Links: Royalties, Royal Awesome, Royally Cool Moms, and Royal Smackdown

Please note: there is not a single royal wedding-type link in here. Fear not.

Author Kristine Kathryn Rusch writes that she found major discrepancies in the ebook sales reported in her royalty statements and is calling for writers to check their royalty statement ebook sales figures against any self-published works or against Bookscan, and to alert writers organizations to demand audits of publishing houses whose royalty statements are inconsistent.

…traditional publishers are not indulging in a criminal act. They’re doing the best they can out of necessity.  They see no reason to spend precious dollars revamping their accounting systems to accommodate e-publishing when those dollars can be used elsewhere in the company.  Especially when an accounting change will cost them money, and might lead to payouts that will hurt quarterly profits for months to come.
It’s up to writers—and writers organizations—to force publishers to allocate those scarce dollars to develop systems for accurate e-book accounting.
If you are a traditionally published author, do not—I repeat, do not—write a blistering letter to your publisher accusing him of stealing your money.  Instead, contact any writers organization you belong to and point that organization to this blog.
What needs to happen is this: writers organizations need to band together and order group audits of e-book sales on behalf of their traditionally published authors.  One organization cannot handle the cost of this group accounting alone.  It’s better to have all of the writers organizations work in concert here.
A group audit of all the traditional publishers in various publishing divisions will force an accounting change—and that’s all we need.  But we need it before e-books become the dominant way that books are sold.
If you’re a traditionally published author who has also produced some self-published e-books and you want to do more than contact your organization, do this:
1. Look over all of your royalty statements.  Compare your indie e-book sales to your traditionally published e-book sales.  Make sure your comparison is for the same time period. For example, do not compare January 2011 sales to January 2010.
2. Compare similar books.  It’s best if you have books in the same series, some indie published and some traditionally published.  If you don’t have series books, then compare books in the same genre only.  Comparing romance sales to science fiction sales will not work because romance novels always outsell sf novels.
3. If you see a discrepancy, report that—with the numbers—to your writers organization.  Be clear in the letter you send to your organization as to what level of involvement you want in this issue.  Are you only there to provide background information? Will you take part in a group audit? Will you work on this project?

Then, in her Royalty Statements Update, Rusch details how many are both surprised and not at all surprised at her allegations. She reiterated her call to action as well:

I urged writers to notify their writers organizations about this problem, not because I want writers to sue the publishers, although I’m certain some individual writers will. I urged writers to notify their writers organizations because I want a large enough group of writers to demand an audit of their own royalty statements to cause an upheaval in Big Six accounting departments.
If one or two writers request audits, then those writers will benefit from the mistakes they find.  If a hundred, two hundred, or a thousand writers per publishing house request an audit of their individual royalty statements, then that’s a large enough number to get the corporation’s attention, and to force changes in the traditionally publishing accounting practices.

These links went around The Twitter, and I’m curious as to how many authors sat down with royalty statements and looked again and a second time.


Good news from North Carolina: One book donation drive to fund a local library netted 15,000 books in just the first day.  The overall sale looks to be huge – maybe worth driving south for, you know, if you’re me.

Thank you to Jennifer for the link.


Book CoverRomance author Edith Layton, who passed away in 2009, is going to be featured in an upcoming book entitled My Mom: Style Icon.

Based on a blog of the same name, Layton is featured in the print edition, much to the pride of her daughter Suzie Felber, who says, in the words of her mom, “Buy two, one for each eye.” Heh.


And finally… TEDDY PIG SMASH. After running a section of a book published by Christine Phoenix through Copyscape, Teddy Pig found a whole lotta cut & pastin’ going on. I never understand how people have the time to take another author’s words and switch the name and prose around, but Phoenix seems to really really REALLY like JL Langley.

Damn hell if that doesn’t stink royally. Nice going, Teddy Pig. Ms. Phoenix, I wish diarrhea upon you.

 

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  1. 1
    KimberlyR says:

    I hate plagiarism. I wouldn’t have read that whole book because the writing sucks (I skimmed the exerpt because it was just that damn bad) but I am staying far, far away from Ms. Phoenix because of her ethics (or lack thereof.) I hope she feels shame. And I hope she learns a lesson.

