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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Q&A: Royalties, Editing and Other Miscalculations

Question: I need to know if 10% is the standard royalty. And I hear it's always best to publish a novel traditionally because you will reach a larger audience and get a good editor and book cover.

Answer: I wish what you are saying were always true. It isn't. At least not enough of the time.

I'm referring especially to the part about a good line editor. Sometimes yes. Too often no. That's why I wrote the Frugal Editor. So that authors can partner with a line editor, no matter how good or bad he or she is. If you get a bad one, you won't know it unless you possess at least some of the skills. If you get a good one and submit a really clean manuscript, she'll be even better because it's easier to spot errors on clean copy. Now, that's a partnership!

And I'm not just talking typos and grammar when I talk editing. I'm talking index stuff and frontmatter and backmatter and even some formatting stuff. The more you know about publishing, the happier you'll be with your end product.

I do agree that poetry and novels are best traditionally published for a whole lot of reasons but only if you get a really good traditional publisher. Make that a top traditional publisher. Or an exceptionally good small publisher. Don't assume all traditionals are good just because they pay an advance and provide a cover. That's a generalization fraught with danger, just like any other generalization.

And royalties can go higher once you have a known name -- and maybe even if you don't. You won't know unless you negotiate. If you want the best traditional publisher, you'll need an agent to do that for you. If you end up negotiating for yourself don't just ask for a higher royalty. Show them why you deserve it. Tell them more about your platform. And if you haven't been building a platform, then you need my other book, The Frugal Book Promoter.


Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Author of the How To Do It Frugally series of books. Both are USA Book News Best Book award winners. The Frugal Book Promoter is also a Book Publicists of Southern California's Irwin Award winner. The Frugal Book Promoter is available as an e-book at Star Publish as well as on Amazon for Kindle and as a paperback. The Frugal Editor is also available as a paperback and for the new Kindle.

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