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Q&A: How to divide royalties when one author retires

Q: “How do you determine the division of royalties, the typical percentages for members of the author team, and the percentage for the author who is retiring from the author team?”

A: Don Collins, Former Managing Editor:

“Royalties are usually based upon the amount of work contributed and seniority of the authors. In some cases there is a sliding scale based upon the success of the product. A retiring author usually gets residuals based upon the past success of the product. Royalty rates vary from company to company and different rates are accorded to school texts and college texts.”

A: Stephen Gillen, Attorney, Wood Heron & Evans:

“Royalties between co-authors of equal stature are typically allocated in proportion to the division of labor. If each is responsible for half the book, then the split is 50/50, and so on. If one is pre-eminent in the field and has many publication credits and the other is a neophyte, either the split or the workload may be adjusted to compensate.

When a new author comes on to revise an existing work, the new author might be asked to work on the first such edition for a fixed fee with no guarantee of participation on subsequent editions – this is a sort of trial run. If this works out, the new author may be invited to participate in royalties. Typically, the split on the first such edition would be say 1/4 of the royalties for revising 1/2 of the work (in recognition of the senior author’s past contributions).”