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I am an early-career academic in a humanities subject and have been offered my first book contract. The offer is from a reputable international commercial publisher, which has published several recent and important works in my field.

The publisher has offered an advance payment of c.$700/£500 on publication, but does not offer royalties. This is on the basis that most institutions are purchasing digital subscriptions as opposed to physical books or ebooks.

Having no prior experience of book contracts, I would like to gauge if this is a good deal in terms of payment, and what constitutes the norm for royalties for academic books.

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For academic books, there may often be no royalties. And only a small number of copies sold. Maybe if your first book has unexpectedly large sales, you could negotiate something more on future books.

Typically, though, academics publish books not to make money from the book, but to build their academic reputation. And that may lead to promotions, tenure, hiring at more important universities, etc.

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To my knowledge this isn't a good deal. It's great they're offering you an advance, which is uncommon and usually indicates they really want you as an author, but no royalties is also uncommon. The reason they give is a good one - ebook payments are not easy to sort out, since people can e.g. buy an individual chapter and it's not clear how much royalties should come from that. But even though print book sales are low and decreasing, they're still not zero.

I would suggest asking for something like 10% of net sales receipts for print books, offset against royalties. You still might not get much royalties however since academic monograph sales tend to be low, but you should get more than $700/£500.

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