  2. 2
    SWegener says:

    The problem with library book sales based on donations is that around here while we get a LOT of donations, most of them are things that no one in the community wants to buy. Like an atlas from 1983, or text books from the 1970’s, or moldy price guides to stamps from who knows when. We accept most everything, but end up recycling a fair amount of it. One year we had a lady stuff our night drop box with collected assortment of cookbooks from the 1970s and 1980s, so full no one else could put any books in.

  3. 3
    Lori says:

    The world is full of tough moral quandaries. Deciding whether or not to steal words or royalties from authors should not be among them. What is wrong with people?

  4. 4
    Carrie S says:

    @SWegener – lord knows our Friends of Library group has to recycle a ton of books as well, but recently we’ve started doing internet sales, like on amazon, and found we can offload some really quirky stuff that way, plus get a more fair price for collectibles.  So if you get weird things that are in good condition but just very eclectic, your group might give that a try if you aren’t already.

  5. 5
    SWegener says:

    We don’t have a friends board for some unknown reason, so the books are donated to the county directly. That means that they can only be either recycled, used as prizes, or sold at a once yearly event. I asked them about selling online—the other library I worked at did that, and they said it was county policy that stated the materials could only be sold in a certain way. I had to get special permission to use National Geographics someone had donated for a program, though they were headed to the recycle bin.

    Plus we usually get quirky things in terrible condition.

  6. 6
    Betsy says:

    Author Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s call to arms reminded me:

    And the only reason I’m singing you this song now is cause you may know somebody in a similar situation, or you may be in a similar situation, and if your in a situation like that there’s only one thing you can do and that’s walk into the shrink wherever you are, just walk in say “Shrink, You can get anything you want, at Alice’s restaurant.”.  And walk out.  You know, if one person, just one person does it they may think he’s really sick and they won’t take him.  And if two people, two people do it, in harmony, they may think they’re both faggots and they won’t take either of them.  And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in singin a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out. They may think it’s an organization.  And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day, I said fifty people a day walking in singin a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out.  And friends they may thinks it’s a movement.

  7. 7
    megalith says:

    @SWegener: At least you could advertise your yearly sale on-line? You might get a better response if you gave people a few weeks lead time that way and listed items of special interest.

    Anyway, if I were JLL I’d be pretty ticked. I could tell right away the text was copied almost verbatim. Of course, JLL’s version read much better because there was no attempt to do a whack job on the syntax in order to “disguise” it. Nice catch by TP.

    I used to get students who would re-type news articles instead of writing essays. The really stupid ones would include the dateline London (AP) or Paris (Reuters). Just. Complete. Boneheads.

  8. 8
    Hell Cat says:

    Our county library system refuses to have book sales or accept books to help raise revenue. So I literally have boxes of books with nothing to do with them. And these are books read once. That’s the sad part. I want to give them to the library to help them raise money. They used to. But alas once the store in the mall closed and they gained the online store so they just sale the library books. I wish I could give some of the books away and help. Alas.

    Plagiarism is bad, bad, bad. Why do people keep trying? (Don’t answer that.)

    As for the math, too hard. =goes back to plot her story out anyway=

    Expected47: lost revenue according to my mad math skillz.

  9. 9
    MikieJ says:

    Ugh. How many words are there in the dictionary? How many formations of those words? And you have to plagarize? Really? Language isn’t diverse enough that you can’t come up with your own words and sentences?

    Someone worked hard for those word combinations, bringing in a certain image, creating a world and a feeling, just so you can copy and paste and act like you did the work?

    As a writer, this is just downright pathetic and lazy. Gah! This makes me angry.

    End rant.

  10. 10

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  11. 11
    Barbara says:

    Uuuh, a spammer made me think too hard before I had coffee.  I thought Lawanda here was making a point about plagiarizers, not selling something. 

