Sunday, December 02, 2007

Totally Blunt Conversation About Royalites and Category Romance Part 2

Ah! Royalty Statement time and in keeping with my last post about royalties I thought I'd share my numbers and thoughts again. This is the second statement for my Superromance books out last year Family At Stake, His Best Friend's Baby and Who Needs Cupid? And from what I gather, this is the end of the road in terms of North American sales. In my last post I mentioned the huge reserves Harlequin keeps between statements to see if books will be returned or sold through. And those reserves are now gone. I have maybe 300 books in reserve. So, these numbers are pretty much it. Family At Stake ended up selling around 20,000 copies retail in the US and Canada. His Best Friend's Baby sold 22,000. This translates into around 10,000 dollars. Now, I'm a pretty new writer to the line and I think these numbers reflect the middle of the pack. To be a Waldenbooks bestseller you need to sell nearly 10,000 more books retail - give or take depending on the week's sales. Who Needs Cupid sold about 23,000 books, but because it's an Anthology and I'm taking my 6% from one third of the cover price I imagine I won't see much money.

Undercover Protector was out in July and the cut off for royalties is June so the only thing that's reflected on my statement are the direct/subscription sales and advance e-book sales! That's right - Harlequin now sells on-line. Which, I think will be huge but since it was the first month and a cut off month - my 16 books sold seems a little sad. But, I think these numbers will grow. Lots.

The future for His Best Friend's Baby, Family At Stake and Who Needs Cupid? now depends on foreign translations. From what I hear Superromances aren't translated very widely. I know FAS is in France now - with a wonderful cover. The big translations are Germany, Japan and Argentina. My Duets and Flipsides have all been in Argentina and I've sold a stupid number of books there - but there doesn't seem to be much action for Supers south of the border. I should know more by the next statement.

But looking at these numbers this is what I've come to believe. Category romance buyers buy on three principals -- author recognition, covers and blurbs in the back of other category books. There's not much promotion a writer can do that will make a HUGE difference in sales. I can't control the covers or force my editor to use my book as a blurb in other books. I can do everything I can to have a great relationship with my editor and hope she thinks of me. And I can write really good books fast.

On a side note, my December book Baby Makes Three was an RT Top Pick from Romantic Times and I know when the magazine came out I got a number of advance orders on Amazon but I don't know how many. Could be three. I placed an ad in the December RT and when it came out my amazon numbers didn't change. I don't know if Amazon sales really add up to big numbers. It would be fun to know -- anyone know?

Hope this answers some questions or creates a good discussion.


Anonymous said...


I went back and read your previous entry from May. Wow. Thanks a million for writing such a candid article! I am working on a book that I hope to submit to Harlequin and I'm so glad I have your blog on RSS ;) Very good info! Do you know how other e-retailers figure into your numbers (Fictionwise, eReader, etc)? I do buy from them, but if they don't benefit the author I will not spend my money there anymore.

Now I have a question for you, or anyone else out there who can help. Brenda Hiatt has a database of the different moneys publishers pay on her website, but it hasn't been updated in well over a year. Do you know of anyone else out there who has more current data?

Best wishes to you, and thanks again!

Molly O'Keefe said...

Hey Elle! Glad you found the posts helpful -- I always wished I knew a little more going in than I did. I was told at some point that I would get about 15,000 dollars a book UP FRONT -- and it mislead me for a long time. Fictionwise and ereader are totally legitimate - you're safe there for sure.

Regarding Brenda's Show Me The Money thing - I think she only updates it once a year for Nationals in July. I could be wrong. Sinead will probably know more. But category sales across the board are down -- Harlequin has pushed nearly every successful line to more books. Presents is about to go to 12!!! Which means more money for Harlequin I think - but less for the authors.

Kimber Chin said...


Thanks again for the candid talk about royalties.

Once my book gets published,
I'll add my 2 cents (which is about it) on small press publishing.

Anonymous said...

Molly, great post. I love how generous you are with this info.

Elle, I haven't checked Brenda Hiatt's numbers in a while, but I do know she polls published authors and they send in their $ numbers and that's how she comes up with hers. I think it's a ton of work, and I don't know anyone else who does anything like it.
I think the info can be all over the board, except Harlequin series, where it's a lot more consistent.

And changing daily. I believe the sales for series romance took a significant downturn in the past five years, and while the decrease has stabilized, there are more authors to make fewer sales.

Molly O'Keefe said...

But I feel like now more than ever the editors are looking for new voices. It seems like the Harlequin loops I'm on are always welcoming new writers -- this year I know we've got several coming out in Super. So, if you're pitching series -- it's a good time and whenever a series goes to more books you know editors are going to be looking for writers... which is why I just pitched "The Billionaire's Organic Farmer" I think it's gonna be huge!!!

Maureen McGowan said...

re Brenday Hiatt's stuff. I've heard from a bunch of people that it's very out of date. Don't know why, or what that means, and I don't want to spread false rumors or in anyway criticize Ms. Hiatt who is so generous to gather this information for other writers... but I have heard that its' not super reliable.

I also something recently about Publishers marketplace... Since all those deals are self-reported, some of the agents/writers/editors reporting the deals play some games too. We assume the size of the deal is the advance... but sometimes it may include projections assuming every bonus in the contract is acheived, etc. And the guy at PM edits them. I know someone recently who reported her movie option and included both the option deal (very small) and the amount if the movie gets made (huge) and PM edited the deal to look like she'd received the larger amount for the option.

So, it appears, it's hard to trust info about money. (Unless it's from Molly, who's super honest about this stuff.)

Molly O'Keefe said...

Regarding the Show Me The Money conversation -- what's really changed over the years is the top earn out figure. Most of the top earn out figures she has posted were from several years ago before the slump and before a lot of the lines got pushed up to six books a month. Now, a lot of new writers (like myself) look at the number and go - OMG no way am I contributing my earn out numbers because they are pathetic compared to that. So, I don't know that she's getting accurate numbers.
And Maureen, frankly you're right - numbers are the proof in this pretty competitive business - so some people are going to lie.

M. said...

sobering thoughts. thanks for sharing. would be tremendously valuable info to have on all sorts of publishers.

came here after a visit to love is an exploding cigar - the notice about your guest blog appeared in today's trw digest, so i headed over, only to find you were there yesterday! story of my life - one beat behind...

But it seemed a nice conversation in the comments

Anonymous said...

Again, thanks to all of you for your information regarding the numbers involved! And Maureen, I absolutely agree that the time it takes to compile and analyze the figures must be pretty time-consuming, among other things. I think it's wonderful she posts the database in the first place, and I would love to see the trends over a span of several years. It's too bad that people doctor the figures (especially so-called reputable sources)!

As far as the Presents line goes (and I do love your Organic Farmer pitch, Molly!), do you think it's going to hurt the authors who already write for the line as far as sales and such go?

Thanks again for your wonderful information!

Wylie Kinson said...

Molly, so um... you mean you don't have a private jet from your earnings?
Poof go my illusions!

Seriously though, dollars aside,... isn't it the COOLEST FEELING in the world just knowing you're name is sitting on 23,000+ bookshelves :D

Tara Parker said...


I just wanted to tell you that I read "Baby Makes Three" the other night and it was by far one of the best stories I've come across in a long time.

I read constantly and I only read romance books when I need "fluff" or easy reads. The majority of the ones that I get are badly written, crappy stories, and my cat could do better.

Very well done - I can't wait to see the rest of the series!

Maybe if you have time you could stop by the CompuServe Books and Writers forum...

Take care!

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