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What are Royalties?

     Royalties are the payments made to authors for the books written, generally a percentage of the cover price. A standard royalty percentage is 15%, but some publishing companies may offer a higher or lower rate or may present a rate that starts lower and increases as more books are sold. If you have an agent, the royalty check will be sent quarterly to the agent, who will subtract his or her commission and send the remainder on to you.

What are Advances?

     The advance is a flat amount paid up front or in installments before the book is published. The intent is to provide income to the author as he or she finishes writing tasks requested by the editor. Depending on the genre of the book and the publishing company, amongst other factors, the advance can range from the low thousands to the millions. Remember that this is an advance against royalties. If royalties from you sale do not make up for the advance, you will see no further income from your book. Although rare, I have heard of a publisher requesting an advance back from an author whose work sold very few copies.

     Foner Books has a resource that describes much more about book contracts, though not intended as legal advice.

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