November
13th 2010
Royalties!

Posted under: American history, happy endings, jobs, local news, publication

Yeah, babies–I got my first royalty check from my publisher for Abraham in Arms.  (For a while there, I was just getting statements because of the advance on royalties I got years ago when I signed the contract.)   When Fratguy opened the mail and said I got a royalty check, I thought he was joking, because the last statement I remember suggested that I would get royalties in the year 20-notinmylifetime. 

This royalty check won’t change my life–it won’t make up for two years of no raises and no merit pay–but it’s a non-trivial amount of money.  it could buy me a very nice pair of shoes (that is, much more expensive than I ordinarily buy), or it could cover dinner for two, including wine and the works.  (It won’t cover the a$$-kicking cowgirl boots I bought last week, however. . . )

So now I have just one question: 

who the hell has been buying my book?  Inquiring minds want to know!  (If you’re a reader who has assigned it to a class–thanks a lot!  If you’re someone who actually bought the book–thanks, too!)

38 Comments »

38 Responses to “Royalties!”

  1. Indyanna on 13 Nov 2010 at 11:13 am #

    Way to go, Historiann!! I’ve assigned it, but you know how grad students in small seminar formats find non-commercial ways to get readings done, cash being good to eat, and all that. And eating being a precondition to reading. So probably not too much of a boost there. If you go on OCLC/Worldcat, you can see how many copies are owned in the (bibliotechtonic world, and to some degree where. I neglected to frame my first ever royalty check, for a chapter in an edited book, because, well cash was good to eat then too. Anyway, congratulations. Getting an advance isn’t an everyday occurrence in academic publishing, so they had to have known you were bankable!

  2. Roy Rogers on 13 Nov 2010 at 11:49 am #

    Your book was assigned in my gender/sexuality graduate seminar at George Mason University this past spring (2010). It went over pretty well in the class and, personally, I found it compelling. It earned a permanent place on my bookshelf.

    And because of an Amazon related screw up, I had to buy TWO copies. So I helped a lot with your royalty check there.

  3. Notorious Ph.D. on 13 Nov 2010 at 12:41 pm #

    Wait… people actually get royalties? And what is this “advance” you speak of?

    I got my first publisher statement recently, and in the first two months, I had “sold” a whopping 202 copies of my book. Now, I don’t know if that includes the free authors’ copies or the thirty-odd publicity copies that were sent out. But I do know that I get no royalties on the first (hardcover) print run, and I have to be approaching selling out of that print run before they’ll even consider going into a second one. With library budget crises and a high list price for the hardcover, I hold out slim hope of these things ever happening. So I’ve scaled back my expectations: now, I just want to know that people are reading it.

    Still, I wouldn’t say no to a check.

  4. Comrade PhysioProf on 13 Nov 2010 at 12:57 pm #

  5. ga on 13 Nov 2010 at 1:22 pm #

    I have used it in Graduate Historiography, its on the graduate field reading list, and I had planned to use it for the freshman survey this year but since I got re-assigned to another course, that will have to wait until next spring I fear (but: plan to buy fancy shoes/meals next year because that will be 300 *required* copies!)

    I got my first check this summer and while it was exciting, I think I was more excited to see in WorldCat that it was not only in my undergrad college library but in the public library catalogue of my hometown. Nothing says “you are an author” to a small-town native like that listing!

  6. squadratomagico on 13 Nov 2010 at 1:50 pm #

    Congratulations, Historiann! Royalty checks in any amount always feel good — I still get ‘em, and I always love it!

    And Notorious, I’d say your publisher stiffed you! I could be wrong — maybe things have changed in the economics of publishing since my book came out? — but I’ve never heard of someone not getting *any* royalties at all! Perhaps others can suggest whether this is more typical now?

  7. Historiann on 13 Nov 2010 at 2:21 pm #

    Hee. Well CPP, it’s about one Benjamin, plus three Andy Jacksons. Still non-trivial money to me!

    Many thanks to Indyanna, Roy, and ga. (Are you sure you want to assign it to a freshman class?) I’m very glad to hear not just that the book was purchased but also perhaps useful.

