I will start by saying that as of late - I only check the mailbox after I see the mail spilling out of it.
Well it's a habit that develops overtime when the postman stops bringing checks and only delivers bills, final notices and clothing catalogues that you are no longer able to purchase from.
So, yesterday the mail was spilling out of the box and I thought, "Oh God" -- it's that time again!
I tossed the envelopes onto the coffee table and continued about my day. Each time I passed the pile I hissed and cussed at it. When the sun went down and the house began to grow dark and chilly, I prepared a cup of tea, peeled a granola bar from its aluminum wrapping and decided that after my snack I would tackle the dreaded mail.
As I suspected - bill - bill - bill and then oh, what's this?
My royalty statement had arrived.
Twice yearly since 2000 a royalty statement arrived from Penguin Publishers. The statement detailed the number of books I sold between accounting periods. It also told me how much money I was yet to earn before I could receive a royalty check.
Now lemme 'splain this to those of you who are not familiar with the world of advances.
A long, long time ago before the stock market crashed and the world went haywire, we authors received pretty sweet advances for our books.
What is an Advance? Well here is how About.com defines it:
An advance is the money a publisher pays an author for his book. In book publishing the publishing houses pay an author for the right to publish their book and then the publishers take a chunk of each sale of the book. The reason the term advance is used is because this money is paid out well in advance of the book's publication. The term advance is actually short for "advance against earnings," because it represents money the publishing house is laying out against money it has not yet made. The size of advances varies widely. An untested author who receives a big advance is someone the publishing house thinks will produce a bestseller. Authors who are already well established, and known for selling lots of books, also command high advances.
Now my advance was nice - but not as "nice" as other folks. But it was more money than I'd ever made so I was happy. And besides, I had a two-book deal - which that doubled the advance. I was thrilled. I bought a house!
Now of course, I thought that I would earn out the SUGAR portion of the contract within a year - and that might have happened had the book not been pigeonholed. But it was, so it didn't.
You see once you earn out the advanced monies you then receive royalty payments. Let's just say for arguments sake that you would receive about $1.25 per book sold.
The year’s eeked by and the advance amount at the top of my royalty statement hardly seemed to budge. I couldn't understand why and when I went to investigate I found out that my contract had been "joint accounted." It was explained to me that because the second book on the contract (The Warmest December) had been taken out-of-print before earning out its advance - now the first book on the contract (SUGAR) would have to earn out for itself and The Warmest December!
By then, Sugar was only selling about 500 copies a year. Honestly, I don't know why they even kept it in print!
Well, it seemed to me that I would never ever hold a royalty check in my hand!
In late 2009 God threw me under the bus(okay I was suffering from agoraphobia) While I was convalescing in my home (okay, unable to leave it) I was struck with a brilliant idea and the 10th Anniversary, 10K Book Campaign was born!
..And then I reached out to Book Bloggers who had never heard of SUGAR or me and asked if they would read and review the book for their audience. I reached out to bookstores and asked them to stock SUGAR - I reached out to readers and asked them to BUY Sugar and do you know what happened?
Between December 2009 and December 2010SUGAR went back to print three times, totaling roughly 10,000 copies!
Of course, when March 2011 rolled around, I fully expected to receive a royalty check...but alas, it was not to be.
But - there is a happy ending to this story. When I finally sat down to open my most recent royalty statement - low and behold, there was my first ever royalty check! It was small - I mean it was miniscule - but thrilling nonetheless.
There's enough here for me to get my hair done and maybe a few dollars left over to buy me a bottle of "two-buck-chuck" to celebrate this milestone.
The accounting period for the next statement closes on June 30th, checks will arrive in September - just in time for my birthday. Maybe that check will be enough for me to celebrate with a bottle of good wine and a mani-pedi..
It's exciting to know that the seed I planted in the winter of 2009, sprouted and bloomed in the spring of 2012.
So I guess in many ways this post is about two things:
1. A Cautionary Tale: Never ever allow your agent to joint account your multiple book/music contract unless of course you're receiving a multi-million dollar advance and then who cares...take the money and run....!
2."Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail."~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Causes Bernice McFadden Supports
Hurston Wright Foundation
Girls Write Now
Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS)