Friday, January 11, 2013

How Publishers Pay Health Care Textbook Authors

"Money isn’t the most important thing in life, but it’s reasonably close to oxygen on the 'gotta have it' scale." —Zig Ziglar

New authors often wonder how they'll get "oxygen" for the book they write. In health care educational publishing, two options are by far the most common, royalties and .work made for hire payments. Let's take a look at each one.


The majority of health care textbook authors make money through royalties, an amount of money based on a percentage of sales of the book. The percentage typically used is called a net royalty, meaning that the actual payment will be based on what the publisher actually receives for each book sold.

The list price of a book might be $75.95, but because of discounts to distributors and chain bookstores, the publisher might average just $50.47 for an actual sale. The net royalty is calculated on that amount.

Royalties are often paid twice yearly, once in the spring and once in the fall, though some publishers distribute quarterly. Check with your publisher for their royalty payment schedule.

Work made for hire

Sometimes a health care publisher will form an agreement with one or more individuals to develop a book on a "work made for hire" basis, often abbreviated "work for hire" or WFH. In such cases the author is paid a certain amount to create certain content.

At that point the relationship usually ends. The publisher is typically free to do with that content whatever it wishes, and the author is free to write for another publisher, even on the same topic.

Payment in such cases, as a rule, is based on whether the author has supplied "acceptable" content. If the publisher deems the content acceptable, the payment is generated.

So, which is best?

There is no "best" answer to that question. With a royalty arrangement, the better the book sells the more the author makes. And then twice a year (or more, depending on the publisher), a check arrives without you having to lift a finger.

Royalty arrangements, though, mean that you won't receive any payment until well after the book is finished, bound, and plunked on a bookstore shelf. So the entire time you're writing the book, you're working without payment, something few of us are accustomed too.

For WFH arrangements, payment comes soon after you finish writing, no strings attached (generally). But then the payments are finished, no checks showing up in your mailbox every now and again. And if the book sells well, you won't share in that success; you'll have already made your money.

Either way you make money; often it's more a matter of when.