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Monday, December 07, 2009

The Truth About Authors' Income - Why I'm Still Working

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

An author who hit the New York Times Bestsellers List made a promise that if she ever made the NYT List she would post her earnings on the book. She's kept her word. I wanted to share with you the realities of a published author. You've probably heard the mantra of "starving artists", but for some reason people tend to think that authors make millions or hundreds of thousands on their novels--especially if it becomes a bestseller. The reality is--not so. Many of us are the "starving writers" who pull a full-time job and write deep into the evenings and late at night because of this creative desire that we were born to do.

Granted, there are some out there whose books have grossed millions, like Stephen King, Nora Roberts, Nicholas Sparks, JK Rowling, Rick Warren, Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye, whose income from their novels have gone on to include royalties from movie rights. But keep in mind they are "the few" and the rest of us (writers in general, not any specific writer of any genre) look to their success as inspiration and hope of what "is possible" to achieve in publishing.

The reality for the rest of us published authors is best summed up in the linked posts below. Although I don't personally read the genre that Lynn Viehl writes, as a fellow author, I very much appreciate her candid report.

The Reality of a Times Bestseller  by Author Lynn Viehl (April 2009)

More on the Reality of a Times Bestseller  by Author Lynn Viehl (November 2009)


Do you have a link for her?

Jennifer, thanks for this. It really puts the salary part of writing in perspective. How grateful I am not to be counting on the pay.

...just another reason patience is much easier to have.

Terri, If you click on the Titles of her posts at the bottom of my post, they are links to her posts. Let me know if you have any other problems.


You are welcome. Since I've only received my advance and not any royalties yet, it was great information for me as well. Very eye-opening.

I think every writer dreams of making it big with their books. But, I think it's also wise to be aware of what the truth is for the vast majority of writers - we don't all end up with the amounts of money made by authors like the ones you mention in your post. It's nice to dream though.

Jennifer, that was one of the best posts I've read today-- the information you linked to was exceptional and so helpful. Did I find it discouraging? Not in the least bit. It told me partly what I've expected. An author usually cannot expect to live from their book alone. It's like so many other artists and business people. One must plan to diversify and be creative and ready to work in order to keep the dough rolling in. I probably would have never found those articles on my own. Thank you.

Interesting information and how awesome that she would share it. It really doesnt surprise me - and Im new at this business. I suppose if we are truly writers, it wont sway us one bit from what we love to do. Thank you for posting this.


I agree. So many authors start out on the road to publication w/stars in their eyes. They know about the BIG successes b/c that's what everyone hears about. They don't realize that most fall in the midlist category and reality is a little different from that angle. It's better for one to have realistic expectations than to be disappointed years later.

Arlee, I'm glad it was helpful. Authors who live off their book income usually have several published novels so that they are earning royalties on several books that are out there. Also, if a person can write more than one novel a year, they have a better chance of supporting themselves on their writing income. But because checks come like twice a year, they must be excellent budget planners and most have a spouse with a steady income. They also supplement their income from speaking engagements and giving workshops.

Jan, I'm glad you found it interesting. People who are born to write are going to write no matter what. My husband will tell you--I'm not afraid to get up at 3AM and jot down notes, or write ideas on napkins in restaurants. I can't help myself.

I still am amazed at the time and creativity you put into your books. And we reap all the benefits of your hard work! Your two books sound great.
Please enter me for the drawing. Thank you.
desertrose5173 at gmail dot com