Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Tradition of Quarterly Payments -- Writer's Bane

Most people don't know that royalties are usually paid to authors quarterly. It's an old tradition that started with good reason.

In the day of the brick and mortar bookstore (of which, thankfully, some still exist), publishers printed books and sent them to the stores. The stores reported the sales and paid for the books after they were sold. Publishers paid writers for the copies that sold. The reporting process was done by mail. Electronic reporting didn't exist then. It generally took a couple of months for money and sales figures to sort themselves out.

As a result, authors got paid quarterly. They still do. We still do, in most cases. There's no reason it has to be that way anymore. Electronic transfer of funds is the standard practice now. Publishers aren't going to change this method, however, because it works to their advantage and they hold the cards. I really don't fault them for that.

Don't get me wrong... I'm less than thrilled with the setup, but there's not much I can do about it.

Amazon pays monthly. That's what they say, and that's what they do. Barnes and Noble does the same thing. I'm speaking about Kindle and Nook respectively. It amounts to almost the same thing--and here's how: Both Amazon and Barnes and Noble pay 60 days after the month in which the sale occurs. In other words, they pay the writer monthly...up to three months after the reader purchases the book. The only difference with those two is that there is a monthly income.

I'm okay with the above, mostly because it would be pointless not to be okay with it. I just budged to get paid on a quarterly basis. If all goes well and the income rises to the point where royalties become my main source of income, I'll get smarter about it.

The bite comes when my books get sold through one company that pays quarterly to another company that pays quarterly. iTunes falls into that category for me, and so does Amazon for my books in print. If someone buys one of my books from iTunes in January... iTunes will report the sale at the end of March. The company that sold the book to iTunes will report that January sale to me, which was reported to them at the end of the end of June. I'll get my money six months after the reader spends it.

I'm not bitching about that, by the way. I'm writing this so new authors can plan accordingly, and so I have it clear in my head.

To readers: keep buying books, electronic or paper, from wherever you're comfortable buying them, and buy them in whatever format suits your needs and desires. I'm just happy there are people out there buying books and reading them.

Without readers, writers are just people with nimble fingers and minds...

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