You say that it's not uncommon for publishers to screw up royalty statements. As an agentless children's author I'm reading my own statement. I contacted the editor to get some help interpreting the thing because I couldn't make the math work. I was told I *can't* make the math work given the information on the statement. Apparently there are other factors involved that aren't given. So how, exactly, am I supposed to check my royalty statements? Is this normal? Would an agent get a different statement? Should I demand one with all the info?
Miss Snark knows when to call in the big guns.
Reading royalty statements is a good example of that.
Thus, Miss Snark places a call to the cavalry for the answer to this. Fortunatley, the cavalry is located right here in NYC on the Lexington Avenue line:
Dear Miss Snark,
I love your blog!
Unfortunately, there is no definitive resource to go to for understanding your royalty statements. Over the years, with the assistance of the AAR, publishers have revised their statement formats to reveal information not previously obvious, such as reserves for returns, but the statements are still not easy to comprehend.
In response to the email you received from the children’s author regarding a statement that did not arithmetically calculate, this is not unusual. Most systems allow adjustments to be made and "forced" through in the royalty due column.
Since editors don’t usually get involved in the royalty statement generation area, they are not the people to go to for explanations, but I know how frustrating it is trying to get someone in the royalty department to explain. Agents don’t receive any better statements or information. This is definitely a red flag indicator that help is needed!
Whether agented or not, authors should have an understanding of their contracts. Look to see if an audit clause exists and if yes, does it have a limitation as to when a royalty statement becomes final.
Publishers realize that a request to review the books and records is the right of an author, and it has become the ordinary course of business to them. We have never had a situation where negative ramifications have resulted from an author invoking his/her right to audit. Although many accountants have audit expertise, you need to have an advocate with publishing industry expertise to get to the bottom of the problems.
For the past 15 years Royalty Review LLC ( has been assisting authors, agents, attorneys and publishers in recovering royalties. We would be happy to converse (email me at Royalty@aol.com, phone 212-754-1984) with anyone in need of additional information.
Regards, Gail R. Gross
Royalty Review LLC
845 Third Avenue, Suite 1300
New York,. NY 10022