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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 😉

Writer Junk

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You wouldn’t believe all the junk we writers keep around. It’s not that we particularly have more things than most people, it’s just that writers always seem to have more pressing things to do than keep their humble abodes clean, such as getting an overdue manuscript in, scratching out 4,000 words on some draft, rewriting a scene where everyone has green hair, etc. The unimportant things in life such as eating, sleeping, and keeping our living conditions up to par with health and safety inspections just fall to the floor.


I decided it was high time, whilst awaiting the revisions from my editor, to give my room a good solid cleaning. After all, I’ve lived here for six months and as you can see, there’s still loads of things in boxes. The reason for this is that the moment I got here I immediately hopped on Youtube and haven’t pulled myself from it since. Oh, and there was that book deal thing. And the college thing. But after I went to my Big Junk Drawer and couldn’t find my box of favorite pens, I realized that I was living as messy as Ernie, and something had to be done about it.

Ernie and his Rubber Ducky

Anyhow, I got set on cleaning stuff out. Writers have a thing with pens, paper and notebooks. I have boxes and filing cabinets filled with them. I can understand that, but what I don’t understand is why I need 43 sales receipts from various stores stuffed in my dresser drawers. It’s not like I don’t have stacks of free note pads lying around from college salesmen (college salesmen are those folks that come around campus trying to get you to pay more fees for learning overseas, special classes, new computers, etc, and love handing free stuff out). My junk drawer in particular had grown out of hand:

Egads! Look at all that writer junk

Yes, that is a cassette tape. No, I didn’t throw it away.

Whilst cleaning, I realized that when I come in, I always drop all my change into the drawer and forget about it. Imagine my surprise when I pulled all the junk out to find this at the bottom:


I felt like Ali Baba stumbling upon the treasury of the forty thieves. Then, I found something else stuck between the lid of a box:


I can’t imagine how it could have gotten lost in the drawer. Maybe I should start cleaning things out a little more often…