Your Novel’s Royalty Statement: Good Reading for the Throne

When Miss Crankypants received her debut novel’s first royalty statement, she wondered if someone had accidentally sent her a shipping invoice instead. In the tiniest font imaginable, it seemed to hint that instead of the publisher owing her a few bucks, her book was in the hole. There, right beneath a column that might have been labeled in Chinese, was an unmistakable minus sign.
A minus sign was not what Miss CP was hoping for. In fact, that little sign ranks up there with the word “unfortunately.” Miss Cp memorized her addition facts in second grade, but she’s still working on subtraction. The only place she ever wants to see “minus” is on the bathroom scale. According to the numbers, she owed the publisher $42.57.

In shock, she moved on to other parts of the statement.  It might as well have been in Chinese. There were carefully worded columns for units sold on a full moon, books returned on account of Lent or the early onset of allergy season (take your pick) and the inverse proportion of the difference between those sold on the planet Jupiter and those sold in Cincinnati.
She swears she is not making this up. OK, maybe a little.
Incensed, Miss Crankypants called her publisher’s royalty department, which is run by a woman named Madge who’s never actually been seen by anyone. Madge has been preparing these statements for approximately 187 years, she informed Miss CP, and has never ever been wrong. Not once.
When Miss CP sweetly requested that Mad Madge recheck her figures, the woman growled. Literally. And after some heavy breathing into the phone, said she’d look into it, and hung up.

Months later, a dog-eared, coffee-stained letter arrived. Miss Crankypants tore it open, anticipating the heady rush authors get when their books actually make money. She felt downright ROYAL and couldn’t wait to sit on the throne. But wait!
In the letter, Madge apologized for the delay and said in fact there was a small accounting error. Miss CP cheered until she read the rest: Instead of $42.57, she owed the publisher $425.70.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

2 comments on “Your Novel’s Royalty Statement: Good Reading for the Throne

  1. Once again, Miss Crankypants, you have said what needs to be said better than anyone else could. Certainly I have long pondered these statements and puzzled over their meaning. Might as well try reading the phone bill. I extend my sincere sympathies, even cried a few tears for you.

    What can be done about these people?
    Is there a known support group?

    • Catherine, not sure what can be done, but I’m told this is one of the primary reasons for writers to have a literary agent. Most agents can’t decipher royalty statements either, but they have shoulders you can cry on. I agree that these statements could be simplified: as in Books You Sold and Books Nobody Wanted. It’s a good thing we are such PROS. Miss CP aka Linda

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