    Unfortunately as it was pointed out (either at TeddyPig’s or Sunita’s), this plagiarizer used a pen name.  She can just start up again somewhere else with a new one and no one will know, since there doesn’t seen to be any way to find out who she really is so she can go on a shit list.

    Hell Cat, have you checked into the policies of your surrounding counties’ library systems?  I don’t know if it’s something you’d be interested in supporting or even if you have one nearby, but when I have a boxful of books (our library is teeny and have limits one what they’ll take) I take mine to the VA hospital in my area where they’re desperately wanted and needed.

  12. 12

    Wow! So much to consider. Why is it that writers are always struggling to be treated fairly when it’s their hard work that’s the impetus for anyone in the publishing industry to make a buck? I hope every writer studies their statements carefully and shouts the inaccuracies from every hilltop. I don’t know of any other industries where this sort of blatant disregard for “doing the right thing” would be tolerated.

    Also- on the plagiarism- What the hell is wrong with people? I have no tolerance for this nonsense.  Hopefully, it comes back to her ten fold. 

    thanks for the post.  Jordan http://www.evaprim.com

  13. 13

    Seconding Barbara’s suggestion to look into local hospitals for book donations. Our local hospital auxillary group does a book drive every now and then to add to their collection for long term patients, as well as little story books for kids.

    I have a couple boxes I need to get down there myself, and a few shelves worth of books to go through again. (some of those bestsellers that weren’t so great I’ll never read them again…and some books I didn’t even finish reading that someone else might like)

  14. 14
    becca says:

    do publishers consider ebooks a license to steal money? first from the readers with ridiculously high prices, and then from the authors in cooked royalty statements?

    because I don’t for a minute believe, as Kris apparently does, that this is being done without malice, and out of excessively sloppy accounting practices.

  15. 15
    D says:

    No offense to Rusch but she probably doesn’t know what an audit actually is, especially for these large publishers who are audited every year.  Auditing consists mostly of sampling, so if an accounting firm does not find large discrepencies they will usually move on to the next test. 

    P.S.  And its Big Four accounting firms now, not Six:)

  16. 16
    D says:

    Sorry, just realized she meant publishing firms, not accounting:)

  17. 17
    Jessica E says:

    I kind of feel that the publishing houses are setting themselves up for a massive class action lawsuit on behalf of the authors they employ.  The kicker is that, with more and more authors self-publishing, a class action lawsuit could bring about the demise of the traditional publishing industry.  Personally, my loyalty is to the author’s not the publishing houses.

  18. 18
    Hell Cat says:

    Thanks guys! You reminded me to check Atlanta proper since the county I’m in won’t allow for for donations. (And yet, oddly, they have a 15% shortfall.) Apparently we don’t like to accept donations for hospitals, either. It’s like we enjoy being unread in this metro while simultaneously having the biggest library locally.

  19. 19

    My books, co-authored with a colleague, were published between 2000 and 2005, by a subsidiary of a mid-level house. Since then the publisher has shifted the generation of statements/royalty checks several times. Following the numbers is hard enough, what with reserves against returns, variable discounts, etc, but the latest change has my IRS statement listing the total they sent me as self employment earnings instead of royalties. That means the income is taxed differently.  I am sending a letter to the publisher, of course, but I wonder if anyone else has seen a similar tax category shift. My tax preparer could not figure out why that was done, since there is a tax code for royalties other than those used by rich oil companies.

    None of our books are sold as e-books, and though they are about women in the old west they are not ‘historicals’ which would, no doubt, sell a lot better…

  20. 20

    No offense to Rusch but she probably doesn’t know what an audit actually is, especially for these large publishers who are audited every year.  Auditing consists mostly of sampling, so if an accounting firm does not find large discrepencies they will usually move on to the next test.

    D, I think you’re mistaken here. In this context, my contract—and hopefully, almost every writer’s contract—gives them a right to audit the publishing house. This does not merely sampling to see if there are discrepancies. This means that I can get them to divulge all the records of sales of my book. Specifically, my contract says:

    Author shall have the right, upon reasonable notice and during usual business hours but not more than once each year, to have the books and records of Publisher examined at the place where the same are regularly maintained insofar as they relate to the Work, by a certified and independent public accountant.

