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Julie Barrett is a freelance writer and photographer based in Plano, TX.

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I actually watched Dr. Phil.

I don't generally watch daytime TV for several reasons, the foremost of which is that I'm usually working. The other big reason is that I've got enough problems of my own without getting sucked into someone else's family issues. Last night I got a heads up on a writer's board that today's Dr. Phil would feature an appearance by someone from PublishAmerica.

Of course, I had to watch. I had heard of this situation before: A mother sued her daughter over a book she had written. When the publisher heard about the suit they canceled the book contract. The twist her is that the publisher was PublishAmerica. Somehow the daughter got it into her head that if she sold a million books that she'd get a $3,000,000 royalty check. Dr. Phil asked a representative of PA if they'd ever sent a new author a check that large two months after a book was released? The rep's answer?" I think I can safely say none."

Well, duh. Royalties are generally calculated every six months. PublishAmerica does not pay royalties on books sold through sources other than PA 90 days before the royalty period ends. This is to give them a cushion against returns. Further, books sold directly to the author are generally not subject to royalty payments. PA expects the author to turn around and sell them and keep the profits. If I were to buy books from my publisher at a discount, I probably wouldn't be allowed to resell them, and since they were sold to me at a discount they wouldn't be used to calculate royalties. Fair enough. I also know authors who DO buy books from their publishers to resell at book fairs, libraries, and other non-traditional retail outlets. Their contracts forbid payment of royalties on books the author buys for resale. Again, fair enough. 

Publishers (particularly smaller ones) have different royalty and payout policies than the larger ones. That is not necessarily a red flag. (Some epublishers are nimble enough to pay monthly!)

What this means is that it would be very unlikely that PublishAmerica would pay out that kind of royalty two months after publication.  Actually, I don't know if a larger commercial publisher would, either. If they did, it means they badly miscalculated sales (and the advance). I suppose it could happen if a title takes off. Another factor to consider is that PublishAmerica prints on demand. There's nothing wrong with that, but three million in royalties would mean a LOT of books have moved. In two months? They'd be better off going offset, but they'd also have to have a distribution network in place or rely on the author to sell that many books.

Ultimately, as Dr. Phil said, this wasn't about the book. 

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Filed under: Publishing            
10/3/2007 5:21:40 PM
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