It's actually a bit worse than that :)
The royalties are held until the 45-day refund period is elapsed, and then paid out on the first few days of the following month. So it's not a 45-day hold, it's a >= 45-day hold :) The longest the hold period could be is: say I buy your book on May 16. 45 days from that is July 1, so the royalties are paid on August 1. The shortest the
hold period is: say I buy your book on May 15. 45 days from that is June 30, so the royalties are paid on July 1. (Now, in this example, July 1 is a holiday in Canada, so it actually might be July 2. But we love paying royalties, so we often do so on weekends and statutory holidays.)
There are two reasons for this hold period:
1. Say a popular author starts a book, sells $50K of copies, then decides they don't want to do the book after all. Since we have a 45-day 100% refund policy, the readers can all get refunds. But if we'd paid that out in royalties, we're now on the hook for about $45K of royalties that we should not have paid.
2. Say some fraudster creates a book and buys a bunch of copies with stolen credit cards. If they're really talented, we may not catch this right away. However, we'll almost certainly catch it within 45 days. So, there's basically no chance that crime pays on Leanpub.
So, the royalty hold ensures we have a low rate of fraud, and that we can take care of readers in the case of a rapidly abandoned book.
This makes Leanpub a better store for all our authors, which hopefully results in more sales for you. Our readers feel comfortable buying on Leanpub, and we have tons of repeat customers.
In terms of risk to you: We've been selling books and paying royalties since 2010. We've paid almost $5M in royalties. We're not going anywhere.