most publishers have a good idea how many copies they can expect to sell; flat-fee arrangements are usually a disadvantage to the writer.


  1. There may be times when work-for-hire makes sense. For example, I work for some educational/religious publishers doing wfh. Primarily, I write things for classroom use. Most educational companies work that way, so you get assignments, rather than taking your book idea to them. It would be much harder to hand over control of an idea that I have nurtured from the beginning; in that case, I would prefer royalties. Right now, wfh is how I make most of my writing income. Here's a recent post from an educational publisher: http://connect.capstonepub.com/2011/02/tips-for-authors.html

    It's not for everyone, but it has its place.

  2. Stephanie makes a good point and work-for-hire projects work well in certain situations. I did many WFH projects before I had an agent and before I could ask for/expect better financial arrangements.
    I'm not opposed to WFH, but it usually means the writer receives less money.

  3. Gee, Cec, if you have any extra ones lying around, I'd be happy to give it a shot. :-)


What are your thoughts?