‘It Wasn’t That Good’: Author Terry McMillan Received a Royalty Check for ‘Waiting to Exhale’ and The Amount Left Her Stunned

Esteemed author Terry McMillan took to social media to share a fun fact. She is still making money off of her 1992 New York Times bestseller “Waiting to Exhale” and the properties created from the story.

On the evening of June 28, the “Getting to Happy” author tweeted, “Wow! I just got a royalty check for WAITING TO EXHALE for $885.22.  It wasn’t that good!”

“It’s on Hulu & I just watched it the other day with my wine. So $2.00 of that residual check is from me,” a fan joked.

Another commenter seemed to believe the best-selling author was shortchanging herself. “Thee Terry McMillan, if you don’t quit playing… it’s been one of the top movies since being on Hulu these past few weeks. a timeless film,” they replied.

A curious fan asked the respected author for clarity on her royalty amount and the role she played in the book’s 1995 film adaptation, which starred Whitney Houston, Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine, and Lela Rochon.

“So Ms. McMillan, how are you not getting more royalties than that as writer/director/producer,” the fan asked. “Do they put that in a hidden clause or something? I hear so many black actors mention getting very little royalties and it’s upsetting.”

“I was not the director and they gave me the title as producer. I got plenty of royalties, honey. And all these years later, to still get them says it all,” McMillan answered.

Author Terry McMillan's Royalty Check for 'Waiting to Exhale' Leaves Her Mind Blown (Photo: @MsTerryMcMillan / X)
Author Terry McMillan’s royalty check for “Waiting to Exhale” raised some questions on social media. (Photo: @MsTerryMcMillan/X)

After further explaining that she was not bothered by the check amount, the 72-year-old author of “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” stated that she shared the tweet to motivate up-and-coming writers.

“I only mentioned the royalty statement because I want other up-and-coming writers to know what is possible. What it’s really called is respect,” she said.

The “Waiting to Exhale” novel was an epic success and made McMillan rich. In 1992, she talked about cracking into a market that many dismissed as having no value.

“I’VE HAD 1,500 PEOPLE SHOW UP for a reading for ‘Waiting to Exhale,'” she said to The New York Times. “Twelve hundred in Chicago, a thousand people waiting in line in Washington. I think I’ve signed more than 10,000 books, and the people who come are 90 percent Black. In some cities 98 percent.”

The paperback rights fetched a whopping $2.64 million, marking a historic reprint sale and lacing McMillan’s pockets early on.

Capitalizing on its literary success, Twentieth Century Fox acquired film rights, culminating in a 1995 romantic feature directed by Forest Whitaker, his directorial debut. McMillan collaborated with Ron Bass on the screenplay adaptation. It was the first time one of her books was made into a film. The second would be “How Stella Got Her Groove Back,” which invited Bassett back and put her on-screen with Whoopi Goldberg, Taye Diggs, Regina King, and the late Suzzanne Douglas-Cobb.

According to Boxoffice Mojo, the film grossed $81,452,156 over 53 weeks in wide release—a stellar return compared to its modest $24 million to $25 million budget, as noted by McMillan.

“I mean, ‘Waiting to Exhale’ cost $24 or $25 million, and it made almost $86 million. Somebody told me last year that if Waiting to Exhale had been made today, it would have been over $100 million or something like that,” she reflected in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

“Everything doesn’t have to be a blockbuster,” she added. “And sometimes movies that they don’t expect to be blockbusters turn out to be the little engines.”

Looking ahead, McMillan announced plans for a television adaptation in 2020, with Lee Daniels attached to produce and Anthony Hemingway set to direct.

Deadline confirmed the project’s development at 20th Television, where Daniels holds an overarching deal. Hemingway joins as an executive producer alongside Richard Abate, Jermaine Johnson, and Will Rowbotham of 3 Arts. Details remain sparse, including the project’s timeline.

McMillan continues making moves with some of her other works. Currently, she is collaborating with some of the original “Waiting to Exhale” team on a new film, “Terry McMillan Presents: Tempted By Love.” This project brings McMillan together with actress Lela Rochon and actress Loretta Devine.

The movie, executive produced by actress Garcelle Beauvais, is set to premiere on Lifetime on August 17.

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