  8. Comrade PhysioProf on 13 Nov 2010 at 4:04 pm #

    Where the fucken fucke is your Xtranormal???? All the kewl kidz are doing itte!

  9. John S. on 13 Nov 2010 at 4:39 pm #

    @Notorious and @squad: I co-edited a book and wrote a monograph for the same Press Historiann used. My contract for the edited book sounds a lot like Notorious’s. No royalties on the first 500 copies of the hardback–which then a print run which I believe was suspiciously close to 500 copes. I have yet to receive an actual royalty check for that volume, even though it went into paperback. The last statement informed me that a check won’t be sent out until the amount exceeds $15. Humbling!

    (And yes, my first statement on the monograph showed me in a debit because I hadn’t yet earned back the advance. How nice to know one’s career highpoint has a net negative worth.)

  10. John S. on 13 Nov 2010 at 4:42 pm #

    Oh, and to answer your question, Historiann: not used it in a class, but purchased and read it in hardback. It follows my rule: you buy your friend’s books. (Indyanna, on the other hand–I suspect my upper division Am Rev class deposited a Benjamin or so in your bank account a couple of years ago. And will do so again next winter when I teach the class again.)

  11. polisciprof on 13 Nov 2010 at 6:00 pm #

    For what it’s worth, someone who isn’t an historian bought and read (twice) your book. A little hard to justify assigning your book to a class on Latin American Politics, though.

  12. Historiann on 13 Nov 2010 at 6:10 pm #

    Wow–John S., I haven’t yet bought or read your book, but I’m planning to over Xmas break. And polisciprof–whatever possessed you to do that? But, I surely appreciate your business!

    Another book I’m meaning to get and read is Erik R. Seeman’s Death in the New World. A graduate student of mine read it this semester and raved about it. I had wanted to assign it for a senior seminar I’m teaching next term, but it’s not out in paper yet. I’m sure it will be soon.

  13. John S. on 13 Nov 2010 at 7:17 pm #

    @Historian: I do hope you enjoy the book. It’s been assigned in one class that I know of and received no reviews. So we have yet to have any confirmation of its quality.

    This discussion made me ponder a question, though (not to hijack this too much): have you ever assigned _Abraham_ for one of your own classes? I’ve wondered myself if I will have the guts to do this in one of my classes when my book comes out in paper. I mean, I think it’s the best book on my topic (but I am biased, of course), but might be mortified to hear students discuss it. I had profs in college and grad school assign their own books, though, so maybe I am just squeamish.

  14. squadratomagico on 13 Nov 2010 at 7:22 pm #

    I also am interested in John S.’s question. I’d sort of like to assign my own book in a smaller seminar, but I feel the students would resent it, and clam up during discussion lest they get it wrong. But if others have personal experiences to share, John S. and I might benefit from them.

  15. Historiann on 13 Nov 2010 at 7:28 pm #

    I’ve never done this, but that’s mostly because I like to use my teaching to read other people’s books, and reading my book would be boring b/c I already know what I think! (Or thought about a topic, at the time.)

    I’ve had the good fortune to have a colleague in my field at another local uni who’s assigned it to his grad seminar twice now, and he’s invited me to attend the second half of the discussion. That’s really fun and gratifying. (And he runs the first hour of the seminar or so by himself, so that if students want to be critical they can be without me sitting right there. He uses that time to help the students formulate good questions for me when I arrive.)

    In most of the cases I’ve heard of, when a proffie assigns hir own book it’s a reader or a textbook that’s kind of the dernier cri in hir field. I once TA’ed for a proffie who assigned hir own book, but I thought it was ethically dubious because 1) the book was $40 hardcover, and not available in paper, and 2) the class had 80-100 students in it. It just seemed more than a little abusive of a captive audience, IMHO, but I will admit that there wasn’t much else on hir particular subject at that time.

  16. Brian Ulrich on 13 Nov 2010 at 10:57 pm #

    Somewhat off topic, but one of my graduate school profs liked to tell the story of when he was a visitor somewhere and a student plagiarized his own book in a paper to him.

