On Deadlines and Royalties

I didn’t make it. When I accepted the Essential Superman Encyclopedia project, it came with an April 30 deadline. However, today is May 1 and I am working on R.

It became apparent last week that there was no way I could finish J-Z in a mere nine weeks. My editor, Chris, agreed and has given me a little leeway. As it is, I’ve been delivering steadily so he’s got plenty to edit and graphic research. Besides, A-I should have been delivered yesterday so he’s got more than enough to review.

The work is steady and I am fairly pleased with what’s being written. Factually, my butt has been repeatedly saved thanks to John Wells who finds the nuggets I have overlooked. The readers will be well served.

Meantime, Haunting Museums came out as expected this week and when my copy arrived, I was floored to see that Editor Brian M. Thomsen dedicated the book to both me and to Robbie. He wrote, “For Robert and Robbie Greenberger, Fighters All (and an inspiration as well).” Sadly, below it was a dedication from primary author John Schuster to Brian, who tragically died from a heart attack during the book’s production. Brian was an old friend and losing him during last year was a hard blow.

Over at the Trek BBS, there has been a thread going on about author advances and royalties, something I’ve touched on here as well.  The rule of thumb is to always get as much of an advance as possible since far too few books ever earn out their advance and pay royalties. Its one reason, many media tie-in books have stopped offering royalties at all.

People imagine books selling in the tens or hundreds of thousands, given the boasts from the Dean Koontzs and John Grishams of the world. The reality, of course, is far different. I got royalty statements from BenBella Books recently for the essay collections I’ve contributed to and was astonished to see that they sold in the low four figures. Books based on hot properties such as Grey’s Anatomy and Spider-Man couldn’t sell better than that is probably more of an average book’s sales than what the conventional belief is. The editors, publishers and authors work very hard on their books and to see them appreciated by so few is sad.

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