I understand the basics of royalties. But is it typical for a new author to get a royalty? How much do they usually get? What happens if they don't sell many books? I guess you have to pay the company back if you didn't make enough to cover royalty? Thanks for any information.
Yes, all authors should get a royalty. How much they get depends on the contract they sign. Each publisher is a little different but a typical royalty expectation is between 6 and 10% of either the wholesale or the retail price (again, depending on what you negotiate with your publisher).
Some authors may also receive an advance, although there are many LDS publishers who do not pay advances under any circumstances. An advance is a pre-payment of royalties based upon a publisher's expectation of sales. IF you get an advance, you will usually get a portion of it upon acceptance of your completed manuscript and the rest when the book goes to press. IF you get an advance, you will not earn additional royalties until you have sold enough books to have earned that amount in royalties.
For example, let's say your royalty is $1 per book. (That's not likely for a first author in the LDS market, but it's easier to do the math this way.) Then let's say you got a $500 advance. (Again, not likely in this market but let's pretend you're a good negotiator.) You would not earn any more royalties until you'd sold 500 copies of your book. At that point, your royalties will kick in again and you'll earn them at the rate of $1 per book sold.
NO. You never have to pay back an advance unless you default on the contract. That only happens if you receive an advance before you submit your finished manuscript--and no publisher in this market will agree to that. Or if your actions make it impossible for the publisher to sell your book.
And NO. You should never have to pay back a royalty because you don't get paid until the publisher actually sells the book. Some publishers may have a clause in their contract that says if your books are returned unsold from the bookstore, then those books will be credited against your future royalties but you should never have to return a royalty once the check has been sent to you. If this isn't addressed in your contract, ask for it to be clarified.