Sunday, May 1, 2011

Kristine Rusch on publishing royalties, e-book and otherwise

This could be bad for publishers. What she's found is that the major publishers who handle her books are consistently under-reporting sales on her royalty statements, both e-book and print editions. I suspect she's right: technology has changed, but publishers have stuck with old methods that estimate sales and those methods are inaccurate. The big tech change is Bookscan, the system that tracks sales of books at the register. In the 80s and before it didn't exist, so there wasn't any way for an author to double-check the sales figures. When it did start, authors didn't have ready access to it's data so they still had no way to audit the publisher's numbers. But now any author can get Bookscan data. It's not a complete check, since Bookscan only covers about 50-70% of book sales. But it does provide one check: it should be physically impossible for the sales reported on a royalty statement (adjusted for reserves) to be less than what Bookscan reports. If an author's royalty statement shows sales less than what Bookscan reports for a title, the royalty statement is simply incorrect.

If authors start checking sales and demanding audits, things could get very sticky for the major publishers.

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