Reeling In The Royalties - A Dangerous Weakness?

Posted at 08:47am on 13th August 2008

Well, what did you think of that for a piece of audacious publicity? I read it several times, trying to stem a rising tide of envy with a modicum of magnanimity – and still didn’t see beyond the obvious.

I’m referring to the 93 year old lady who has just published her first book. Good on her! She’s beaten British author Mary Wesley (the previous claimant of a first novel in advanced years, and with whom I once shared an agent) by at least a decade. And anyone who can complete a novel, at any age, deserves a medal in my book – if you’ll excuse the pun. I wish the nonagenarian all the luck in the world.

My beef is with the newspaper who published the story, and the publishers who, presumably, either pushed it out there, or at least let it stand at face value. Well, they’d be foolish not to, wouldn’t they? I’d give my eye-teeth for publicity like this!

The report reads like this: The lady in question is to use the proceeds from sales of her book to re-house those of her friends who are presently stuck in care homes. She has bought a large house at a cost of £310,000. In it, she plans to accommodate a number of friends, but the dilemma she faces is which of the dozens of applications she should accept. Every book that sells, she says, will help to provide a home for someone.

Now, wouldn’t you, like me, assume that this dear lady’s book has reached sales of something in excess of the £310,000 she paid for her house? That’s going some! Even J.K Rowling wouldn’t dismiss sales like that as beneath her. And when you know what I now know – well . . .

As I say, I read it two or three times before the penny dropped. The devil is in the detail. Or in the tense, actually. Let’s re-read the report: The lady is to use the proceeds. Ah ha! So the proceeds have not yet been used. Have they, perhaps, not yet been produced? She has bought a house. She plans to move her friends in. Every book sale will help . . .

Far be it from me to burst the bubble. I hope against hope that this lovely lady, with her spirit of generosity, has her wish. And who knows, perhaps this publicity will do it for her. But it certainly won’t leave the AuthorHouse nest unfeathered, either. Because they are a self-publishing company. And sadly, the not inconsiderable upfront costs they charge their authors will leave our 93 year old little margin for profit.


Don’t forget, those of you who are would-be-authors, on Saturday we’ll be beginning a series on The How-to of Writing. Part One will be about how to get ideas together for a plot. See you then!

The author of a number of books, one a Sunday Times No. 4 Bestseller, Mel is also an experienced Speaker and has addressed live audiences of between 20 and 700+ in addition to participating in TV and Radio chat shows.

Her latest novel ‘A Painful Post Mortem’ may be purchased online here at: (for sales outside UK); or at

Approximately 35% of all book sales from this site is for charity. To book her as a Speaker, contact her at:

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