Wednesday, January 14, 2004

SORRY for the recent lack of posts, but I'm busy finishing my new book. The final project: the index. One of the many oddities of book publishing is that the author's royalties get docked to pay the "professional indexer." You'd think the index, like the editing and the publicity and the printing and the packaging and the distribution, would be a cost of doing business, but tradition is tradition, and money saved is money saved.

Any normal author would shrug and accept this reality, but for both "Lapsing Into a Comma" and "The Elephants of Style" I have chosen to do the indexes myself. It's tedious as all hell, but it's better than giving up my first $500 to $600 in royalties.

Royalties, if you don't know, are payments made to authors who have "earned back" their advances. Say you were paid a $500,000 advance for your memoirs (my advances thus far have been, uh, less). Your contract would stipulate a per-book royalty (typically 10 percent of the cover price for hardcover books or 7 percent for paperbacks), but all royalties up to that $500,000 would go toward "earning back" your advance. You don't have to reimburse the publisher if sales fall short of that, but you don't get paid actual royalties until they exceed the advance.

Before "Lapsing" came out, the publisher essentially said I shouldn't worry about the indexing fee, because it was unlikely I'd get to the royalty stage. I'm no Lynne Truss, but this time nobody expressed any doubt that I'd eventually owe that fee.

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