    So, no, I don’t have to rely on mere sampling. I can demand to see all their books and records as they relate to my book. That’s the audit clause in my contract (and in hers) that she’s referring to.

  21. 21
    Carol says:

    Hell Cat,

    I take all my used romance books to local nursing homes. I worried about some of the steamy content, but those ladies love them, the steamier the better.

  22. 22

    re: Plagarism – hope they find out the woman’s real name and chase her out of the publishing world forever. Really.

    re: Royalties – maybe it’s just me misreading it, but she seems to assume that the figures given to the publishers by Amazon, B&N etc are valid and the publishers are the ones misrepresenting the numbers to the authors.

    Isn’t it possible that Amazon is underreporting the numbers in order to keep a larger piece of the pie for themselves? Sure, it’s illegal but what she’s referring to is illegal as well.

    The error/intentional fraud may not only stop with the publishers. It may also extend into Amazon, etc. underpaying the publishers who then pass it onto the authors.

    *shrugs*

  23. 23
    DS says:

    It’s not just Amazon or ebooks and there are ways of checking.  Amazon provides It looks even blacker for the publishers involved:

    During the past seven days, another problem—just as severe—also crossed my desk.  Several writers complained that their print sales numbers, as reported on their royalty statements, did not jibe with their Bookscan numbers.  One writer went so far as to say not only did the numbers not jibe with Bookscan, the numbers also don’t match the print runs their editor told them that the book actually had (not the estimated run, but the actual run) nor did the numbers match the sales figures provided to the writers by some independent booksellers.  In fact, in the case of yet another writer whose book is still on sale—and selling—the numbers are even more baffling.  That writer’s royalty statements show no sales at all for the first half of last year, even though the writer knew of hundreds of sales through various outlets.

    In the past this has happened—I can remember at least two cases where writer organizations have stepped in to try to get publishers to disgorge owed royalties.  However this is different because Amazon and other sites are making ebook (and maybe print book) sales numbers available in real time to authors and then there is bookscan numbers for those authors who have access to them.  In the past authors and agents had less information to depend on when suspecting Something Was Up.

  24. 24
    DS says:

    Crap, I screwed up my sentence.  Take out “Amazon provides”.  The quote is from Rusch’s update on her blog

  25. 25
    Alyssa Day says:

    >>I never understand how people have the time to take another author’s words and switch the name and prose around< <

    Well, it’s far easier and quicker than taking the time and doing the hard work to write your own book.  Plagiarism is theft, plain and simple, and kudos to the readers and bloggers who catch it and don’t let these thieves get away with it.

  26. 26
    Trix says:

    This thing about technological change being an excuse for the publishing companies to rip off their authors is complete bollocks. Electronic data interchange systems have been around for decades now, and these publishers have contracts with their distributors. It can’t be that difficult to alter those contracts to mandate the reporting mechanism (i.e. electronic, with a specific format) and the reporting interval (monthly should not be impossible, especially since e-pub purchases are online and are going into an electronic system right away!). If banks and all manner of other businesses can do it, why can’t publishers?

    However, I do understand Rusch’s point about businesses being unwilling to spend money on upgrades unless they must. On the other hand, you would think that the liability they’ve exposed themselves to would vastly outweigh the costs of upgrading systems and contracts to facilitate proper accounting.

    The second point that now springs to my mind is the over-inflated cost of e-pubs. Sure, the cost of design, editing, publicity and so on are appreciable components of a book’s cost, no matter what format it is in. Has any publisher actually released real figures about how much printing and physical distribution costs per unit compared to e-pubs? Because it seems to me that these publishers are having their cake and eating it too in terms of exploiting both authors and readers.

    /south47 – well, I was born at 44 deg south, but near enough.

  27. 27
    Rosa says:

    Having worked at a newspaper that started selling online ads years before the billing system was updated to account for the sales, I totally believe it could just be a complete fuckup on the part of publishers (if it’s Amazon’s mistake, it’s not because their system can’t handle online sales).

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