Wednesday, January 08, 2014
Financial Truth For Writers
Author Wendy Higgins' explanation of the kind of payment traditionally published authors can expect is very accurate in my experience. I will add the following comments:
Higgins says of an advance, "it's an advance on royalties you will make from your portion of the book sales, so when the book goes on sale you have to pay all of that advance BACK before you start getting paychecks." Some books never sell enough copies to earn back the advance. Many authors will never make any more on a book than that original advance. Books go out of print because they're no longer selling enough copies to justify warehouse space with the publisher never having made enough money on them to cover the advance it paid the author.
Higgins also says, " Publishers take a big chunk because they have a lot of employees to pay, and print costs are not cheap." The employees they pay are providing a lot of service for traditionally published authors, too. Developmental and copy editing, page design, cover art, cover design, marketing and sales, access to print reviewers, and distribution to booksellers are all part of what a publisher does for writers. Even though there's no guarantee that the print reviewers will review the book (or review it favorably) or the booksellers will stock it, without a traditional publisher behind you, it's difficult for an author to even have a chance of getting either of those things. Yes, self-published writers can do these things for themselves, but someone still has to pay. I've read of self-published authors putting up $3,000 to $10,000 or more to pay for these kinds of services. And they often don't make the money back, either.
Higgins: "Publishing houses do not provide swag for authors. Some might, but mine doesn't. All bookmarks and buttons, even launch parties, etc, are paid for out of pocket by the author." I've heard of authors planning a $1,000 to $2,000 marketing/promotion budget for each book. Definitely cuts into authors' income from each book, particularly since it's extremely difficult to tell which marketing efforts had an impact and thus paid for themselves.
The authors who get a lot of press are the ones with big bestsellers. There have been a number of them since, maybe, the 1980's, but they're still a very small percentage of the entire writing group. The public doesn't hear about the rest of us, though. The public hears about the Stephen Kings, the Danielle Steels, the J.K. Rowlings.
All those people have earned their success. But their success doesn't mean that writing is a field that masses of people should rush to, hoping to duplicate them. Since you're not going to make much money, you really have to like the lifestyle. Messing with manuscripts...tinkering with your computer...reading...studying up on what you've been doing wrong... I live for this stuff. If people don't, ...
Note: Between the time I wrote this piece and posted it, the blog post referred to disappeared.