Chances are, you won't get rich.

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airball
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Chances are, you won't get rich.

Post by airball » May 15th, 2011, 10:42 pm

I imagine this has already been discussed here, but I came across a blog post that breaks down the (sobering) numbers for those of us who think that writing is a way out of their crappy job. Full post is http://mandyhubbard.livejournal.com/249 ... ad=2474182, but here is most of it.

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So here's the deal: Chances are, you won't get rich. Chances are, you won't even quit your day job.

If you write MG or YA, and you sell to a smaller, independent press--but one who still distributes nationally and has most books stocked in B&N and Borders-- your advance will probably be in the $2,000-$5,000 range.

If you sell a book to one of the big six publishers, and it's a single book deal, and it's something deemed more quiet or literary, you may see $7,500-$10,000. if it has a bigger commercial hook, but still seems a little risky, you may get $15,000.

These are all very round, very raw numbers, and in no way does that mean that if you have a quiet book and random house offers you're oging to see $7,500-10K. You could see more, you could see less. We're just playing with some numbers here of some pretty customary, run of the mill deals.

Now, here's the thing-- advances of these size will generally mean your book will have little to no publicity budget. If you get a $10K advance and it's from a big six, it's likely that your book will be sent to the usual reviewers and put in the catalog, and they may have ARCs on display at the trade fairs or events, but they aren't going to throw money into a PR campaign. Your book will quietly float or sink on its own merit and your ability to publicize it yourself.

Remember, also, that the payout of your book is in either two or three payments. Generally, it's one of these two structures:

1/2 on signing the contract
1/2 on completing revisions (aka, Delivery & Acceptance).

OR

1/3 on signing
1/3 on D&A
1/3 on publication.

So, what I'm telling you is: If your book sells to a large publisher, you may still never see a check for over $5,000 all at once, and then your agent does want her 15%, so now your check is down to $4,250, and you have to pay taxes so you'll tuck away at least a grand, and now you've got $3,000 to play with. But you'll need a web designer ($500+) and web hosting ($6-15 a month), and maybe bookmarks or business cards or swag for giveaways.

But here's the thing-- people don't buy scratch tickets becuase they want to win two dollars. They buy them because they want to win $20,000. And everyone wants to dream of a six figure deal, of an auction, of a pre-empt.

Books do regularly sell for over $100,000, and it seems as if a week does not go by without at least one YA book that sold for over $500,000.

So let's look at those numbers, shall we?

A six figure book deal, for a trilogy, would be say, $35K per book x 3 books = $105K.

Your first payment, you get 1/3 of EACH book on signing, so your first check would be $35K - 15% = 29,750. Save a third for taxes, and you have $20,000.

This is the biggest check you will ever see for your book deal (unless you get huge royalty checks later...) because every other check will be 1/3 of a single book payment (like when one D&As, or one pubs), and after your agent's commission? You'll see $9,000.

Yes, you got a six figure deal, but every check after the first one is $9Kish. If you don't have a day job? That's living expenses for a few months, tops, if you have kids or a mortgage.

So maybe that six figure deal isn't enough-- you want a MAJOR deal-- $500K.

$501,000 / 3 books = $167,000 per book.

Your first payment, you get 1/3 of EACH book on signing, so your first check would be $167K. Your agent takes her cut and sends you a cool $141,000. This is going to put you in a big tax bracket, which means you need to put away AT LEAST 1/3 of that-- so you're left with $93K.
6-9 months later, the book will D&A, and you'll see another $55K payment, less 15%, so you'll see $47,000. Put away $17Kish for taxes, and you've got $30K to play with.

So in your first year after signing, your bank account will probably net around $120,000.

Not bad, right? And the nice thing is? If your pub paid $500K, you can bet your book deal they are going to publicize your book like crazy. They want their money back.

We all dream of this kind of a boon. $120K is probably 'quit your day job' kind of money, and isn't that what we all want? if you do quit, though, you'll need health insurance, a retirement account, etc.

And guess what? Your second year out, you'll just see two payments-- $55K when book 1 pubs, and $55k when book 2 D&As, minus your agent's commission, which means the second year, you're only netting $93,000, minus a third for taxes, puts you just over 60K. Same deal on year 3, when Book 2 pubs and book 3 D&As.

And on that fourth year, when book 3 publishes, you see just one payment-- $55K, minus agent commission, so $47,000. Minus taxes, so you make $30Kish unless you've sold another book deal.


