The Weird World of Traditional Royalties

A blue outlined book with a blue question mark hovering over it.

Last week, I got my very first (post-advance) payment of royalties for Polaris Rising! 🎉🎉🎉 Thank you all so much for your support because this means the book “earned out,” a publishing term that means I’ve earned enough royalties to cover the advance the publisher paid me.

Traditional publishing accounting is interesting, so let’s talk about it!

First, having an agent who will explain your contract and answer questions is an enormous help, if not a requirement. I usually don’t lay down laws because everyone’s situation is different, but personally, I would not sign a publishing contract without an agent (hi, Ms. Sarah, I love you!). But that’s a whole other post, and today we’re talking about getting paid.

If your eyes glaze over at numbers and you’re not an aspiring author, you may want to skip this one. :)

When an author signs a contract with a traditional publisher, the publisher generally pays an advance. They calculate the advance based on how well they think the book will do, and where it fits in their lineup, and what phase the moon is in (okay, maybe not that last one, but there’s a lot of things involved I don’t know about). This advance is an advance payment on future royalties—hence the term advance.

Advances range from almost nothing to millions, depending on the author, their audience, the number of books contracted, and the author’s previous publishing history. Publishers Marketplace even has a coy little key for deal news so everyone can tell where the deal fell in the range without actually coming out and saying it:

“nice deal”:$1 – $49,000
“very nice deal”:$50,000 – $99,000
“good deal”:$100,000 – $250,000
“significant deal”:$251,000 – $499,000
“major deal”:$500,000 and up

So someone who got a “good deal” made an advance between $100k – $250k, which is a pretty big range.

Once the number is nailed down by your agent and the publisher, then you get paid—yay! But you don’t get the whole thing at once.

Keep On Keeping On

The pandemic quarantine is a year old now, at least around here, and I’ve somehow yet to adapt. We’re luckier than many because Mr. M and I can both work from home. But there’s been a lot of at home time now.

Don’t get me wrong, I like my home. I’m a homebody, so I prefer it to most places. But finding creativity after staring at the same walls for twelve months has been… difficult. I’m starting to write New Shiny 2: EVEN SHINIER, and it feels more like the working title should be Dread: The Dreadening.

I was going to write a sekrit indie thing, too, but I just don’t know if it’s going to happen. I was supposed to start on it in February, but February got swallowed into the void, so no dice. I need to write it, both for career and financial reasons and because I want y’all to be able to read something new this year since Hunted (aka New Shiny) doesn’t come out until early next year.

But the motivation is… bleh. I sit down to write and bleh. Bleh bleh bleh.

Same thing for New Shiny 2, which I am under contract to write, and if I don’t, they will ask for their money back with many angry lawyers.

And the thing is, I *love* Hunted. Re-reading snippets of it, I think it turned out great, even if a quarter of it was written in a caffeine-fueled haze in December. Edits are due to land this month as the publishing machine creaks to life, so hopefully my editor likes it as much as I do, lol.

I love the characters and the world, and I want to tell the next story.

Right up until the point I sit down to write.

This is a lot of words to say: if you’re struggling with creative work, I see you. Everything is very bleh, and creative work is hard when many of the things that spark creativity (overhearing conversations in the grocery store, seeing people on the street, having drinks with friends) have all been put on hold for a year.

But there is light coming. I’m in group 1B, and last week I got my first dose of the vaccine. The weather is warming up, so more outdoor activities are available. We just have to keep on keeping on. We’ve got this! :)

Happy Valentine’s Day! Here’s a Loch POV snippet!

Loch POV Snippet! Happy Valentine's Day! with a picture of the POLARIS RISING cover.

I know many of you have been yearning for a little peek into Loch’s head, so because this is the month of love, I decided to deliver. Happy early Valentine’s Day!

And if it also helps me procrastinate on the projects that I’m supposed to be working on, well, win, win. 😘

If you haven’t read Polaris Rising yet, then this snippet probably won’t make much sense. But you’re in luck! PR is on sale for just $1.99 this month (international pricing will vary), so if you want a copy of your very own (or if you know someone who would enjoy it), now is an excellent time to pick it up.

Get your copy!
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | Kobo | Google Play

This snippet is from early on, when they are first escaping from the mercs and Rockhurst, in chapter three and four. Happy reading!

The princess was having a nightmare—again. I intentionally banged my hand against the console, which had been enough to rouse her out of her dreams before, but she just whimpered and continued to shift in the cot.

“Ada, wake up.”

She ignored me. I tried to return the favor, but she made another small, hurt sound, and it was all I could take. I might be a monster, but I wasn’t the kind who let others suffer when I could prevent it.

I unclipped from the captain’s chair and cautiously approached the cot. I didn’t think she was faking, but I’d been burned too many times to lower my guard now.

The blankets were twisted around her body and she clutched a sheathed knife in one hand, her knuckles white around the handle. It seemed like I wasn’t the only one who slept with a blade close, but I wondered what had happened to make the daughter of a High House so cautious.

New Shiny (aka HUNTED) Snippet!

This morning, I sent my latest book to my editor! By the end, New Shiny wasn’t exactly an accurate description anymore (more like Die, Book, Die STAB STAB STAB), but now it’s done and sent off! 🎉

I did the world’s fastest reread and edit, since I wrote until Christmas, but I have to say—I love this book. Writing it was really difficult, what with 2020 being *waves hands,* but I think it turned out pretty good! And Mr. M said it was his favorite book so far (replacing Aurora Blazing, lest you think every book is his favorite, lol).

Before I get to the promised snippet, I have more good news: both Chaos Reigning and The Queen’s Triumph are in the semi-final round of the inaugural Swoon Awards!

As you can see from the tweet above, the SFR category is rife with fantastic books, but thankfully, in this round you can vote for up to five books! If you feel so inclined, I would love for you to vote for mine. :)

And now, the snippet. The usual disclaimer applies: rough draft, subject to change, etc, etc. If you haven’t read any of the other snippets, then you might want to do that first just to get a little context.

The proximity chime cut off whatever Eli was going to say. “Show me,” I said, moving to the nearest screen.

Torran Fletcher had arrived without so much as a message of warning. As I watched, he climbed the cargo ramp, three Valoffs in full armor behind him, each of them pushing a levcart piled with supplies.

I growled under my breath.

Merry Christmas!

Our gas-log fireplace with a fire burning for the first time. A tile hearth and the very edge of our lit Christmas tree.
Our fireplace works! Who knew?

Merry Christmas and happy holidays! This year has been a little rough (massive understatement), but I hope you are enjoying some peace and happiness as the year draws to a close.

This is the first year we’re not visiting our family for the holidays, and I think it would be a lot rougher if I hadn’t been on deadline this month. But I’ve worked for 25+ days straight, so time sort of lost all meaning.



Well, the rough draft is done, as of about 8:30 last night. It still needs some pretty serious edits, but at least I made it to the end. Everything else can be fixed, so huge weight lifted. If you’ve been around for a while, then you know that writing this year has been super difficult for me. At the beginning of December, I wasn’t sure I would hit my early January deadline because I needed to write so much.

But I did it!

I wrote nearly 44k words this month. For comparison, in November, when I was also super worried about the deadline, I wrote 12k. (You can see why I was worried.)

I’m chalking it up as a Christmas miracle.

We don’t have any big plans today, since it’s just Mr. M and me, but we bought some nice steaks for dinner, and now that the book is done, I’m going to enjoy a day off. Edits can wait until tomorrow.

I hope you and yours have a good day, and if you’re not seeing family this year to keep others safe, know that your kindness and generosity is appreciated. 💕

Happy holidays, and I wish you all the best in 2021!