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Royalties 101 - Understanding Your Payments

Writers write because they love to write, right? But authors publish because they want to get paid for their writing!

Nothing’s more frustrating to a new author than knowing you made some sales, but you didn’t get paid for them at the end of the month. How dare they withhold your royalties! You know you made some sales...they must be cheating!

Sadly, this does happen. Some publishers do run into financial difficulties, and don’t report or pay out the royalties their authors are owed. But this is rare, and always self-correcting...the indie publishing community is small, and once rumors start spreading about a publisher stealing from their authors, they fold very quickly because all their authors will pull their books immediately. No books = no sales = no publisher.

The simple fact is that royalty payments should be a simple matter to calculate...but they’re not. Why? Because every website takes a different royalty percentage, and pays on a different schedule. Keeping track of all those sales figures can be a nightmare!

To help you understand when you can expect your royalties to be paid, let’s take a look at the primary websites in our affiliate network: Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Google, Fiction4All, Book Oasis / Timeless Erotica / Carnal Pleasures / Carnaltopia, PublishDrive, Smashwords, Stealth, and Excitica.

Smashwords, PublishDrive, and Stealth all submit to multiple sites such as Apple, Barnes & Noble, Flipkart, Kobo, and Scribd, just to mention a few. Because of this, payments from these sites are delayed because they’re waiting to get paid from each of their affiliates; they can’t pay us until they’re paid, and we can’t pay you until we’re paid. Even sites like Fiction4All and Google pay 30 days after the month’s end…for the same reason.

It sounds like a shell game, and many times it feels like one; but a shell game won’t give you precise times when each player pays out. We will.

Amazon is infamous for allowing readers to refund books even if they’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed them. Because of this, they don’t pay out until 60 days after month’s if you make sales in April, you won’t see royalties until at least the end of June, and it could be longer if you don’t meet their minimum number of sales for the month.

To make things worse, their royalty structure is draconian: if your book is priced between $2.99 and $9.99, they will graciously pay you 70% of your book’s retail price. However, if your book is priced lower than $2.99 or higher than $9.99, they take a whopping 65%, leaving you only a 35% royalty for your hard work.

Note: Books submitted to Japan, Brazil, Mexico, and India will only pay out 35% royalties, even if they fall within the ”premium” $2.99 - $9.99 range.  Highway robbery? You bet, which is just one of many reasons Amazon has such a bad reputation in the industry. However, their mystique is such that many authors will put up with their dishonest practices just for the thrill of being able to say, “My book is published on Amazon!”


Apple doesn’t allow as many chargebacks, but they also hold payment for 60 days. Since they only accept submissions through e-publishing giants like Smashwords, Lulu, and Stealth, or else you must use a Mac computer to access their site, very few people submit to them independently. (If you submit to them independently, they also require you to purchase your own ISBNs, unlike most other publishers, which can get very expensive very quickly.)


Although they are one of the most decent and honest big publishers, their royalty rates vary dramatically depending on whether you submit directly to them, or whether you submit through a wholesale site like Smashwords. Our recommendation is to submit through Smashwords, as they pay 60% on anything over 99 cents, as opposed to submitting directly where they pay 65% on all books priced $2.99 - $9.99, but only 40% for anything above or below that range. They also pay out 60 days after month’s end, just in case there are any chargebacks (yes, they have recently started allowing chargebacks, too…it’s sad to see how the mighty have fallen!)

Barnes & Noble

Just when you thought it was starting to make sense, Google throws a wrench into the works.

Their big claim to fame is that they undercut everyone else by approximately 22%. The nightmare scenario is that if Amazon sees a book priced lower on any other website, they will price-match the $2.99 book you published on Amazon will suddenly be listed for about $2.35...which, coincidentally, is outside their “premium” price range. So now instead of paying you 70% for the book sale, they only have to pay you 35%. Nice, huh? Did I mention how many authors despise Amazon?

On top of this, Google only pays 52% royalties to its authors. Fortunately they pay 52% on the initial $2.99, not $2.35. But it’s still a huge whopping chunk.

There’s a way around this: If you raise the price just on Google by 33%, and they automatically reduce it by 22%, the final price comes out to almost exactly the same price you used everywhere else. That means Amazon won’t reduce their price, so you still get the full royalty amount from them...and to really sweeten the deal, Google pays you 52% on the increased price...making your final royalty about 70% rather than 52%.

Who says you can’t beat ’em at their own game?


