One of the things I discuss in publishing workshops is my concept: "The Myth of Royalties." I do so to set realistic expectations for authors. I explain the math to help them decide on their path to publishing. Successful print-on-demand books pay royalties from the first book sold, and many authors, like myself, receive a check monthly, yet sales of Release Your Writing and Computer Ease, are well under 3,000 copies.
I know it is true that some books do earn out their advance, and begin paying royalties to the author. But the math indicates few reach that level, and that the royalty may result in only one or two dollars per book. As an optimistic friend of mine said over breakfast one day: "Yes, but a book can sell 100,000 copies." That's the only way the dollars add up, but it does happen, and that sparks hope in every writer.
On March 20, 2009, Jeff Zeleny of The New York Times wrote:
"The power of President Obama’s pen is $8,605,429, and counting.
"Four years ago, Mr. Obama became a millionaire through the popularity of his autobiography, which was quickly followed by a second book, “The Audacity of Hope.” It is a gift that keeps on giving: $3.89 in royalties for Mr. Obama for each hardcover, $1.03 per paperback and $4.50 for an audiobook. (emphasis added).
... "When Mr. Obama wrote “Dreams From My Father,” which came out in 1995, he did not sell enough books to pay back the advance of $30,817. But when it was reprinted after his speech to the Democratic National Convention in 2004, sales flourished, which led to another book deal worth $1.9 million…"