  17. Shadow Boxer on 13 Nov 2010 at 11:37 pm #

    I was in the class with Roy, and I also got 2 copies due to shipping issues. My extra copy went to the public library, whose book purchase budget goes to things like 14 copies of the latest _Twilight_ novel.

  18. Notorious Ph.D. on 14 Nov 2010 at 12:10 am #

    Squad, from what I understand (based on an unscientific sample of my peer group), the “no royalties on the first print run” thing is standard these days for first books. In my rough cohort, the only difference is the size of the first print run that we’ve got to go through before money potentially comes in. One colleague writing in 20th c. U.S. got simultaneous issue of hardcover and paperback (yay!), but no royalties on the very large first print runs of either.

  19. Feminist Avatar on 14 Nov 2010 at 6:40 am #

    I published with UK academic press and received a small amount of money, not so much in advance, but when it was published with no expectations of repayment, and no royalties on the hardcover print run. But, if it goes to paper, then I get 7%. Royalties on other formats (incl. digital) have to be negotiated. Being in the UK, I think I have to sell 400 copies at hardcover before it goes paper. (We have much smaller print runs that in the US).

    This sort of deal is fairly typical but I was talking to someone recently who has a similar deal but managed to get 4 times the money for his ‘advance’ (which isn’t really an advance)!

  20. JJO on 14 Nov 2010 at 7:22 am #

    John got an advance!? Is that where my Friends of MCEAS donation is going? Despite it being in hardcover, I’m still considering it for my grad colonial class. But right now it is pretty pricey for grad students… maybe I can cut a deal with the press.

    I haven’t received any royalties, and I’m dubious that I ever will (I don’t remember the precise numbers, but it’s essentially the standard “no royalties on the first print run,” as noted above), but my wife and colleague has done pretty well, as her book went straight to paper and is a very readable study that takes a wide view of a fairly big, understudied topic. So it’s been assigned a lot. For the past couple of years she’s received three-digit checks, and sometimes the first number isn’t a 1.

  21. JJO on 14 Nov 2010 at 7:49 am #

    “It” above being John’s book. I have assigned Historiann’s (in paper) to what I think was an appreciative audience of grad students, and I’d definitely consider it for upper-level undergrads as well, when an appropriate course rolls around again.

  22. Digger on 14 Nov 2010 at 8:24 am #

    Congrats, H’Ann! Checks are nice :)

  23. Historiann on 14 Nov 2010 at 9:33 am #

    I’ve assigned your wife’s book, JJO, and it went over very well indeed. The funny thing about academic publishing lately is that it seemed for a little while–when I signed my contract in the mid-2000s, for example–publishers were more willing to guarantee a paper run. Now, it seems like most of my friends have to fight for a paper edition, which seems counterproductive to selling books (as JJO’s wife’s book demonstrates.)

    Maybe someone in publishing can help us out here, but insisting on publishing a cloth book first seems a quaint notion when libraries just aren’t buying books like they used to, and they’re not keeping or preserving them. So, I don’t really see the point of the “durability” of the cloth edition compared to the price advantage of publishing in paper. I would rather have my publisher publish my book in paper only and skip the cloth edition, so as to encourage its adoption for courses as well as being a bargain acquisition for libraries.

    But, that’s just one author’s perspective–I would certainly welcome comments from people with experience in publishing.

  24. Historiann on 14 Nov 2010 at 9:34 am #

    And, thanks again to JJO for assigning my book! (Do ALL of your grad students have blogs?)

  25. ga on 14 Nov 2010 at 12:04 pm #

    “Many thanks to Indyanna, Roy, and ga. (Are you sure you want to assign it to a freshman class?)”

