Royalties have grown tenfold since 2005

Daniel Slager — 06/12/2024

The second weeks of June and December are always particularly sweet for us. We pay royalties to authors at these times each year, and these numbers have grown in delightful ways.

First, a few brief words of explanation for those not in the book business. Our relationships with the writers we publish are complex and multi-layered. Publishing literary books entails building relationships with authors that work on artistic, promotional, legal, and financial levels. As is true with most trade publishers, we pay writers (or, in many cases, their agents) cash advances on royalties, the latter of which accrue as their books sell in the marketplace. As advances earn out, royalties begin accruing. And then the more books we sell, the more royalties we pay to authors.

Our organization has grown over the last couple decades. When I came to work here in 2005, our organizational expenses totaled roughly $1.5 million, and we were paying some $150K in advances and royalties annually. In 2024, we have budgeted for organizational expenses in the range of $2.5 million, and for advances and royalties in the range of $1.5 million. This week, in fact, we will pay nearly $700K in royalties. Put more simply, our organization has nearly doubled in size over the last two decades, while what we pay to our authors of books has grown tenfold.

Our mission is “to identify, nurture, and publish transformative literature, and build an engaged community around it.” Many of the books we publish require the financial support of our community, and our nonprofit model is built to provide for this. Other books on our list resonate in the marketplace for years, enabling us to share a growing portion of the proceeds with the artists who created the work.

It’s a virtuous cycle, and we are honored to be part of it!

Daniel Slager

Daniel Slager is the Publisher and CEO of Milkweed Editions. Prior to joining the organization in 2005, he worked in New York as an editor and translator.