Forty-seven years ago, when my first wife and I were both in analysis and I was scrambling to pay the bills, a publisher asked me to edit a little paperback, to be called "Ten Great Works of Philosophy," anthologizing a selection of texts all in the public domain [no permission fees]. I gave my standard answer: "What is the advance?" "A thousand on signing and a thousand on submission," they replied. So of course I agreed. As I recall, I did the job so fast that before they could cut me the check for signing I handed in the finished manuscript.
Today, a royalty check arrived, for $118.50 -- not exactly fat city, but large enough to deposit on Monday without embarrassment.
When I entered the data in my royalty spreadsheet, I saw that the book has now sold 196,215 copies. The royalties have always been peanuts. I think in fifty-seven years the book has earned me about $22,000, or 11 cents a copy.
There is something oddly comforting about knowing that deep down, I am just a hack.