So here's how it looks at the end of the day, if you get a seemingly ENORMOUS $501,000 book deal:

Year of book deal: $120K net
Year 2: 60K net
Year 3: 60K net
Year 4: 30k net.

It's good money, but with no stability, no health insurance, and no benefits.


Okay, so I'm not saying this to be debbie downer. Just to really break it down and look at it, and help you understand that even if you get that huge deal, and everyone thinks you're rich, you may not be.

You may just be making a good living doing what you love. And THAT is the point, right? That we're all doing what we love.

And lastly, you're an optimist. I know you're an optimist because you're a published author (or trying really hard to be one)and if you can see these numbers and try to make a go of it anyway, you MUST be optimistic. Which means your book is going to be one of those that rises above, that sells like hotcakes, and makes you as famous as Stephenie Meyer.

Plus, duh, you'll get a movie deal.
Sam Thomas
Author of The Midwife's Story: A Mystery due out from St. Martin's Press in 2013
Website: http://www.samthomasbooks.com
Team Blog= http://bloodygoodread.blogspot.com

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Re: Chances are, you won't get rich.

Post by polymath » May 15th, 2011, 11:54 pm

I keep up with labor stats for writing related activities. Though government stats aren't broken down into specific categories, like independent author primary income activity, there are some brutal realities in them regardless. A survey I did of literary agents showed that there are about 8,000 English language independent authors whose primary income source is full-time writing activities earning an annual income of $30,000 circa 2003. Government stats show about the same, but include editors and screening readers and so forth. The high average pushes $50,000.

I have no illusions of garnering fame and fortune from writing, but then I don't write for those reasons. That way lies disappointment and despair. I write to connect meaningfully with humanity, at least a small, meaningfully significant fraction of it.

The supply-demand curve of publication is a more meaningful metric for me than how much money there is in it. About 20,000 novels traditionally published annually, at least six million contenders vying for those slots, about ten thousand accomplished authors with likely publication outcomes, maybe ten breakaway bestsellers; and every once in a few years a novel with thousand-league legs on it generating buzz and buzz and buzz.
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Re: Chances are, you won't get rich.

Post by J. T. SHEA » May 16th, 2011, 5:02 pm

'We all dream of this kind of a boon.' Do we?

Chances are you won't get rich in any endeavor. But people do. If quiet, literary, pretty customary and run of the mill is what you aspire to, you may get it, but are unlikely to get more. I strive to avoid either reading or writing quiet, literary, pretty customary and run of the mill books. But each to their own.

The numbers quoted would apply to most $500,000 deals, not just publishing. And anyone who made $500,000 gross and then did nothing for four years could indeed run short of money. And how many 'day jobs' last even four years?

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Re: Chances are, you won't get rich.

Post by airball » May 17th, 2011, 12:55 pm

J. T. SHEA wrote:'We all dream of this kind of a boon.' Do we?

Chances are you won't get rich in any endeavor. But people do. If quiet, literary, pretty customary and run of the mill is what you aspire to, you may get it, but are unlikely to get more. I strive to avoid either reading or writing quiet, literary, pretty customary and run of the mill books. But each to their own.

The numbers quoted would apply to most $500,000 deals, not just publishing. And anyone who made $500,000 gross and then did nothing for four years could indeed run short of money. And how many 'day jobs' last even four years?
Yes, it also assumes that your books don't sell enough to cover your advance. If a firm considers you marketable enough to give you a mulit-book, high-dollar deal, the chances are passably good that the total of your book royalties will more than cover your advance. So this is kind of worst-casing it in the long term, but it is a pretty useful corrective to the "I need a big advance and then I'm on easy street" dream...
Sam Thomas
Author of The Midwife's Story: A Mystery due out from St. Martin's Press in 2013
Website: http://www.samthomasbooks.com
Team Blog= http://bloodygoodread.blogspot.com

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Re: Chances are, you won't get rich.

Post by sierramcconnell » May 17th, 2011, 6:30 pm

If I can at least make $30,000 a year, I'm good. That's where I am now. I don't need to be OMG money coming out my cornhole board.

It's not about the money. It's about not having to come to work and deal with people who make me feel stupid every day. At least when the people who make me feel stupid are trying to make me feel stupid about my writing, I can feel secretly assured that they're morons and I'm not, even if I do have to listen to them every once and a while. ;3
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Re: Chances are, you won't get rich.

