Walk Softly and Carry a Big Royalty Check

T.R. upon reading his spring royalty statement

Neil is reading Colonel Roosevelt, by Edmund Morris. The other night he shared with me that T.R. had his share of writer’s woes, too. Though initially robust, sales of his African Game Trails totaled fewer than 40,000 copies, a disappointment to his publisher Charles Scribner. In August of 1912, royalties for four of his books added up to $895. And this in the day when writers were being offered royalties of 50%! (that’s what the Colonel got offered for his memoir, from Macmillan).

I don’t have the exact figures anymore, but I once got a royalty check for some $8, minus my then agent’s 15%. As James Michener once said, “In America, you can make a fortune as a writer, but you can’t make a living.”

Ah, but ain’t it a grand career?!

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