What Does “Keep 100% of Your Royalties” Really Mean?



(This is part of the How to Navigate the Overcrowded World of Self-Publishing series.)

One of your top concerns as a self-publishing author of course is how much you can make per book. It’s your book, you’re publishing it, so you should keep 100% of the royalties, right? Obviously, the answer is yes, but does that really happen? Many self-publishing services (especially the large book mills) twist their pricing schemes to make it seem like you actually get to keep all of the profit–that they are only getting paid the $350-$999 they charge you up front. Some even provide a handy calculator so you can play around with retail prices and discounts until you land on the profit margin you want. It’s a brilliant sales tactic.

And it’s often disingenuous.

If you actually run the numbers they give you, you’ll find that, on top of the upfront fee they charge for basic services, some of these companies also add between $3-5 per book to the printing costs before cutting you a check for the 100% net royalty they promise.

Now, in general, there’s nothing wrong with adding a few extra bucks to the actual printing price. Publishers need to make money for their expertise too, and this is a good way to do it. What is disingenuous about some of these calculators is that they hide this extra charge while giving the impression that they’re being 100% transparent and putting you in control.

Also, while technically you are keeping 100% of the net profit of your book, in reality you’re still sharing your royalty. Again, there’s nothing wrong with this, and unless you are going to handle every facet of publishing a book yourself, there’s no way around it. But in my opinion, $3-5 per book is too much for a company to keep. It’s too deep a cut into a self-publishing author’s royalties. You need to find a company that will be more fair and honest, one that will let you keep more of your profit, for real.



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