I have no prior experience as an book/Ebook writer, nevertheless I've been able to write my first full book (which I feel that I did a good job on). However, I have an issue with my mom, who has been my editor so far. Embarrassing, right? But she's actually done some pretty intense editing with me (probably because she's writing something herself) which I've gone with so far.

However, she has insisted that she now get 25% of the profit from the book and she also wants to have her name on the front of it, as if she's the second writer, or she at least wants some credit. I'm asking, to those who have done this before (written and published books, or read about it), if this a fair rate for an editor? More importantly, how should I give her credit? Can't someone just be listed as an editor, on the page before the table of contents or something?

I don't want her to take credit for my characters, story, and ideas, which I came up with alone, but she did do grammar and word/structure corrections as well as certain suggestions, so I guess that she was a very involved editor.

I'm also concerned that some of the scientific background and concepts in my Sci-Fi book would be falsely attributed to her, because she's obviously older than me and actually holds a degree, (although she's not an active scientist). For the sake of being specific, I was going to use Amazon Kindle to publish.

3 Answers 3


Yes, these family collaborations are fraught with dangers, as you can imagine. There's nothing wrong with having a family member do the editing if the person is qualified and agreeable.

I have dealt with the same issue myself. Does one's participation require a separate byline? This is especially an issue in Amazon, where you can list multiple authors if you wish.

Without a doubt you should give a generous acknowledgement to your mom's assistance on the copyright page. If it's nonfiction, I would certain add her name to the credits on the Kindle details page.

Typically, if it's a fiction work, you should only have a single author even if someone helps substantially with the editing. It's rare that a fiction work has two authors.

With nonfiction, if it's a personal memoir, it's not uncommon to have more than one name (with the first name being the primary author). But having a second name has a social stigma because it implies that one of the two is a ghost writer.

If you are writing a nonfiction work (about current events, science, psychology), it is much more common to have multiple authors (And no one would look down on you or the work for that reason). For example, if you look at the Oreilly books (which are considered top quality in the IT field), typically you will have a technical expert be the lead author and then someone with a strong background in publishing be the second author. That combination works well. But the second author also does a substantial amount of writing/organizing of material.

It probably is a bit presumptuous for your mom to ask for 25% after the fact. If anything, this should be a lesson for you to clarify these royalty issues at the start so you don't encounter these disputes.

In general, you should err on the side of giving too much credit rather than the opposite. I think your mom wants acknowledgement that she made a valuable contribution to your efforts, and getting a share of the profits is one way to do this. But it's unfair for her to arbitrarily set a rate after the fact.

Here's how I would approach it. I would say, "Mom, clearly you helped a lot on the production of this book, and you deserve the credit. But we never talked about a royalty split, and it would be unfair just to decide you are entitled to "25%". I think that 10/15/20% would be more appropriate -- even though I admit it doesn't take into account your true contributions."

(To support your argument, you might be able to draw up some numbers to suggest that you have spent more hours on the project than she has).

Generally the big issue in book production is lack of professional editing. Often editors want payment in advance rather than a percent of the royalties. In a way, your mom is doing a huge favor by agreeing to be paid by future royalties rather than charging you an hourly rate.

Finally, look at the big picture. Maybe your mom wants more credit than she is entitled to, but I also think you want this collaboration to be something you are both happy with. Paying her 25% seems to be a small price to pay to show your gratitude for her help and ensuring smooth family relations in the future plus preserving the happy memory of working together.

(And if the books hits it big, then next time you can choose to do it alone or clarify the royalty arrangements so that both of you know what you are getting into).

By the way, here's some typical industry rates http://www.the-efa.org/res/rates.php and http://freelancewrite.about.com/od/finances/a/Freelance-Writing-Rates-List.htm

Not knowing what help she gave or how much time she devoted, I would say that 15-20% is a fair rate to give to a second author. But now is a time to be generous, not stingy.

Update: Both of you should have a candid conversation about who owns the copyright. All editors feel a sense of "ownership" about book projects, but that doesn't imply that the person deserves to own the copyright. I would urge against putting two people on the copyright line unless it's unavoidable. Having two people own the book copyright makes it legally complicated for you to sell or authorize rights of distribution. It's much more practical for one person to own the copyright. Personally, I feel that I have made substantial editorial contributions for a number of books, but I feel almost a ghoulish pride in my willingness to let the author take all the credit. Maybe that's just me though...


Only to complete the answer by idiotprogrammer.

My first remark is that there is little that is ebook specific in your question, and it might be more appropriate in http://writers.stackexchange.com. At least, you should check what may already be on that site, but do not cross-post. It is however true that by reducing the editing chain, and to some extent by isolating authors from a professional environment, digital publication makes such situations as you describe more likely to happen.

Another issue is that older people are more worried about having their names attached to some hopefully lasting contribution, and books are considered as such. Then older people may also be more worried about income since age makes it harder to get. Income and name credit are two separate issues which can be discussed, and possibly balanced. It is not so unusual to have a main author in large letters, and possibly in smaller font "with contributions from xxx" or "with the participation of xxx".

Lastly, estimating contributions is an extremely subjective issue, and it is easy to underestimate or forget other contributions. Sharing credit should not be much of a problem, especially if the main author remains clearly identified. One can only benefit from it, by keeping good relationship, and even possibly by getting some credit from the second author when she is, or becomes, well known. And there is no loss. Unlike money, you often get credit by giving some.

Sharing the income is a private matter of agreement between you, and it can take many forms. I would think it is also an issue of who needs it, between members of the same family. It is indeed always better to settle that beforehand. But the actual contribution may be even harder to estimate beforehand.

Regarding copyright ownership, which is yet a (third) different matter, it is indeed wise not to spread it. Sharing copyright is the best known way of killing any creative work since each partial copyright owner can object to exploitation of the work, and has thus a form of blackmailing power. Of course, one can go to court, so that lawyers get the benefits. Whatever you decide regarding copyright should possibly be clarified on a written document, independently of remuneration issues, since copyright is only indirectly linked to remuneration (it can be used for other purposes). However it can be touchy to settle legally, since the initial attribution of copyright is not a contractual matter, but linked to the creation of the work itself (see Bern Convention and US Copyright Act). Note that copyright is attached only to the creative part of the work, and in no way to any editing activity (though very extensive editing might be construed as impacting the creation itself).

So the wording regarding the participation of a second author may impact copyright attribution. But it is perfectly possible to have a contractual agreement stating that the second author transfers to the first whatever part of the copyright he might claim, possibly in exchange for some remuneration from the first author.


Typically, an editor does NOT have their name listed on the cover of a book. It is more common to acknowledge the editor in the acknowledgements. The exception to this would be in an anthology where the editor is responsible for selecting the titles to be used in a collection. Some authors will add a byline that states "Edited by: Editor Name", but that is definitely not the standard.

As far as royalties are concerned, an editor should never be entitled to a percentage unless the author agrees to that in advance. Typically, an editor is paid a flat rate or a standard rate based on the number of words in the completed document. It is definitely NOT standard for an editor, regardless of how much work they did, to be paid a percentage of the royalties.

  • The editor being paid a percent is NOT standard because few editors would be stupid enough to agree to it..... :)In this new age of publishing the roles and the financial stakes of different parties is changing.... For example, if I am self-publishing and want a quality editor but can't afford the cost, I would certainly try to make my remuneration more tempting by throwing a % of future profits into the deal(though of course that means I need to do an honest accounting...) I make these sorts of unconventional arrangements all the time... Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 18:24

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