“So, are you just swimming in money?”
The question came from an elementary-age boy during a Q&A session. The teachers gasped at his chutzpah, but I smiled. I get that question all the time.
I held up one of my big, shiny picture books. “In the store, this sells for about $15. Of that, how much do you think the author gets?”
The kids began to shout out answers. “$14!”
I shook my head. “That’s high.”
We counted down until the correct answer: “Fifty cents?”
“That’s right. After I split the royalties with the illustrator, I earn about fifty cents.”
And suddenly all those bright faces dulled to the pallor of pity. The Visiting Author wasn’t swimming in money—she wasn’t even getting her toes wet.
The cold hard facts
The truth is simple: Sell many books, earn many monies. Sell a few books, earn a few bucks. Consistently sell a few books and you’d better look for a day job to support your writing habit.
The other day I found this interesting snippet in Publishers Weekly:
“Here’s the reality of the book industry: in 2004, 950,000 titles out of the 1.2 million tracked by Nielsen Bookscan sold fewer than 99 copies. Another 200,000 sold fewer than 1,000 copies. Only 25,000 sold more than 5,000 copies. The average book in America sells about 500 copies. Blockbusters are a minute anomaly: only 10 books sold more than a million copies last year, and fewer than 500 sold more than 100,000.”
If you do the math, you’ll discover that lots of folks are writing purely for the love of it.
I’ve written more than 100 books, so I have quite a few volumes out there earning fifty cent pieces. I make a decent living, enough that I’m able to write full time. But in hard economic times publishers are as squeezed as authors. I’ve lived on cash advances and home equity. Even a prolific writer’s life can be feast or famine.
Many writers have a spouse who helps support the family through the learning years and during those long lulls between checks. Sometimes the writer is the primary breadwinner. Many novelists (in fact, most) work a day job and write at night.
God has always proven Himself faithful. The result? A life of living by faith for finances, ideas, and opportunities. But isn’t that what the Christian walk is all about?
Angela Hunt lives, writes, and tries to balance her checkbook in Florida. Nearly four million copies of Angela’s books have sold worldwide. Visit her at www.angelahuntbooks.com.