December 11th, 2015

Show Me the Money: Royalties in Anthology Contracts

SusanSpann_WITSSusan Spann

The year is drawing to a close, but our series on anthology contracts is going strong. Today, it’s time to say “show me the money” – and look at some of the different royalty structures in the anthology world.

Some anthologies pay the contributors royalties, while others offer a flat fee, and still others pay contributors nothing. Some give profits to charities, or non-profit organizations; other anthologies are organized for private profit. Only you, the contributing author, can decide which structure(s) work for you—and often, the acceptable royalty structure will vary with the work and the anthology in question. The keys are:

  1. When it comes to royalties, anthologies vary
  1. Know, and evaluate, the royalty terms before you commit.

Always ask–and get a clear answer–about the royalty structure before you contribute your work to an anthology. Make sure you have a written anthology contract, and that it states, with clarity, how the publisher will handle the sales proceeds and who will receive them.

Even if the anthology doesn’t pay royalties to contributing authors, the contract should state who receives the money earned on anthology sales.

What Does it Mean if the Contract Says Authors Receive “Consideration”?

“Consideration” is the legal term for value a person receives in return for entering into a contract. By law, every contract must have consideration, but it doesn’t have to be money. Consideration can take the form of money, rights, an exchange of promises, or a unicorn—it’s any (legally permitted) thing of value (physical or non-physical) that the person signing the contract agrees to accept. One court famously stated that “even a peppercorn will do” if that’s what the signatories agree on.

In many publishing contracts, the “consideration” is money. In anthology contracts, consideration can be money, or it can be the fact that the story appears in the anthology (with or without some free author copies too).

What should an anthology consideration or royalty paragraph look like?

If the author does not receive payments or royalties on sales of the work, the anthology contract language will probably look a lot like this:

CONSIDERATION. Consideration of the Author’s Work for possible publication in the Anthology and, if appropriate, inclusion of the Work in the Anthology constitutes the full and complete compensation due to Author by [Publisher], under this Agreement or otherwise. No additional compensation is due Author whether or not [Publisher] ever Publishes, distributes, markets, or sells any copies of the Anthology. If the Author’s Work appears in the Anthology, [Publisher] will also provide Author with [some real number of] complimentary copies of the first edition of the Anthology, in printed format, after publication. Author acknowledges that no royalties are due, payable, or owed to Author on sales of the Anthology, regardless of the number of copies of the Anthology produced, printed, and/or sold. All receipts from Anthology sales will be received by Publisher, and all profits will be donated to Charity X.

Note that the language includes the important elements relating to royalties:

  1. It explains what the author receives: “inclusion in the Anthology (if appropriate)” and “author copies.” This is the author’s consideration.
  1. It states whether or not the author will receive royalty payments: “no royalties are due, payable or owed to Author…” So, in this case, the author gets no royalties.
  1. It states who gets the money earned on sales of the anthology: “All receipts from Anthology sales will be received by Publisher, and all profits will be donated to Charity X.”

If the author does receive payments or royalties, that language must appear in the contract. Often, with paying anthologies, the paragraph is titled “Royalties” or “Author Payments” instead of “Consideration.”

The contract may also allow the author to purchase copies of the anthology at a reduced price, and may specify whether or not the author can re-sell those copies at a profit.

Whether or Not to Participate in Non-Royalty-Bearing Anthologies is a Business Decision for the Author Alone.

Ask three different people whether or not you should publish your work in non-royalty bearing anthologies, and you’ll get at least three answers (more, if you ask a lawyer).

Sometimes, it makes business sense to participate in a non-royalty-bearing anthology.

People do die of “exposure,” but for authors seeking to increase their publishing credits, anthologies often offer a chance for good exposure—the kind that generates revenue by introducing other authors’ readers to your work.

Non-royalty-bearing anthologies may also provide financial benefits to nonprofit organizations and charities, allowing contributing authors to “give back” to groups that benefit a larger community, without directly costing the author money.

Finally, non-royalty-bearing anthologies may offer a chance to participate in a project that was never designed to generate a profit. Some anthologies sell at cost, or get distributed free of charge, as a service to certain communities or to readers. Here, the author knows from the start that the anthology is not intended to generate profits. (Note: even here, the contract should state what happens to profits or proceeds the anthology does generate.)

Some authors don’t contribute to projects unless the anthology offers royalties. Others elect to publish in non-royalty bearing projects aligned with their personal goals. As long as you know up front what kind of situation you’re entering into, the choice is yours–and yours alone–and you should treat it as a business decision, taking all of the relevant facts and circumstances into account.

Ultimately, the choice to participate is less important than making sure, if you do participate, that you have a proper contract and that the publisher is direct and up-front about where the money is going.

How do you feel about royalty payments for anthologies?
claws-coverSusan Spann writes the Shinobi Mysteries, featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and his Portuguese Jesuit sidekick, Father Mateo. Her debut novel, CLAWS OF THE CAT (Minotaur Books, 2013), was a Library Journal Mystery Debut of the Month and a finalist for the Silver Falchion Award for Best First Novel. The fourth Shinobi Mystery will release from Seventh Street Books in August 2016. Susan is the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ 2015 Writer of the Year, and also a transactional attorney whose practice focuses on publishing law and business. When not writing or practicing law, she raises seahorses and rare corals in her marine aquarium. Find her online at, on Twitter (@SusanSpann), and on Facebook (SusanSpannAuthor).


5 comments to Show Me the Money: Royalties in Anthology Contracts

  • Fae Rowen

    This is very helpful information, Susan. As always. Love your PubLaw advice! Thanks!

  • You know I’m saving all these for when I’m going to need them, right? Thanks, Susan!

  • Thanks for this. I’ve been reading and comenting on your series here, and could use you’re input…
    I have a story accepted for an anthology, but the publisher says there will be no pay and that it will be in an omnibus addition. I really would rather submit elsewhere, but im just starting out and need the exposure, and a lot of other well known authors in my genre will be in it.
    It took him a very long time for him to get back to me, and now he’s still vague as to when it’s scheduled to come out.
    I’m kind of wanting to just submit elsewhere without telling him, in hopes of getting in somewhere else sooner, and with possible pay…but, he’s a credible publisher in my genre, and I don’t want to get a bad reputation for simultaneous submissions when I’m just starting out…

  • Victoria Marie Lees

    Thank you for this knowledgeable advice. I’m saving these posts for when I might need them also.

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