Talking Money

by Amber Keyser
Published on: January 29, 2015
Categories: Business of Writing
Comments: No Comments

There has been an interesting discussion on the interwebs lately about how much authors make and especially, what it means when a writer says that he or she “writes full time.” This implies that all of us who “write full time” are also making enough money to support our families on writing money. In fact, many of us (like me) can write full time because our awesome spouses have jobs that include health insurance and 401k and reliable income all that good stuff. (See the Salon article that spawned the talk here.) This is the first year I have made a non-negligable income, but it is not yet enough to support us. Many working writers–i.e. those making money–say that it takes between five and ten years of steady sales plus the slowly accumulating royalty stream to either justify quitting their day jobs or getting their spouse off the hook.

There has been a call for transparency and honesty among writers about money. Many an innocent soul has been sucked into the allure of becoming an overnight millionaire a la Fifty Shades. Everyone’s Great Aunt Hilda thinks that as soon as we sell a book it means we are rich, rich, rich. And many more of us are thinking, “What’s wrong with me? Am I the only one with multi-book deals who is still eating ramen noodles every night?”

So what do the economics of writing really look like? The 2015 Author Survey by Digital Book World sheds some fascinating light on the money issue.

2015 Author Income copy

 

For traditional book deals, 65% of all authors are making less than $10,000 a year. For indie authors (supposedly the holy grail of money printing), 75% are making less than $10,000. In general, authors who can work both sides–indie and trad–the so-called hybrid authors are doing the best. 50% of them are making more than $10,000 a year. (I’ll argue that this is because well-known, traditionally published authors move to indie publishing where they can make more profit and take their fan base with them.)

As for what to tell Great Aunt Hilda, reaching the $100,000+ mark is accomplished by very few authors–about 7% of traditional authors, 6% of indie authors, and about 84% of hybrid authors (see above).

So thems the stats… Does knowing them change anything for you?

 

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