AUTHORS: Are you a victim of royalty theft? Here are the signs! – by Angela Hoy

One of the first signs that a publisher is about to go out of business (or that they’re just plain stealing from you) is late or non-existent royalty payments. Another huge sign is ignored emails, unreturned phone calls, and unanswered snail mail.

Is your publisher feeding you one or more of these ridiculous, unbelievable excuses?

“The check’s in the mail.”
“We’ll pay you next week. Promise!”
“That bounced check was a bank error!”
“We had a software/system problem…”
“You need to contact my bookkeeper.”
“We ran out of stamps.”
“We ran out of checks.”
“We changed bank accounts.”
“The distributors/retailers take 6 months to pay…”
“We can’t post your royalties until EVERYONE has reported final numbers.”

NONE OF THESE IS A VALID EXCUSE FOR HOLDING YOUR ROYALTIES! And, most (if not all) of them are probably LIES!

Let’s break these lies down with a little bit of common sense.

“The check’s in the mail.”

If your publisher has owed you money for weeks or months, this excuse is B.S. Your check is NOT in the mail, just as it wasn’t a few weeks or months ago. If it truly IS in the mail, he or she put it in the mailbox just moments before  emailing you.

“We’ll pay you next week. Promise!”

Some publishers don’t even give excuses. They just lie about intending to make payment so you’ll stop emailing them for a brief period. And, since they know you’re upset, they’ll probably not bother to open any future emails from you.

“That bounced check was a bank error!”

I can count on zero fingers the number of times I’ve heard that a bank was responsible for a firm’s bounced check. This excuse is completely unbelievable. If your publisher DOES blame the bank, contact that bank. The name of their bank is on that bounced check. Demand that bank cover your bank’s fees for the error. You’ll then quickly learn it wasn’t the bank’s mistake at all.

If a publisher doesn’t have sufficient funds in their account to cover the check, they’re not only guilty of royalty theft (which is typically a civil matter – unless there are hundreds of victims) but they’re also guilty of writing a bad check, which is a felony in some states. At this point, they’re just digging themselves in deeper.

“We had a software/system problem…”

All reputable publishers have at least daily system back-ups, as well as IT folks to quickly fix problems. Our company, BookLocker.com has a mirror server, meaning there are always two copies of everything in case one goes down. The “software” or “system error” excuse is also unbelievable. If your publisher is so small that they can’t afford this type of technology, they should have been avoided in the first place. While it’s nice to give the “new guy” in the industry a chance, you’re taking a HUGE gamble when doing so since so many of them have gone out of business.

“You need to contact my bookkeeper.”

What?! Your publisher can’t simply walk down the hall or pick up the phone and ask the bookkeeper what’s up??? If your publisher doesn’t care enough to immediately investigate an accusation of royalty theft, you can bet it is NOT the bookkeeper’s fault.

“We ran out of stamps.”

You can buy stamps at any grocery store or shipping store, and even some convenience stores. You can also walk into the nearest post office. The United States Postal Services operates more than 30,000 post offices and locations in the U.S. And, you can order postage online! Anyone who blames a lack of stamps on late or non-existent royalty payments is lying. And, if there’s a blizzard or some other reason for not taking a shopping trip for stamps, why not send that past-due royalty payment immediately via Paypal?

“We ran out of checks.”

Anyone can walk into their local bank and get a few temporary checks to tide them over. Same day! This is also a B.S. excuse. And, remember, there’s always Paypal!

“We changed bank accounts.”

When you open a new bank account, your bank gives you a book of temporary checks. And, any professional who is switching business bank accounts leaves the old one active until the new one is up and running smoothly, with balances transferred and new checks received. This is another B.S. excuse.

“The distributors/retailers take months to pay…”

One publisher has recently been posting this excuse online. He uses the “slow payment” nonsense for payments he hasn’t sent to authors from Ingram (the distributor), Amazon, and other retailers. In February of last year, he blamed these entities on payments he owed an author from March through June of the previous year.

Being a publisher myself who works directly with Ingram, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the others, I can tell you that his excuse is total B.S. Ingram pays approximately 4 months after a sale – never later than that. That’s right. We’ve worked with them for 20 years. Their payments are NEVER late. They arrive every single month like clockwork. Amazon, BarnesandNoble.com and other ebook retailers pay 2-3 months after a sale, depending on the retailer. They are all consistent.

“We can’t post your royalties until EVERYONE has reported final numbers.”

At BookLocker, we post royalties to the author accounts every single month for every firm that has paid us. We do NOT wait until every single distributor or retailer has paid. If one entity pays a few days late, we’re not going to make our authors wait for money from ALL the others before we credit the royalties to the authors’ account. This is, in my opinion, another stall tactic – and total bull.

In February of last year, a publisher claimed an author’s sales from June, 2017 “were not yet due for distribution.” That was 7 months later! Ingram paid publishers for those sales in October. Yet, the publisher is reporting 7 months later that the sales numbers “were not yet due?” Uh huh…

That publisher also claimed they are the only company paying authors on a monthly basis. HA HA HA HA HA. BookLocker has always paid authors monthly. And, we pay MONTHS faster than that publisher!

If your publisher is feeding you any of these excuses, don’t wait to take action. They will keep giving you excuses while they continue to pocket the monthly payments they are receiving from Ingram, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and others for sales of YOUR BOOK! The longer you wait, the more money you’ll lose.

I have received so many horror stories from authors who waited months and even years for their royalties from lying, cheating, unscrupulous publishers who emailed excuse after excuse before disappearing entirely. Some of them were later arrested but most of them simply vanished with their authors’ money.

Those stories remind me of the Nigerian prince scam. Desperate people keep sending more and more money to the scammer in the hopes they’ll get at least some of their money back some day. Desperate authors may be tempted to wait, and wait, and wait, hoping and praying that their royalties will eventually get paid. But, all the while, the publisher is continuing to pocket THEIR money from distributors and retailers – for months and sometimes years.

If your publisher owes you back royalties, you should immediately move your book to a reputable publisher. BookLocker has been in business for 20 years, and has never made a late royalty payment. And, yes, we have a low-cost publishing program for authors who are upset with their current publisher.

Read about BookLocker’s Disgruntled Author Publishing Program RIGHT HERE.

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