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How much does a novelist/writer earn?

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Showing 1-25 of 138 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 26 Feb 2009, 16:39:52 GMT
Now before you scrutinize my question, I know that it is totally subjective; the writer's spectrum can range from the extreme of J K Rowling to a first time novelist who's book doesn't perhaps have the same appeal or advertisement.

What I would like to know is, how many novelists are able to become a writer, as a permanent occupation?

On average - or just a vague figure, how much money would the author receive from sales and other forms, for having their book featured in the top 10?

Perhaps you could give me examples of recent books and the amount of money made by the author. For example 'The Kite Runner', or 'The Life Of Pi'.

Posted on 26 Feb 2009, 17:08:14 GMT
S. Palmer says:
The UK writing economy: a typical writer has seen their income drop by £3,000 pa since
2000; a typical writer earns 33% less than the national average wage; the top 10% of
writers earn 50% of total income (cf other equally skilled professions where the bottom
50% earn almost 40% of total income); nearly 80% of authors need a second job to
survive; in 2004 the publishing industry exports contributed £1.5 billion to the economy;
the creative industries currently contribute 8% of GDP. (source: PLR)

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Feb 2009, 18:04:40 GMT
Put it bluntly, 95% of writers earn less than £5000 per annum. Those who have a long backlist which is permanently in print and who publish something new each year (say Lindsey Davis or Paul Doherty) will be doing very nicely. Its not just being in the top 10 that makes one money its having longevity as a writer...

Posted on 26 Feb 2009, 19:05:36 GMT
Dr Bob says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on 26 Feb 2009, 21:21:37 GMT
How long is a piece of string ? But a novelist will get between 7.50% and 10% of the price received by the publisher. i.e. if a book costs 10.00, the bookseller gets between 50% and 65% per copy so average that at 55% which = 5.50 of the £10 leaving 4.50. If an author is on a 10% royalty they get 45p per book sold therefore. The average sale of a first novel in hardback by an unknown author at the moment is 400 copies. A mid-selling author ( ie. not the first novelist nor J K Rowling) would maybe sell 2,000...
so you do the Math. Very very few general authors make enough to live on. But those who do are not usually the best known names. I know someone who wrote a standard Chemistry textbook for university level about 15 years ago and he has made well over a million pounds so far and is likely to continue to earn well, though he revises it every 5 years.

Posted on 3 May 2009, 17:46:32 BST
My first published book I received £1.04 royalties of per copy
My second published book I received 0.49p per copy
My third published book I received 0.72p per copy

Keep the day job going...

In reply to an earlier post on 3 May 2009, 23:13:46 BST
It's a heartbreaking, frustrating and impossible profession that no one should enter for the money unless they are already famous or related to someone famous. A novel is at least a year in the writing, then come the rejection slips. If you're lucky enough to find an agent (and that's a tough call), they will try and sell it for you. You wait months. The publishers look at its commercial value. If they don't think it will sell, the agent gives up. If you do get published, you get maybe £1 a copy. For a lucky/gifted few, there's money in it. For the rest, writing is a compulsion that runs alongside the day job. JTR

In reply to an earlier post on 17 May 2009, 20:02:24 BST
LEP says:
I think that you have to be really prolific like Nora Roberts, or have books turned into films and merchadise like J K Rowling in order to really earn any money.

Posted on 28 Dec 2011, 20:02:30 GMT
Last edited by the author on 28 Dec 2011, 20:22:26 GMT
Just like any business out there, 20% of authors make 80% of the money. Great writing is recognizable, and those who doubt that choose to remain ignorant of the fact (and have in turn probably been rejected again and again as a result of it). 80/20 rule. You can make money, or you can make excuses, but you can't make both. I've also read a post somewhere up there about it taking a year to write a book? Are we talking about milling our own paper? At even 1000 words a day, a first draft is finished in three months; and one thousand words is by no means a stretch. Give another three months and you have a polished draft. Again--don't generalize based on your personal experience--there is a reason why some teachers remain teachers and others become principals or members of the board. 80/20. There is plenty to be made for the talented story-teller who takes discipline and persistence to heart.

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Dec 2011, 20:30:12 GMT
Have you ever tried to write a book?

1000 words is a damn stretch if you want to produce quality. Apart from that, every person has different approaches to writing. I, for example, can only write one novel per year. I do write short stories on the side, but a good quality novel takes time.

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Dec 2011, 20:36:06 GMT
Probably like with every art. It's talent, hard work and luck. If you have those three, you might be able to give up the daytime job.

To answer the OP question: in my case, I've sold about 130 e-books per month for the past couple of months and received about £30 royalties. The month I sold 900 I received around £200. But the short story collection is only 86p.

Not really feeding me, but still not bad, I think. The sales, not the money. :-)

Posted on 28 Dec 2011, 20:47:02 GMT
AJ Barnett says:
I have been published in magazines and international competitiions since 1994. Most of our books now raise the princely sum of 25p per book - because we have been driven down, so that you as a reader can get it for 86p - Please don't think we are well paid. Mostly authors do it because of a hidden drive - certainly not to get rich.

Posted on 28 Dec 2011, 22:21:00 GMT
I spend a year working on a book. Writing is a hobby that I am passionate about :) and it'll stay that way until I have a large amount of security sitting in a bank account ;p

Posted on 28 Dec 2011, 23:02:35 GMT
I earn a truly shameful £7 a month and a bit more from royalties on the merchandise. It's my first book but I have very little time to market it.

I think a lot of it is about luck, but behind every 'lucky' author there is usually a combination of several books and a lot of hard work. I'm hoping that if I put in the hard work, oh and write more books, the luck will find me eventually. In the meantime, if anyone reads my book and enjoys it, I'm pretty happy.



