How much money do novelists make, on average?

How much money do novelists make, on average?
I’m considering quitting my day job to become a novelist. Really. (I want to start an MFA program.) I’d like to know how much novelists make. Not the Michael Crichtons and John Grishams of the world, just novelists who get published and have readers but are not extremely well-known. Is this enough to live on? Should I find myself a sugar daddy? Should I prepare for debt? Can I hope that I will make enough to live comfortably on at some point in the future?

Suggestion by allansuman
Try GOOGLE-ing it

Suggestion by No Longer Dizzy
The average could be calculated but it wouldn’t help you because in something like this the average means nothing. Earnings for authors are skewed. There are those who make it and then there is an enormous gap before you reach the others. They don’t make enough to live on. Many make about 4000 pounds sterling for each book, and for most of them that’s less than 4000 pounds per year. It would be silly to leave your job until you are successfully established.

Suggestion by Persiphone_Hellecat
I can only tell you what I know from the standpoint of publishing traditionally through one of the top 2 publishers in the world. Trust me = I know my stuff. I do this for a living.

Let me just give you a general answer in dollars and cents. It’s complicated so stay with me.

A smart author invests in an editor before the book goes through the query stage. At that point, you can retain rights to any and all edits made in your book. A good editor knows how to take a good novel and turn it into exactly what a publisher is looking for. Expect to pay 5-10 dollars per page based on 250 words per page, but they are worth it. An editor’s margin notes can really help you get your novel in great shape. They have been down the road before. They know their stuff. They also know agents and may be able to recommend you to one. But it costs money up front.

If a publisher decides they are interested, they sign a standard book contract with you. That calls for you to receive 10% royalties from the sales of your book. 15% of your 10% goes to your agent for negotiating the deal.

The price of your book is set at 6 times the cost of production. Generally these days, with a hardcover book that comes to about $ 24.99. That means that for every book you sell, your share is $ 2.49 less 15% for your agent or roughly $ 2.12 BEFORE TAXES.

Today, it is common for a first print run of a newcomer’s book to be about 15,000 books. Much less isn’t profitable to print. Therefore if you sell all 15,000 of your books, you stand to make $ 31,800. If your agent has done their job, they have gotten you an advance of 50% of your royalties or $ 15,900 – of course that is taxable income.

That means that when your book sells 7,501 copies, you start earning your additional $ 2.12 per book. But publishers aren’t fools, they are businessmen. If your book does not sell 7,500 copies, you will likely be asked to return any portion of that $ 15,900 that is owed to them.

If you are smart, you take that $ 15,900 and plow it into marketing and promoting your book so that you sell the rest of the first print run and get the publisher to do a second or even third run – which your agent will negotiate at higher royalty rates and a bigger advance. It takes money to make money. If you paid for an editor, you are still running behind at this point. You NEED to remember Uncle Jim’s rule of publishing. Money should start flowing toward the author not away from him as it does in self publishing.

Of course, this means your royalties end up being nothing, but you are investing in your future as a novelist. Often, if you are willing to invest, you can get your publisher to contribute a similar amount. Again, this is if your agent is on the ball.

If your books do not sell and end up on the bargain tables we all see at the major book stores and I walk in and buy your book for the reduced price of $ 7.00, you make ZERO. Nothing.

If your publisher negotiates with one of the large wholesale clubs like Costco to sell your book for half price – or approximately $ 16.49 each, you take the hit. Your 10% is based on that number. Of course, you will likely sell more copies in those clubs, so it is advantageous. A good agent will work on book club deals for you. Also, when you walk into a major bookstore these days and see books on displays at the counter and near the front of the door, that costs money. It is paid advertising. Sometimes as much a dollar a book to get placed up front. But that is where people will see you. So your marketing plan may involve getting your books placed on those tables for a day or two. YOU the author pay most of that cost. Publishers invest very little in marketing for novice authors. Brown Little got burned paying 50 million dollars to advertise The Historian for Elizabeth Kostova and now it is available on bargain shelves for 5 bucks. They save their big advertising dollars for the big time authors.

You do not get rich on a first novel. It is very rare. If any one asks you to pay money to look at your book, they are a self publisher and you should run fast. The only things your agent may charge you for are the standard 15% commission plus incidentals like printing costs of copies they have to send to publishers, postage, long distance calls etc.

The 90% left goes to the printer, and the publisher. They are the ones speculating on you and that is how it works. They have to pay editorial staff, attorneys, and many other people who will be there actually “working” for your book. They do earn their share. Believe it or not.

The big money comes if your book does well enough in hardcover to warrant paperback rights being sold. Stephen King got a 2500 dollar advance for Carrie from Doubleday. Doubleday in turn sold the paperback rights for 400 thousand dollars, of which Mr. King received 200 thousand. It sounds great, but it’s still not a terribly huge sum considering what you have to invest to make your book successful enough to get a big paperback advance. You will find you make next to nothing on foreign rights. In some cases – absolutely zero, but it is cool to see your book in other languages so some authors do it anyway.

Also NEVER tell a publisher you are writing a series. They will be very hesitant to even look at it. They will never enter into a multi book deal with a new author. What if the first books tanks and they still owe you two more? It works the other way, too. If the first one does great, you have more to negotiate the second and subsequent sales with. But make sure your first book can stand alone. There may not be another.

It’s all about building a reputation over time as a reliable and steady seller whose books get better with each new one and climb the charts higher and faster. That gives your agent more room to negotiate and more leverage for your next book and the one after that.

