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A Very Good Day

Today was the sort of awesome day that makes me a little wary of going up and down the stairs, because it seems so out of balance that I am undoubtedly bucking for a broken leg or something. I finished the art for Fairybreath (oh god yay!) hit another mental landmark in Bread Wizard (yay!) and unexpectedly got a royalty statement for Batbreath and Wurstbreath (double yay!) informing me that Batbreath had earned out. (Double-triple-quadruple uber-screamy YAY!)

Batbreath having come out in March, and the end of the sales period being in July, that means that it earned out in the first four months, which is fabulous. As of the end of July, we’ve moved about 35K copies of Batbreath and 46K Wurstbreath, which is pretty darn awesome. (Not including foreign/Scholastic book fair sales–I won’t see numbers on those for awhile.) Both had a jump in unit returns, most likely owing to the end of Borders, but that should smooth out long-term, and hey, that’s why there’s the reserve against returns, after all.

For non-authors out there, who are scratching their heads—”earning out” means that the book has sold enough copies that your share of the sales has exceeded the sum they paid you as an advance. I.E, if they give you ten thousand dollars and you get a dollar a book, your book has earned out when you have sold ten thousand copies. Everything after that is pretty much gravy—they sell another 3000 books, you get another 3000 dollars. Theoretically.

In actual fact the math is horrifyingly complicated and they send you a lot of sheets of paper—since a lot of my books sell through “discount” sellers (i.e. Wal-Mart and Amazon) where both the publisher and I get less cash, that’s on a different sheet than straightforward full-price sales through brick-and-mortar stores, and there’s always a page that has one single book sold on it that is somehow different and required another sheet of paper for some reason, but fortunately you get a nice little summary sheet in there somewhere that says “This is how many units you sold last time, this is how many you sold this time.” There is also a chunk of money called the “reserve against return” which is a chunk of cash they hang onto for a few years on the assumption that stores are going to send back X number of books. (There was a time I got grumpy about that, but now I’m kinda glad they take it out up front—that way it’s not real money in my head.)

It must be said that Batbreath only just earned out—it probably would have broken about even, except for aforementioned Scholastic and foreign rights, which tipped it over into an actual sum of money. This is also complicated, but the Cliff Notes version is that they give the publisher an advance, and depending on the sort of rights they buy, the publisher passes between 50 and 75% of that advance on to you. (Before anybody starts to rail at this, let me point out that they are buying the text from you, but the cover/layouts/design/etc from the publisher, rather than get their own art director to redo the whole kerfluffle. As my art director earns her paycheck every day she has to deal with me, and I get a correspondingly higher advance on the books to begin with for also being the illustrator, I begrudge them nothing.)

So, yeah, it’s complicated. The first time I got a royalty statement, I had to call Deb and go “And what does this mean? And what’s this number? Really? How about this number? No kiddin’…”  Nevertheless, as I occasionally like to point out—say what you will about the death of traditional publishing, they can casually move nearly eighty thousand copies (in this case) for an author on the high end of kid’s mid-list without me lifting a finger, a success I couldn’t hope to duplicate with Kickstarter and enthusiasm. (And while this counts as “doing great” in the field, I am myself far eclipsed by things like Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries.)

So today has been fantastic. And I am going to be very very careful going to down the stairs tonight, just in case.

Originally published at Tea with the Squash God. You can comment here or there.


I'm about to get my first royalty check. I'm excited...sort of. I mean, I know it won't be much, as I only got published in a couple or three months ago, and it only includes sales through the publisher's site, but still...looking forward to seeing a check, however miniscule. After waiting all my life to get to this point, I plan to enjoy every second of it.

Congrats to you on earning out! That's great.

Congrats on upcoming royalties! This is A Good Thing.

Sheeiit! Congratulations, woman.

I really gotta get the tax stuff done and see if I earned out on the Tarot deck, myself. If it did then I think that I, too, get to have a career in the declining years of the physical publishing industry.

...Tarot deck? o.O D'you mind my asking which deck?

Very, very nifty news and progress. Go, you! *wild applause*

*cheers and throws confetti* (Carefully, and not onto the stairs.)

Oh, HUZZAH! Excellent news! (Especially for us selfish reader types who see your royalty checks as being a means of ensuring continued supplies of our desired reading material...)

No, seriously, that's grand news. Congrats, and be careful on those stairs!

Congratulations! These are the type of sales figures that mean you'll keep getting published, right?

If you think it'd make traveling the stairs safer, I could look for more squid-based snacks or faux-duck noodle bowls to send you. Those all came from the Fubonn Supermarket in Portland, OR & I'll be back over there in a week or so.

*laugh* Yes, these are "continued publication" numbers. Mind you, nobody's immune to a sudden reversal--Dragonbreath as a series is pretty securely a success at this point, so barring catastrophe, I can hopefully ride this to another series a few years hence.

Individual non-comic books like Bread Wizard and some of the others are trickier--nobody anticipates them performing as well as the Dragonbreath books, so they're not as madly keen to pick them up. There could conceivably be a day when I can publish a Dragonbreath-style book easily and a more serious and long work not at all. Best case scenario though--we're hoping for big success on the serieses (seriesi?) and enough of an earn-out on the Bread-Wizard-style stuff to make the publisher willing to pick more of those up for the gaps between big series. (And quite honestly, there would be an element of "Fine, we're keeping her happy..." on those, but they won't do that if they don't make SOME money on it.)

Edited at 2011-10-31 10:15 pm (UTC)


Congratulations!
May you have a Long Tail!

That's wonderful!
(And I'm glad for the explanation, otherwise this post would have gone right over my head)

*laugh* I try to remember, when I talk about these things, that there's a LOT of jargon involved and not everybody's on my end of things.

(Deleted comment)
This is great. I'm looking forward to seeing the next installment. Is bread wizard out in stores or still in process? I want to read it.

Still laboring towards completion! The manuscript is due in May, and it won't hit shelves until the end of the Dragonbreath series, so...probably 2013. (God, how do we get these schedules out so far in advance?!)

Today's xkcd made me think of this: http://xkcd.com/971/

Congrats! And, in all honesty, traditional dead-trees publishing is really excellent for 'Breath books. The combo of text and art would be pretty hard to make work on anything but a color tablet the size of an iPad, I think. I ain't gonna snark at 'em.

Well, unless they stiff you on royalties, of course. Then I'd snark hard.

Oh, come on, live a little. Take two bottom stairs in one stride. :D

It's wonderful. And you deserved every bit of it.

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