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How Much Money Does An Author Make?

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Let’s talk about MONEY! Or rather, how much money does an author make?

One of the most common questions I get as an author is about my income. People don’t want to be rude, but if they dream of being a writer one day, it’s a very important question for their future career!

When it comes to an author’s income… the truth is, every author’s pay is different.

There are actually two ways that an author gets paid. When I finish writing a book, my agent takes it to publishers, and then the publishers offer what is called an advance.

An ADVANCE is a bit of money that the publisher is willing to pay up front to buy a book. The more copies the publishers think they can sell, the more money they’ll offer. For example, Stephenie Meyer got about $750,000 for the first three Twilight books. That was a little unusual. Most advances are smaller.

Her publishers knew those books would sell, so they knew they could offer a lot. But publishers don’t always predict correctly, because JK Rowling only got about $4000 for the first Harry Potter book.

Book deals can go anywhere from nothing into the millions of dollars. But that’s only the first way an author makes money.

If JK Rowling only got $4000 for Harry Potter, she’d ACTUALLY be writing on napkins by now, or so unfathomably depressed she’d have given up writing altogether. Which would leave us in a strange, sans-Potter world.

Authors also get paid what are called ROYALTIES, which means that for every book sold, a writer gets a little bit of money. It’s usually about 10% of the price, so if a book sells for $20, the author gets $2.

When you have something like Harry Potter, which has now sold over 450 million copies, that math comes out to… a little more than $4000.

The catch is that before an author gets a royalty check, they have to earn back their advance check. So before JK Rowling got paid any more, she had to earn back $4000 worth of book royalties, which probably didn’t take very long. But before Stephenie Meyer got paid any more, she had to earn back $750,000 worth of book royalties… which probably didn’t take that long either.

So really, the way an author makes money is by what you do. If you buy a book you like, and tell your friends about it, and then they go buy it, pretty soon thousands of people are buying the book… and we can pay the rent!

Book deals announced through Publishers Marketplace will sometimes tell which category the sale was in. They’re reported this way:

“nice deal” $1 – $49,000

“very nice deal” $50,000 – $99,000

“good deal” $100,000 – $250,000

“significant deal” $251,000 – $499,000

“major deal” $500,000 and up

That way people know how much a publisher paid for the book, without saying exactly how much money was offered in the advance!

If you enjoyed this post, check out my novel HARKEN! While we’re talking about authors making money… maybe you should buy it 😉

Interview with Kaza Kingsley

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kaza kingsley tour

Kaza Kingsley is the author of the Erec Rex series. Already there are two books out in the series, titled The Dragon’s Eye and The Monsters of Otherness.



Thanks Kaza for being here. First, for all the writers here, I have always been curious about that very first book signing, your first time out with your published book. How did that go and where were you? What did you do to prepare?

My first signing at Borders Books in Cincinnati was fantastic. Of course it helped that everyone I knew and their brother showed up to support me. I was floating on air, truly. I didn’t do much to prepare – I didn’t even do a reading at that signing. It was too busy, so I just socialized and signed books. A lot of fun! Then I had a party at my house that night to

You appeared at the Book Expo America some time ago to promote your books. What was the BEA like your first time there as an author?

That was an amazing experience. The Javitz center was enormous and packed with people. And the signings I did were incredibly busy. It was a little overwhelming – my publicist had given me a list of people to meet, but only a few of them were at their booths.

The best part was winning a bunch of awards at the BEA. ForeWord Magazine Awards took place in the middle of the Javitz center, and Erec Rex won silver for YA Book of the Year! The worst was that I got incredibly sick the second day I was there. It was hard to even walk. I had been throwing up all night.

Have you ever walked into a bookstore and stumbled upon your own book when you weren’t looking for it?

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List Of Teenage Authors: Writers Published As Teens

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It has become quite interesting discovering how many authors were first published as teenagers. This is certainly an encouragement, as for the longest I thought Paolini was the only teenage writer and author. I discovered that there are quite a few others who were published as teens, some of them below:

Kenneth Oppel

Christoper Paolini

Robyn Schneider

S.E. Hinton

Catherine Webb

Eze Imade Eribo

Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

Nancy Yi Fan

Flavia Bujor

Danielle Steel

S.E. Hinton’s first book was the Outsiders, the second biggest selling book for Young Adults in publishing history- over 8 million in print! Christopher Paolini’s first book was out when he was 19 and has sold over 9 million as well.

This is a growing list, so if you know any more email me and I’ll add them.

–Added November 14 2007 – Thanks Cat- I added Catherine Webb

–Added November 19 2007 – Thanks Mimi- I added Eze Eribo.

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