“My book is for sale for $400 online! Why didn’t I get paid more for that?”

“My book is for sale for $400 online! Why didn’t I get paid more for that?”

Q –

I found a copy of my book is for sale online for $400! Why didn’t I get a higher royalty for that? It’s not fair that someone would get that much money for my book but I don’t get part of it! My publisher hasn’t responded to my emails. Do you know how it works? 

A –

I assume you are looking at ebay, or at a listing by an Amazon reseller. Amazon reseller listings are full of errors. They’re database driven and humans don’t even look at them. If it’s ebay, some people selling used books priced them sky-high if they can’t find other copies of that book online anywhere. It’s a gamble but many people do it.

As far as your royalties go, whoever originally purchased that copy (if it even exists at all) paid for it and, if your publisher is honest, you’ve already been paid for it, too. However, authors and publishers don’t get paid every time a print book is resold.

If you walk into a used bookstore and pick up an old collector’s edition of The Old Man and the Sea, the only person who will make money on that sale is the bookstore’s owner.


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One Response to "“My book is for sale for $400 online! Why didn’t I get paid more for that?”"

  1. Mike Perry  July 24, 2020 at 1:27 pm

    Angela is right. Authors only earn from the first sale of their book. After that it belongs to whoever bought it to sell at whatever price they choose.

    Some painters are negotiating contracts that give them a slice of any subsequent sale for their art. A painting that they sold for $100 as a new artist might sell for $100,000 if they become famous. They get part of that. But that doesn’t adapt well to books.

    As you can see from this link, the first editions of Tolkien’s books now sell for high prices. The only way you as an author can get onto that is to stock up on your first editions and hope your books achieve the same success.


    –Michael W. Perry, author of Untangling Tolkien