Truth about Royalties

First, let me give thanks. To those of you who have read my book, CATCHER’S KEEPER: Thank you! If you happened to have given me a review on Amazon or Goodreads, know that you have given me the best gift you can give an author. Thank you!

Now, many of you are curious to know how my book is doing. A reasonable question, I guess. Some may think it odd that I’m having a hard time finding an appropriate response.

My reviews are good. So far (knock on wood) I haven’t gotten less than 4 stars on Amazon or Goodreads. And most of those reviews are 5 stars—from complete strangers. My overall Amazon rating is a glowing 4.7! Hooray!

Not only is it getting great reviews, it has won multiple awards. Hooray!

As far as my FB friends can tell, it’s doing very well. Heck, I have near strangers congratulating me on the street.

“Your book’s doing so well!”

I smile and thank them. Yes, it’s doing well in many ways.

But when I’m asked the direct question: “How’s your book doing?”…I have to pause. You mean sales?

Yes, they mean sales.

Despite the obvious social faux pas in asking this question (I mean, how many people go up and ask a realtor “How are you making out on commission for that big ol’ house on Main Street?”)

Yet, people truly believe they are celebrating with me by asking the question: “How’s your book doing?”

Well, let me tell you.

Last month, my royalty check was $15.00


For one month’s worth of sales.

Way to pay the rent.


Me holding a recent royalty check. Look closely at the amount! It’s made out for a whopping $6.50!

I’ve been advised by some self-published ebook success stories to enhance my sales. The crux of their advice is to run a “sale” on your ebook and run a promotion on a high-profile ebook marketing engine, like BookBub. I looked into that. For CK, I would have to pay about $400 to give my book away free.

Let me repeat that, I would have to PAY $400 to give my book away FREE in order to promote on Bookbub.


The idea is that readers will review your book on Amazon and Goodreads, thus helping to get the word out that your book exists, which *might* happen, but—

I would have to PAY $400 to give my book away FREE.

Does that make sense to anyone?

I did my first-ever sale recently. It was kind of a last-minute thing, but I got two high-profile book bloggers to help promote it, plus I did my thing on FB and Twitter, etc. What were the results?

Drum roll please….

I sold 8 books.


Which comes to about $11.00 in royalties.

Yes, because I’ve self-published, I make 70% of royalties. Which is great…if your book sells, which mine is not.

I have to say, when I first published my book, I didn’t really care about making money. It wasn’t about that. But I did want my book out there. I wanted people to read it. Because my sales are so abysmal, I’m left to wonder: Will my book languish in somnolence? Will it vaporize into the electrowaves of the internet?

It’s hard to let go, I guess.

It hit home when I attended a bookclub in which a New York Times Bestselling author spoke. When asked the question—How’s your book doing?—she literally knocked on wood and said, “I can finally pay my rent.”

She’s a New York Times Bestselling author!

I have other friends who have been lucky enough to sign with big name publishers for multiple book deals. They all have had to keep their day jobs because they just don’t make any money from their books. Even if they’ve won awards. Even if they have stellar reviews.

In fact, I’ve been warned more than once by many published authors, “You won’t make any money on your books.” They don’t need to add, “unless you are Gillian Flynn.” (Who, I found out the other day, is only 2 years older than me. Color me envious.)

Maybe I’ve lost sight of what’s important, but in my mind, I just can’t reconcile how people spend money these days. What are peoples’ problems with spending money on BOOKS?

My ebook is $4.99.

Thanks to the instantaneous feedback available online, I have been made privy to the fact that people have returned CK after reading it, taking advantage of Amazon’s 5-day return policy. (My feelings about that horrendous policy could fill another blog post.)

But it broke my heart. People are returning it after they read it?

It’s $4.99.

How much does your latte cost at Starbucks? Do you get as much enjoyment out of that latte as you would cozy-ing up with a good book?

Many people would not bat an eyelash in spending $24 on an entrée that will be consumed in less than 15 minutes. Why do people have a problem spending $4.99 on a book that will provide hours of enjoyment?

I recently bought promotional T-shirts for $15.00 a pop to support a friend’s company. I didn’t hesitate to buy two. You could buy three of my books for one T-shirt. I bought six books worth of T-shirts.


A friend from college who I hadn’t talked to in almost 10 years emailed me: “I’d love a signed copy of your book. Please send it to…” Really? Buy your own f’ing copy!

Okay, okay. Maybe I’m being harsh. Maybe it’s the self-publishing stigma that’s making my sales suffer. People don’t take my book seriously because it’s self-published. Is that it, folks? Please, enlighten me. Does the fact that I’ve spent hundreds on professional editors mean nothing? Does my 4.7 Amazon review rating mean nothing? Do my multiple awards mean nothing?

Or maybe it’s priced too high. Maybe people simply value a latte more than a good book. In which case, I’m screwed.

*update! I just got my direct-deposit notification for my September royalties. The grand total = $9.39. That means I sold 3 books in the month of September. Sigh.


  1. I know it doesn’t seem to make sense to pay to give your book away for free, but it does work (more so if you have a series). I ran a BookBub ad last month for book 1 of my trilogy (and ran a Kindle Countdown on book #2) and saw a 10-fold return on my investment. I gained 75 reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, sold over 1000 copies of book 2 and I’m still seeing regular sales a month and a half later. Hang in there, keep writing great stuff and those small checks will get bigger! 😀

    1. I really appreciate your comment and I will reconsider BookBub, perhaps after my next title comes out (although it is not part of a series–and I think you’re right. It works better if it’s part of a series). Congrats on your success! I’m sure it’s well deserved. 🙂

  2. Interesting post, especially since I’m going to self-publish a book soon and I like hearing how others are doing it.

    I don’t know about people not taking you seriously because you’re self-published. If your book looks professional and the preview (at least usually you can read a few pages in advance) doesn’t look like something made by a five-year-old, I’d say it’s more about people not knowing your book. People don’t look at your book price and compare it to their coffee, because they’re different things and most of them do value their latte higher, but there’s a reason for that. In their cup of latte is the whole experience of buying it from their favourite cafe, drinking their favourite coffee, and perhaps getting a better morning out of it. Your book? They don’t know what it will do because they’ve never experienced it, or your works in general, before.

    I haven’t read your book but if it’s been getting good reviews and even awards, I’d say it’s a good book. Maybe you just haven’t found your market and readers yet? Unfortunately I can’t tell you how to get those, as I’m struggling with marketing my own book as well, but I could safely say that paying $400 to give away a free book isn’t it. But keep trying, I’m sure they’re out there 🙂

    Maybe this post wasn’t helpful at all, but really I don’t think you’re doing anything wrong. The price is reasonable, the book looks good, and while it doesn’t sound like something I’d usually read, your writing style seems compelling. I hope CK will get more readers and find the right market soon, as the book (and you, after all your hard work) deserve it.

    1. Thanks so much for your thoughts. Self publishing has been quite an adventure and I’ve learned so much through the process. Still learning! I would be happy to share with you the lessons I learned along the way. Good luck with your book. I’ll be looking out for it. 🙂

    1. Thank you! Hopefully, this post is not discouraging. Personally, I’m eager to keep plugging away and working to achieve all my goals. Stay tuned, I have good news to share for my upcoming novel! 🙂

    1. Ha! What a deal! You got it. Best of luck to you. BTW your post was my introduction to Medium. I’m interested in contributing to that site. How would you suggest I proceed?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s