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What sort of royalties do authors get paid? (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
What sort of royalties do authors get paid? (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Collected Wisdom

The worth of words Add to ...

This week, Collected Wisdom is just putting the finishing touches to its epic Toronto novel, And Quiet Flows the Don Valley Parkway. We're confident its sales will be well into the tens. And if people don't like it, they can always use it as a doorstop.

THE QUESTION: What amount of the cover price of a bestselling book goes to the author? George Dunbar of Toronto wants to know.

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THE ANSWER: "First, the cover price (what you're paying in the store) is not always the same as the list price (what the publisher charged the retailer to buy it)," writes Joel Fishbane of Montreal.

He says an author's royalty depends not on what you paid to the store, but what the store paid to the publisher. "Publishers generally sell their books to retailers at 50 per cent off the list price, a percentage of which may go to the author, depending on the terms of the contract."

In the end, he says, "the royalty percentage will always differ according to the moxie of the author, the negotiating power of the author's agent and the generosity of the publisher."

Here's a specific example from Peter Silin of Vancouver, who's the author of Nursing Homes and Assisted Living: The Family's Guide to Making Decisions and Getting Good Care. ("Not a bestseller," he says, but it received "excellent reviews" in its first edition.)

"I receive 7.5 per cent of the wholesale price of my book, and I have to pay 15 per cent of that to my agent. Had it been published by a commercial publisher, rather than an academic publisher, I might have received up to 15 per cent."

THE QUESTION: Why do sleep-deprived people get shadows under their eyes? asked Philippa Hunter of Toronto.

THE ANSWER: "When the skin under one's eyes becomes thin, blood vessels appear more noticeable, giving the impression of dark circles," writes Kate Soles of Victoria. Lack of sleep can make the skin more pale and allow blood vessels to be more visible. "Other factors, including allergies, genetics, iron deficiency and dehydration can also increase the prominence of dark circles. Remedies for these circles include rest and hydration as well as vitamin K cream, limiting salt intake and applying cucumber slices over closed eyes for 15 minutes."

HELP WANTED

  • Why are lumber measurements so misleading? asks G. Nicholson of Toronto. "For example, a piece of wood the hardware store billed as a 2-by-4 is actually more like 1.5 by 3.5 inches, and a 2-by-12 is actually 1.5 by 11."
  • Amanda Van Schyndel of Simcoe, Ont., was recently teaching her Grade 9 food and nutrition class about how the lack of vitamin C results in scurvy, and told the story of British sailors eating limes, or drinking lime juice, to prevent scurvy. "One bright young girl," she says, "asked me why they didn't just eat oranges as they would be much more tasty. I think oranges from Spain would have been as easy as limes to obtain, so I can't really think of why the limes were the solution." Can anyone help?

Send answers and questions to wisdom@globeandmail.com. Please include your name, location and a daytime phone number.

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