Royalty

We are a fickle group.

A couple hundred years ago, we Americans couldn’t wait to rid ourselves of the awful Monarch across the Pond. The coincidence of that individual’s first name and two recent presidents is just that, a coincidence.

Back then, we grumbled about significant subjects such as tea, and drivel like the taxation and representation stuff.

Today, of course, we find ourselves endless fascinated by the same cluster of people: The Royals.

Of the currently most prominent, one remains – for the moment – unwed. The other finds to his chagrin that his wife, not a direct bloodline to the throne, more fascinating than the follicle-challenged prince. Sad days, man, sad days.

But, finally, it is royalty that brings me to today’s point. Or, more precisely, royalties.

The other day a check arrived. It was for royalties on sales for a book published in 1986. It was one title in an annual series that eventually totaled five. (What, one wonders, was wrong with the other four titles?)

Issued only in hardcover, the books were expensive when initially published three decades ago and remain (more)so today. They live on on Amazon.

The book’s content and cost made it a less-than-likely candidate for adoption as a college class textbook. Which, by the way, is where the real money is in book publishing. At least for academics. (Elsewhere, it’s children’s books and cook books; can’t have enough of either, apparently.)

So it didn’t exactly shoot up the best seller list. Anyone’s list.

Instead, the book served the traditionally narrow and shallow market comprised of like-minded scholars and researchers.

The royalty firm reported a grand annual total of two copies sold. Both overseas, which means a smaller royalty rate. And . . . one permission to reprint.

Ah ha! And rubbing hands together in glee: Now I’m in the money!

I plowed through all this information before getting to the accompanying check.

Happily, a dinner awaits me. A very good dinner, but not a great one. Filling but not fabulous.

Don’t misinterpret. I didn’t mind receiving the check. At all. And promptly cashed it.

I was amazed that after 30 years, multiple changing ownership for the publication’s copyright, they were able to find me.

But further careful scrutiny of the royalty statement also reveals no crown accompanies the check.

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