The novel is launched, positive early reviews are building and the next wave of publicity is about to hit. One might think that all that’s left is to sit back and watch sales numbers soar and put a down payment on something expensive with the royalty money that will be flooding in.
So the question is, how much do authors REALLY earn? In this blog I want to talk about dollars and sense! But before I get down to the real numbers, I want to give the question a bit of perspective.
For most novels in English, the U.S. is generally considered one of the largest markets. And one of the indicators of success in that market is the New York Times Best Sellers list. If you make this list…well, you’re doing pretty well. But how well do you have to do to make the cut?
In order to make the NYT Best Sellers List you have to sell 5,000–10,000 copies of your book in one week, but it is a little more complicated than that. The list is known as a survey list, which means those sales can not be from just one source (such as one distributor or a newsletter pre-subscription). The list is created by surveying various retailers and numbers of sales across various platforms. Keep in mind that there are literally millions of books on the market and according to some research, 7500 new books are released on Kindle EVERY day. That’s a lot of competition.
The NYT Best Sellers List is updated once per week. Sustaining a position on the list is really tough. If you DO manage to get there, the real money is more likely in a deal to make a film out of the book, but we’ll get into the specifics of money a little further on in this blog.
So given the competition and the challenge of those heady numbers, perhaps it is easier to become an Amazon Best Selling novel? Not exactly. If 7500 new books are released on Kindle every day, then there’s a lot of selection. To hit #1 on the Amazon Best Seller list, you have to to sell between 3500 and 5000 books within a 24 hour period. The GREAT thing about Amazon is that the numbers are calculated daily, so if your book runs hot, and has a big day of sales, and you hit #1 for only one day, you can still claim that you were a #1 Best Seller.
But let’s face it…that’s a lot of books. In last week’s blog I wrote about how you can also place your book in various categories which are more specific, and in this way, you can potentially become a #1 best seller in your particular category. It is still pretty tough, but at least you aren’t competing against ALL books, but rather just against the books in your category. Savvy marketers can use very narrow categories to get a higher ranking, but the more specific the category, the lower number of books one would likely have sold even if you hit #1.
So considering that Gay Romance is a niche market that may appeal to only a certain percentage of overall readers, then it might be better to set one’s sights on a more attainable goal. How about a Canadian Best Seller? But how many copies is that?
According to most surveys, in Canada (which is a smaller market), a Canadian book would likely hit best seller status if it sold 5000 copies.
So now for the part that everyone wants to know about and nobody wants to talk about…MONEY. I mean, let’s just say that a person sells 5000 books. A Kindle book costs $5 and paperbacks are over $10, so the author must be rolling in money if the book is a Canadian Best Seller right?
Well, books that are put out by publishers have costs associated with the staff of the publisher, the cost of editing, cover art, marketing, listing it with distributors, not to mention the cost of producing a hard copy if it is a paperback or hardcover. And if one is self-publishing, you have to pay all of the expenses up front and then try and make it back by selling the book on your own.
Contracts are different for different authors, and of course, the success of a book can depend on the timing of the book, the subject matter, the fame of the author, and the level of advertising (which also costs money).
In general, the authors I know use the “buck a book” average. This means that on average after free promotional copies, online discounts, expenses and various handling fees the author likely sees a royalty of $1 for each book that gets out into a reader’s hands. This is not by any means a highly researched number. It is simply an average that rings true if you are self-published or working with a big publisher. And of course, the larger the publisher, the higher the expenses (but the marketing budgets are higher, and you will likely sell more books).
So if you want to be a millionaire, then sell a million books. And if you want to earn $5000 in Canada, then write a Canadian Best Seller.
There you have it. The truth is, after a year of work writing and marketing a novel, it is possible to earn very little money. So why on earth would anyone bother?
The number one reason among the writers I know is that they LOVE to write. They do it because it’s a passion. They do it because they are compelled to write. They do it because they want to share their stories and experiences with others.
And if you think it’s all doom and gloom, or you’re reading this and you were thinking of becoming an author and this has changed your mind…take heart.
The story you tell may be JUST the thing that audiences are looking for. Your book may be picked up by a bigger publisher who may have the clout to get it in front of a wider audience. You may discover that a book doesn’t take off immediately, and then a few years later, the topic comes into fashion and suddenly your book is the talk of the town. Or down the road, a random person may read your book and decide to purchase the rights and turn it into a best-selling movie.
As the catch phrase for The Woodcarver’s Model says; Sometimes the truth is the hardest thing to reveal.
But the truth can often be comforting to hear. And for me, I know that regardless of the sales on this book, it has already reached out to a lot of people. With positive reviews, good publicity and continued work doing a bit of advertising, the novel will be read by a large number of people who will like it, and will be waiting for my next book.
And although I can’t reveal much, I can say that the next novel is nearing a completed draft.
I’ll let the dollars worry about themselves, because no matter what I earn, I have a passion for writing, and for me that means writing on future novels makes a lot of sense.
The Woodcarver’s Model is published through Pride Publishing
and is now available wherever books are sold.
To buy a copy click below