Following the Money

What are the economics of being a professional author? I know how much I’ve made as a storyteller in various mediums, but the book business is still pretty much a mystery to me.

To the extent that I’ve been able to fill in any blanks I owe individual authors for having the courage to talk about their own experiences. While each story is different, they’re all adding up to a useful composite, and particularly so given all the forces at work and changes taking place in the industry.

For example, today I ran across a follow-up post by Lynn Viehl on Genreality, talking about The Reality of a Times Bestseller:

So how much money have I made from my Times bestseller? Depending on the type of sale, I gross 6-8% of the cover price of $7.99. After paying taxes, commission to my agent and covering my expenses, my net profit on the book currently stands at $24,517.36, which is actually pretty good since on average I generally net about 30-40% of my advance. Unless something triggers an unexpected spike in my sales, I don’t expect to see any additional profit from this book coming in for at least another year or two.

Is that a sobering reality? Easy money? I have no idea. I don’t know how many hours Lynn put into that title, so I can’t do the workaday math. Still, if you didn’t live a big city or have any consuming vices you could probably squeak by on that money, provided you had the same amount coming in next year…but then that’s not a given, is it? (Speaking of givens, Lynn blows up a number of myths in the post, and in the prequel.)

In a previous post I noted Joe Konrath’s sales figures for both traditional publishing and self-publishing of his novels, and that’s also worth a look.

For pure self-publishing numbers I’ve been relying on posts by Dan Holloway writing as a pair of shoes. You can read his initial accounting here, and his latest here.

If you’re a literary fiction writer, how many books do you have to sell to call yourself a success? 7,000.

If you’re an online fiction writer, are there ways to monetize your content? Sure.

Update: Publishing your own RPG? Here’s what it cost someone to do just that.

I’ll post more as I find it. If you’ve already found it, let me know.

— Mark Barrett