    Actually: “Yes”
    I’ve had success with using one monograph that is challenging but touches on several broad themes. Now, I don’t dump it on the syllabus with an essay assignment and say “Make something coherent out of this!” Instead its referred to within several overview auditorium lecture on the historical events/contexts and then the monograph itself is the subject of an in depth set of several sessions of “Discussion Sections” that meet weekly with staged assignments—”how to read a monograph,” through writing their major take home essay on one of the specific questions I give them drawing together lecture and the monograph. In this case European colonization and competition, gender, etc. all provide a variety of ways for the student to pursue their own interests within a common reading and show the skills they’ve learned to synthesize the readings/lectures. I do the same with a selected journal article.

    When they get out of my mega-survey they should be able to read a monograph, article or primary documents *usefully* for upper-division classes. Getting too many in the capstone senior research seminar for majors who have never learned how to read an article or monograph and *use* it to support their own thesis drove this development.

  26. Feminist Avatar on 14 Nov 2010 at 12:28 pm #

    I recently asked an editor at Cambridge UP why they didn’t just publish in paper instead of/ at the same time as hardback. And, she said it has nothing to do with format and everything to do with price.

    It doesn’t cost significantly more to publish in hardback than in paperback- so the format makes no difference to them in terms of cost. What makes a difference is that it is customary to pay £50 or more for a hardback, but we won’t customarily pay that for paperback. And, the £50 hardback price is a reflection of the cost of publishing and the need for a high price to make money on a product that generally sells in low numbers. She said that it cost them on average £7-10,000 to bring a book to market, so that’s what they need to make to break even.

    When they experimented a few years ago with publishing in paperback at the lower price, they didn’t sell enough extra copies to compensate for the drop in price. Similarly, when they offered dual print runs of hard and paper, they found libraries just bought the cheaper version, so they still lost money as nobody bought the high-price product that they needed to sell to make their money back.

    They now use a model which is that the first print run in hardback needs to sell for them to make money. All other runs and paper copies start to make profit, which is why they start to give the author a cut.

  27. Historiann on 14 Nov 2010 at 1:07 pm #

    Ah–thanks. It’s a little nutty, charging the premuium price for the cloth edition, but it makes sense I guess if they found that books didn’t sell well just in paper. Perhaps we, the book-buying public, *need* the higher price point to make the paper edition feel like a bargain?

    And ga: you’re a marvelously ambitious teacher! You put me to shame, anyway, with your focus on skills. Let me know if you’d like to set up a discussion with your class, or if I can answer any questions for your students if you end up using A in A. I too use monographs in the survey–Al Youngs The Shoemaker and the Tea Party is one I’ve used to good effect, but I didn’t do nearly as much with it as you’re doing with the monographs in your survey.

  28. John S. on 14 Nov 2010 at 2:41 pm #

    I actually didn’t realize the advance was in my contract until I got a check for the first half of it in the mail. I certainly would have signed the contract without it; at that point in my pre-tenure review, having an advance contract meant a *lot* more than the advance I got (though it was still decent). A colleague of mine here also published with the same books series as Historiann and myself and elected to fore go the advance to 1) get more pictures in the book and 2) go into the profit zone immediately. And what do you know: she already has. It’s a very good book.

    My editor explained the logic behind the cloth-paper gap, telling me that it’s about library sales (they won’t buy the cloth if it’s in paper, so sell the more expensive edition) and publicity. If you wait until the book’s been reviewed to bring it out in paper you get to have a good second wave of press by blurbing reviews. Of course, this would work better if the journal of record in my field still published more than 4-6 reviews and issue, but still…

  29. John S. on 14 Nov 2010 at 2:42 pm #

    JJO–I have those handy 20% off fliers from the press for my book! Will that help? I can use that awesome pull I have to get it read by people other than my family. (Though I think my dad is being polite, frankly. Very smart man, not a lot of patience for my prose.)

    I too have JJO’s wife’s book on my syllabus. I will admit that the decision was influenced both by quality and by affordability. I mean, it’s an excellent book on a topic that fits *exactly* with my seminar–but if it were in cloth it’d never find that audience.

    I think that’s especially true because it’s a work (like Historiann’s, I think), that lends itself to discussion in comparative history courses. Unfortunately, people outside a given field 1) might not know about books outside their little field of vision; and 2) might be less willing to pull the trigger and get the book for themselves and their class if it’s more expensive. Paperback encourages scholarly expansiveness as well as curricular expansiveness (though we know they go together).