And by the way, only 5% of authors make a living at it. The rest work. You can look up an author by the name of Glen Cook. Writes great Sci Fi and satire. I love his Garrett series books. He has a huge underground following and until his publisher started rereleasing them recently, you had to pay 40 – 50 bucks for a raggedy paperback online. He wrote for years at night while working days at the GM Light Truck Assembly Line. If you have a GM truck, he might have built it. And he wrote a ton of excellent books while he worked there.

Stephen King worked as a teacher and lived in a trailer park while he wrote his first two. James Patterson worked in advertising. Michael Connelly, Dave Barry and Carl Hiaasen were journalists.

If you go to my profile you will find I star all the Q and A on publishing and writing. Read through them and print out ones you think will help you. Many successful and legit authors post here and do a lot to help novices learn. Pax-C

i am in need of some serious poem help…?
i’m having to write a poem about a positive aspect of the world today (that could be shared with a future reader.)

my brain is dead right now because i’ve been non-stop working to get everything finished before school ends. :/ i would appreciate any ideas for this more than anything right now (some sleep would be lovely too) anyways, thank you so much for everyone that helps me out! and i will most definately give 10 points

Suggestion by Natasha
Really, what you need is to just go with what comes to you. for example (dont actually use this) here is one about how there is always niceness in the world. yes i wrote this myself. also tell me if u like it ;D
The ice is creasing, beginning to crack
I wish I could leave, wish I could turn back
The world is cruel, the path is twisted
I’m beginning to think it never existed

The ice is melting, I can no longer stay
All I believed in is starting to fray
The pattern is changing, an unfamiliar mix
The wind, it is biting, the hail, it pricks

I remember the sun, brightening my face
The warmth I long for, the freedom I chase
But now the sun is no longer on my side
It makes the ice vaporize at my every stride

But there is still a shred of hope in this world
Not mattering what any one may have hurled
I will always stand, silent and true
To what makes me me, and to what makes you you

do you like it? that is sort of what you should do ;D

Suggestion by Alex
Well even though there is so many bad things going on in the world. You can write about positive things like First black prez. in the U.S.
All our new technology. I thinks thats it b/c everything else is wrong with the world. Goodluck

Suggestion by ale
ok im not so good at poems but i’ll give it a try…if u ever become famous because of this poem u better give me credit lol

Look around u, what do u see?
a world full of conflicts and violations…
but look closer
i see a world where love exist in each and every single one of us
that’s what makes living in this world a beautiful thing
what else do i see?
i see the beauty of mother nature,don’t u enjoy waking up every morning with the rays of the sun and the singing of the birds?
its not all about darkness in this world just a smile from someone can brighten a rainy day
so now what do u see in this world?

future reader

Why do you think everyone is concerned about the future?
Its a hard question but i want your opinion on the future and why everyone is so concerned about it . Why do people bother to go to psychics and tarots card readers and horoscpopes. Also them little things in chinese fortune cookies? Its weird but i want your opionion.

Suggestion by Mr. Diamond007
(fear of the unknown)

Suggestion by bucko
Humans are naturally curious creatures

Suggestion by genzeleam
Psychics, tarot cards, horoscopes, fortune cookies, etc. are all a con. They give general information presented in a way that makes it seem mystical.

I truly feel sorry for the people that fall for these kinds of things.

future reader

i REALLY need some help for a poem….?
i’m having to write a poem about a positive aspect of the world today (that could be shared with a future reader.)

my brain is dead right now because i’ve been non-stop working to get everything finished before school ends. :/ i would appreciate any ideas for this more than anything right now (some sleep would be lovely too) anyways, thank you so much for everyone that helps me out! and i will most definately give 10 points

Suggestion by mtheoryrules
ahh you have right there in your very own question,
“been non-stop working to get everything finished before school ends”
Your poem is calling you my dear, you have been writing it for so long!

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  1. גַּבְרִיאֵל says

    The bottom card represents the critical factor that decides what will come to pass. Ten of Cups (Satiety): Home. Abode. Happiness. Joy. Pleasure. Peace. Love. Contentment. Good family life. Honor. Esteem. Virtue. Reputation.

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  2. Lori G says

    I think, basically, people just want to know what is ahead of them and what they have to look forward to – if anything. I don’t use Tarot as “fortune telling” but for offering advice and guidance based on the question asked, the cards drawn and the messages the cards are giving. I try to avoid negativity but if it is there, it is for a reason – usually so the questioner can either prepare for it or make plans to avoid it. Every cloud has a silver lining. Readings should be helpful and empowering.

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  3. Isadora says

    I believe in both pre-destination and free will. to me life is a lot like a geographical map. When you look at a map, there are a lot of roads on it, each road leads to a “pre-destined” town, or lake or mountain or other road. I think that life is the same, you have the free will to chose the road you go down, but depending on your choice, you will end up at a pre-destined placed. I also read the Tarot and I can tell you that the cards only tell you where you will end up based on the path that you are on right now, but you have the free will to change that path and therefore change the outcome. I consult the cards to find out if I’m on the right path, and if I don’t like the outcome, then I do what needs to be done to change the outcome. By-the-way, there is nothing magical about the Tarot, it’s actually all about Math and intuition.

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  4. martha_back2000 says

    they are not believers in god

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  5. Krista(♡Tokio Hotel♡) says

    Perisphone said it all.

    Good luck!!

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