Post by oldhousejunkie » May 17th, 2011, 7:56 pm

Dang it! And here I was planning some fabulous getaway to the Burgh Island Hotel off the coast of England. Rooms start at $500 a night (roughly).

Seriously though, if I could pay off my AMEX, I'd be a pretty happy camper. Is that a sad commentary?

But regardless, I won't stop writing. There are just too many stories to be told. And it is too much of a release for me. I've recently decided to quit trying to find fullfillment in my work, and focus on what I can contribute in my spare time. Writing, of course, tops the list. :-)

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Re: Chances are, you won't get rich.

Post by sierramcconnell » May 17th, 2011, 8:12 pm

oldhousejunkie wrote:Seriously though, if I could pay off my AMEX, I'd be a pretty happy camper. Is that a sad commentary?
OMG you just reminded me of a dream I had last night. AMEX wouldn't give me a credit card. It was hilarious. I kept thinking, "Why would I even apply for one? I already have two other cards!" XD

But I agree on that! XD I wanna pay my bills and add my car in, too!
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Re: Chances are, you won't get rich.

Post by Collectonian » May 17th, 2011, 9:04 pm

Heck, a $5000 advance would make me pretty happy :-) I know I'd dance around my house if I got that check in the mail and start calling people I know to scream in their ear. LOL Depending on the tax bracket, though, put away $1450, not $1k for the taxes. The rest isn't a lot, but would pay off nearly two credit debts, or cover the cost for my sweetie and I to take a cruise or a longer vacation (versus our usual 3 night deal). Could cover the costs of new flooring in my kitchen, new doors on my cabinets, a new toilet and vanity in the bathroom, maybe even some more bookcases. Of course, I wouldn't mind something more either, like that $7500 or $10k.

Seriously, though, I think it is a great post for giving some of the starrier eyed new authors a good dose of reality that writing isn't going to cover the bills for most folks. Alas, there are always those who are unwilling to be realistic about the income potential of writing. They look at the Amanda Hockings of the world and nothing else. Percentages and averages just don't apply to them. (they also tend to reject criticisms because their writing is awesome :-P)

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Re: Chances are, you won't get rich.

Post by Mira » May 21st, 2011, 12:43 pm

These are good figures, but you left out e-publishing, where you make no advance, but earn 70% royalties.

The reason authors make little to no money on their books is due to the pitiful royalty rates. I really think the advance is there just to give the illusion that the author is making money off their book. But the advance comes out of the pitiful royalty rate, so it takes forever to earn off, and even then, it earns the author anywhere from 3-8% royalties after that, in paper and 15% in e-book (after agent percentage).

Pitiful.

I think the best way to conceptualize an advance is that you are essentially selling your book for that amount. Anything above and over that will be pretty small, unless you hit the big time, at which point, you have given away buckets and buckets of money.

I'm not in this for the money, but that doesn't mean I don't see red at all this.

Alot of folks think, hey the advance is a bird in the hand, I might never see another dime on this. But on the other hand, you are giving away literally millions of dollars if it does hit big. Something to think about.

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Re: Chances are, you won't get rich.

Post by HumorWriter0910 » May 22nd, 2011, 8:06 pm

This is one of those times I'm glad I live in Indiana and not a major city (I realize that was kind of redundant). A not-so-huge advance gets a little bigger when your cost of living is so low.

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Re: Chances are, you won't get rich.

Post by jazzlovesnoodles » May 23rd, 2011, 9:07 am

I think that any amount of money would be great just from the point of receiving accolades for your writing, but from a practical point of view it can seem like an unprofitable strategy to spend so much time on something for little (or often no) financial reward, especially from the viewpoint of a non-writer.

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Re: Chances are, you won't get rich.

Post by polymath » May 23rd, 2011, 10:25 am

Creative writing's rewards for all but a noteworthy few are the acclaims of a fan niche, the approvals of a system fraught with rejection, and the deep satisfactions of reaching and connecting with a small segment of greater humanity. I'm rich regardless of the money, regardless, which is fleeting and best spent making my way surving this often alienating and hostile cosmos.
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Re: Chances are, you won't get rich.

Post by Guardian » May 23rd, 2011, 2:03 pm

polymath wrote:Creative writing's rewards for all but a noteworthy few are the acclaims of a fan niche, the approvals of a system fraught with rejection, and the deep satisfactions of reaching and connecting with a small segment of greater humanity. I'm rich regardless of the money, regardless, which is fleeting and best spent making my way surving this often alienating and hostile cosmos.
Well said!

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