    Now I am just going to have to go through the strange sensation that I’ve had assigning friends and colleagues books before, where the students talk about the author as if s/he is some disembodied oracle instead of a person. They’ll impute motives to the author that frequently don’t exist and I have to fight back the urge to say “No! S/he doesn’t think like that at all!”

  30. Tenured Radical on 14 Nov 2010 at 3:57 pm #

    I bought it.

  31. Kathie on 14 Nov 2010 at 6:23 pm #

    I am still getting some royalties for a edited collection that I published back in 1996 – a copy or two sells every year or so, but the “big” bucks are in electronic rights. I don’t know which article(s) in the collection are being sold (and I did inquire but the press wasn’t able to break out that information), but I get a check every six months, and the last one was for about $150. I certainly never expected to have a continuing income from that book, and was actually quite anxious when I had to sign an addendum to the original contract that specified electronic rights, but it has been a continuous source of pin money.

  32. Susan on 14 Nov 2010 at 7:00 pm #

    I bought it.
    I’ve never assigned my own book, though in a grad seminar I will almost always try to assign one of my articles. In one case I showed multiple drafts…. I’ve also assigned my husband’s work — which would be pretty standard in a grad seminar in my field. I have done the thing where I visit when my book is being read in a seminar, which is fun.
    I know my book must be being assigned, because I still get those checks, often in three digits, even for the book that is 20 years old.

  33. Perpetua on 15 Nov 2010 at 10:45 am #

    My book’s about to come out – cloth edition, of course, and it will cost in the ballpark of $75. I’ve told all my excited (non-academic) family and friends – for the love of GOD do not pay $75 for this book! You won’t even enjoy reading it! I know you want to be supportive, but just look it up on Amazon and feel proud!

    I can’t imagine getting a royalty check – it’ll take a whole bunch of those little checks to offset the exorbitant cost of the indexer. So if I’m lucky, one day I’ll break even! My annoying university will give money for subventions, but not for indexers.

  34. Mark K. on 15 Nov 2010 at 12:16 pm #

    “it’s about library sales (they won’t buy the cloth if it’s in paper, so sell the more expensive edition)”

    That is certainly true for this librarian.

    Earlier in my career, it was scandalous for libraries to purchase paperbacks instead of hardcovers. There was a presumption of durability, but also I think aesthetic norms drove it.

    It may still be scandalous, but I don’t care. My budgets are too tight and the price differentials too great. If the book is little used, it doesn’t wear out any faster. If it *is* used more and wears out, I can replace it, and often the cost of two paperbacks is less than one hardcover.

    Only occasionally have I found that a book has gone out of print when I’ve needed to replace it, and only *very* occasionally have I found that the used book market is setting a price higher than the original purchase price.

  35. MyLiteraryCoach on 15 Nov 2010 at 8:15 pm #

    Historiann (14 Nov):
    The other possible reason for publishers producing a hardback edition first is that the review outlets focus on hardbacks. For example, see NYTimes Review of Books. New paperbacks get only one page toward the back. Most books reviewed are hardbacks.
    Tim

  36. Liz2 on 15 Nov 2010 at 10:18 pm #

    I’m sorry, I haven’t purchased your book. However, I have contributed to Kathie’s pin money because I bought her book years ago.

    If you’re planning on reading about death soon, you might also consider Vincent Brown’s book The Reaper’s Garden. It’s very interesting.

    Congrats on the royalty check! My husband shouted and danced the day he got his first one (and likely his only one, it was a reference book).

  37. Elaine Hardy on 16 Nov 2010 at 12:07 pm #

    And at least 434 libraries, around the world, have purchased it. According to WorldCat, in addition to US libraries, it is in the collections of libraries in Canada, Israel, New Zealand, China, Germany, The Netherlands, Taiwan and the UK.

  38. Historiann on 16 Nov 2010 at 12:50 pm #

    Wow–thanks, Elaine, for that data.

    And thanks, libraries and librarians, for your support!!!