PublishDrive is a new publisher based in Hungary. Until recently their focus was on educational books; however, recently they threw open their doors to all legal genres, including explicit erotica and taboo topics. Their sites include the brand-new Chinese e-market, (Southeast Asia’s biggest retailer e-stores), (Hungary’s biggest e-book retailer network), (the web’s newest wildly popular subscription-based library), and lots more! They pay 60 days after month’s end like most other ‘aggregate’ distributors.


This site may be small compared to mega-sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but some of our best sales come through them. They accept all genres, but specialize in BDSM and “taboo” erotica. They pay 30 days after month’s end, and their royalty rate is generally about 70%. However, since they are a British-based website, currency exchange rates can alter this percentage somewhat...and sales made through their affiliate program will be considerably smaller.


These four sites are lumped together because they are all owned by Boruma Publishing partners. This gives you an unparalleled advantage: since they are under our personal control, they pay out immediately after month’s end, usually within 1 - 2 calendar days. No waiting 30-180 days for your hard-earned royalties. They take a flat 25% royalty, and accept every legal genre, including hardcore and “taboo” erotica.

Book Oasis, Carnal Pleasures, Carnaltopia, and Timeless Erotica

Again, just when you thought things were making sense, Smashwords has to be…different.

Whereas other sites pay a percentage-based royalty, Smashwords’ royalties will vary all over the place. Generally speaking, they will range between 18 - 24%, giving authors a 76 - 82% royalty rate. However, this is based on the credit card processing costs associated with each specific order, so the author’s royalty rate will be higher if several books were ordered (i.e. the credit card processing cost was split between several books) and lower if only one book was ordered.

If this is giving you a headache, don’t feel gives us a headache, too, and we’ve been dealing with it for years!

In response to pressure from authors, other publishers, and the industry-at-large, Smashwords has finally begun paying on a monthly basis like nearly all other sites.  Their payments are still 60 days after month’s end, but at least they aren’t holding your hard-earned royalties for up to four months anymore.


This affiliate publisher services 70+ large and small international websites. Since each website has its own royalty rate, we will not try to detail them all here. Rates are comparable to most U.S. publishing companies, though the foreign exchange rates can skew these figures somewhat. They pay out on a monthly basis, 60 days after month’s end, like most “aggregate” publishers.


This site accepts all taboo topics…but hands down, Excitica has the absolute worst payout in the industry. Instead of paying authors 30 or 60 days after the month's end, they only pay on a quarterly basis. They also take a 40% royalty, which makes them one of the worst independent sites around.


Boruma Publishing will submit to any or all of these sites, and more besides, at your request. For this, we charge a mere 15% royalty rate for all book sales, to cover hosting and credit card processing fees. (This 15% rate is already figured into Book Oasis, Carnal Pleasures, Carnaltopia, and Timeless Erotica’s 25% rate, making them the most lucrative websites in our affiliate network.) There are no hidden fees, no underhanded “gotchas.” What you see is what you get.

So where does Boruma Publishing figure into all of this?

- We will process your book into multiple formats, and send these to you upon completion of your submission to whichever affiliates you specify.

- We will NOT make changes to the content of your book without your knowledge or approval; the only changes we may make will be to the formatting, so your book can be processed and submitted to the sites you choose.  (And if we happen to notice a typo, we’ll probably correct that, too. It’s an occupational hazard.  LOL)

- If you require a professional-quality book cover, our graphic artists will go to work on your behalf. There is a small fee for this service––quality graphic artwork is never free––but our prices are reasonable, and we will continue working until you are pleased with the results.

- We will accurately track your sales from each of these affiliates, and provide you with secure real-time stats so you can track your previous and current sales.

- Should there be questions or complaints about your book content or cover, we will intercede on your behalf with the affiliate, and do our best to resolve any problems.

- We will send you prompt payment, and a comprehensive month-end report, for all sales credited and paid in the immediately-preceding month.

- We will send you a comprehensive year-end report for your tax records (all taxes accrued from book sales are your sole responsibility).

- If you would like to see a “snapshot” of your current sales, just let us know. We believe in complete transparency at all times.

- If you have any questions, or would like to discuss additional publishing opportunities, we’re available seven days a week to help you. After all, we’re authors, too...we understand the importance of friendly communication!

And what, exactly, are you getting?

Competing publishers have accused us of being “too good to be true,” and tried to cast doubts on our honesty and reputation. Such accusations only make them look bad, because our record speaks for itself. If anyone tries to tell you our services and rates are “too good to be true,” just ask our authors what their experience has been. We’re proud of our great reputation, and will work hard to live up to your expectations!

Are we “too good to be true”?