Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Envious? Who, Me?

The Chronicle of Higher Education
May 26th, 2015

Last month I received my annual statement of sales for my first book, which was published in 2001. For a moment, I felt very excited. I had learned earlier in the year that the book had finally gone into paperback, and I’d hoped that might bring it renewed attention. I opened the envelope and learned that in 2014 the book sold precisely one copy, entitling me to $4 in royalties.
Understandably, the press doesn’t write checks for royalty totals under $25. Too bad: I could have bought a very nice cappuccino with my earnings.
In 1988, when I began my graduate studies as a Civil War historian, Princeton University’s James McPherson earned a Pulitzer Prize for his narrative of the Civil War, Battle Cry of Freedom. The book sold 700,000 copies. The royalties must have made him a millionaire, providing an enormous economic supplement to the salary for his endowed chair. The book is worthy of the acclaim that it received. In fact, it has contributed greatly to my own scholarship and teaching.

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