Dear Miss Snark...
Wonderful blog you have here. Anyway, here is my question:
If an author (unagented) has reason to not exactly swallow whole every word given to him by his independant publisher, what recourse would he have in terms of verifying sales vs. returns and other complicated royalty calculations? Are there ways of independantly verifying this information? Must one request some kind of audit? Your experience and wisdom on such matters would be much appreciated.
Standard publishing contracts have an audit clause. It allows an author, or an author's representative to audit the books once a year.
If you suspect chicanery or erroneous reporting, drop me an email. There is a company here in New York that specializes in royalty review. If she finds a mistake, she gets a percentage. If she doesn't it's free. She makes her living doing this. That tells you something.
And it's not always chicanery. Royalty statements are notoriously complex and unclear. Even the publishers can't explain them.