JK Rowling might be worth millions but according to a recent report most authors – even those who are traditionally published – struggle to make any sort of living from their books.
In fact according to the 2014 Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest Author Survey, although top authors can make a tremendous amount of money, almost 54 per cent of traditionally published authors and 80 per cent of self-published ones will make less than £600 a year.
Just a tiny proportion of authors who go the self-published route – 0.7 per cent – will make around £60,000 plus from their work. And while you might imagine a traditionally published author with a known publisher and possibly a literally agent might make a huge difference, apparently only a tiny 1.3 authors who’ve gone this route will be making over £60,000 per annum.
These figures are worth bearing in mind if you are considering writing a book. Because although many authors adore what they do and of course there is more to writing a book than just making money, the survey did find that 56 per cent of self-published authors and almost 60 per cent of traditional authors judged it ‘extremely important’ to ‘publish a book that people will buy.’
Indeed there isn’t a lot of point in writing if no-one actually reads it… As Digital Book World editorial director Jeremy Greenfield, who also co wrote the report says in the Guardian article: “Most authors want to share something with the world or gain recognition of some sort.”
The report’s other co-author, Professor Dana Weinberg adds: “I would argue that for most writers publishing is not only about money; it is about a lot of other things including touching readers and sharing stories, but the money is important in a lot of ways.”
She goes on to say that the high royalty rates in self-publishing do give writers higher expectations about what they might earn. However, while the dream of quitting the day job for novel writing is just not going to happen for most – it does happen.
For example the New York Times reports romance writer Sylvia Day has recently negotiated an eight figure advance for her next two books. The books, called Blacklist are a follow up to the author’s ‘Crossfire’ series which has sold more than 13 million copies since its release began in 2012.
Meanwhile since publishing Fifty Shades of Grey, EL James has become the world’s highest earning author earning over £65million in just one year…
So the message to authors is take heart that if you aren’t earning much then you are certainly not alone – but persevere. If EL James had given up (and she had self published a number of books before her third was picked up) then obviously she wouldn’t be where she is today…
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