Print publications

A graded reader author can expect anywhere between 7-12% of the publisher’s earnings as a royalty for their work. This may not sound much but remember that they have to sell the book, take the risk, print and distribute it and pay their corporate costs.

You might get an advance (money paid on signing a contract which tides you though until the royalties come in).  Note that advances have to be repaid out of your royalties.

You might be able to negotiate a signing grant (not to be repaid).

Royalties are typically paid 2 times a year. Sometimes you get a cheque and other time it is  a direct debit to your bank (minus bank charges).

e-book royalties

These are typically lower than print royalties mostly because they sell at a lower price. If you submit an e-pub files to say Amazon, and promote your book well, you could make a lot of money. But with millions of books on their accounts, it’s just as likely your book won;t get noticed.

Grants only

In some regions (e.g. China) authors are paid a flat fee for the work without royalties.

Things to be careful of:

Some / most publishers will want copyright of your materials. This is because it makes it easier for them to re-package your materials in different ways for different audiences or regions and it makes it much easier logistically. If you are not happy with this, don’t sign. It is standard practice in some countries for authors to give up their copyright (e.g. the US), but not always true elsewhere. Once your title is no longer being printed you can ask for the copyright back.

Most publisher now ask for digital rights but authors worry that if their materials are online, they will be pirated. There are good and bad sides to piracy. Most people who pirate materials wouldn’t have bought them anyway and if there are more copies of your materials floating around it will raise your overall profile and can lead to more of your legitimate copies being sold. Besides if anyone wants to make copies of your materials they can just scan them or photocopy them anyway.

Before you sign a contract you may wish to contact the Society of Authors (£95 per year or £65 if you are under 35) who will look at your contract and make sure all is okay. First time authors often don;t quite understand the fine details, which can cost you money or your rights to the materials you created. You may wish to contact someone you know who has published materials before.

Watch out for contracts that require your royalties to be cross-co-lateralized. This means that they assign royalties for your first book and pay your advance which you repay out of royalties as usual. But when your second book is contracted and you are paid an advance against royalties, you don’t repay it from your second book’s royalties it comes from your first book’s advance. This means in effect that you are taking the risk that if they cancel your second book, that any work you did and got an advance for, will all be repaid from your first book and you effectively worked for nothing. To our knowledge only one ELT publisher demands this of their writers.

Also watch for publishers who offer a lower royalty on components – e.g.  a lower percentage for digital editions or audio files. The argument is they give audio away, and it costs money to create websites, and digital copies of your materials. Wat they don;t say is that digital copies save them the cost of printing, distributing and stocking your title.