Posted on 29 Dec 2011, 00:56:39 GMT
Don't be disheartened - £7 a month is good! Ignore the negatives saying you haven't made money because you aren't any good; it's as much about having the right backing and marketing, with a touch of luck, as being a good writer. A lot of good writers never get big success and some who aren't that brilliant make millions. My 14 year old daughter can pull apart the writing of Jean Ure or Stephanie Meyer but I don't think they would care with their bank balances!

Posted on 29 Dec 2011, 01:47:40 GMT
I live and work in Australia, where it is acknowledged that the ordinary 'working writer' or 'author as producer' or 'author as business person' is a loss model, as seen through the government's eyes. About 90 percent of book writers must do some other kind of paid work in order to survive financially. The other ten percent are either celebrity authors, have a supportive spouse, or have inherited or won substantial amounts of money, so are 'independently' viable. A very small number receive support from the Department of the Arts.

The statistics change from year to year because grants from the Dept of the Arts, and income from book sales, are very volatile and changeable things - they are never the same two years running.

The jobs that authors usually say they have to support their writing habits are teaching, lecturing, journalism, editing, librarianship, researching, and other occupations related in some way to the written word. Others say they write in their spare time.

Out of the 100,000 persons who say they are writers in Australia, only a handful make ALL their income from the books they write. The bulk comes from public appearances and talks, signing events, guest lecturing, and income from journalism.

I have worked as an author since 1985, and I have ALWAYS had to supplement what I make from my books with a 'real' job such as teaching or editing. What I make in a year from books is ALWAYS less than the electricity, computing peripherals, paper, phone calls, book purchases for research, library dues, bulk purchases of books for signings and other expenses I make to support my writing. Without fail, and without exception. I have never had a profitable year, financially speaking.

My supporting activities, on the other hand, are great. I can make real money editing and formatting for other authors. Plenty of money - there are enough new authors out there to keep editors and formatters like me in lucrative work indefinitely.

In reply to an earlier post on 29 Dec 2011, 08:53:46 GMT
1 novel a year is very good.

Posted on 29 Dec 2011, 11:45:14 GMT
Last edited by the author on 29 Dec 2011, 11:54:02 GMT
Hey Rosanne, I would agree with you.

I fall into the supportive husband category ;-) I, too, have heard that most of the money to be made is in appearances and hopefully, when McMini starts school full time (September) I might be able to start looking more closely at that kind of thing. Right now as the stay at home parent, appearences are a little tricky. I could imagine they will always be a bit tricky but I fully anticipate that side of things easing as he gets older.

Mrs A V Hart, thanks that's a lovely thing to say. Strangely, I'm quite confident about my book in many ways. I think it's good but it has a niche appeal; it's a humorous fantasy fiction novel, it's the first in a series and as things go on there's also a dash of romance (the second is out in April). That does make it a challenge to box and sell.

Presario, I envy you whatever it is you have (youth and an uncomplicated life, I suspect) that makes it possible for you to write 1,000 words a day. Different strokes for different folks I guess. I am capable of quite a high output if my mind is rested, fresh and not dealing with the ever growing pile of Other Matters vying for my mental attention. However, I couldn't see myself managing book a year because I need time to rest a manuscript after I've finished the first draft before reading it again with fresh eyes.

As it is, the Real World interferes with my writing time to such an extent that it takes me about 4 years to write a book, usually in spurts of activity over the course of each school term. I can quite often manage about 20,000 words during each term. If I had no family, no social life and no job I could probably knock a book off in two years. Again, it depends on time and outside interference. Also, I have to put lots of stuff in; music, films, other books etc to keep the ideas floating out. Again, with more room to think I'd probably write several books at once. That way after the first few years or so, there'd always be something to release each year.

I reckon so long as everyone around me stays healthy I should be OK for one book every 3 years once McMini goes to school full time. That's just how long the ideas take to ferment and settle with everything else going on at the same time.

I'm guessing your answer to this would be that if I have a family I am clearly not serious about writing. That isn't so. I just didn't want to chase one dream at the expense of all the others.

The trick, I think, is not to look at the sales but to enjoy writing, to write what you can and want to write and to make the best job of each book you are able. The way I see it, if I can do that, and anyone likes it at all, anything else is gravy.

Stella, nice going.

Cheers all


In reply to an earlier post on 29 Dec 2011, 12:28:52 GMT
I think so, too. Apparently authors now have to comply to certain time. Three months! Chop chop, better get our skates on, then, eh?

Posted on 29 Dec 2011, 12:35:33 GMT
Phnark! Indeed. In the long haul though, I reckon the finely crafted tome will win out! I hope so anyway!



In reply to an earlier post on 29 Dec 2011, 12:40:51 GMT
Last edited by the author on 29 Dec 2011, 12:41:07 GMT
I agree. There are days you just can't write at all, head is full with other things. Or even when I try to concentrate on the writing, I might end up with 200 words after three hours. But I rather write 200 words of quality than writing 1000 words of rubbish that needs to be deleted later. I need an average of 6 months to write, then leave it for a while and go back to edit after a few weeks. So it takes roughly a year.

Posted on 29 Dec 2011, 12:50:40 GMT
I think when I've less going on, that's roughly how it could be for me. As I get to the point where I'm able to do the odd bit of writing in school holidays and the like my production rate will definitely go up. Some space to stand back from it is very important though, so sometimes I use school holidays for that!

Posted on 29 Dec 2011, 13:05:30 GMT
I wrote my first book in 2.5 months 120k. Edited the damn thing for 2 years. Then again, it was my first book, I didn't have a clue about writing and it was the book that taught me everything: from POV, to pace, to style, everything. I'm lucky enough I didn't have to bin it like many writers do with their first book. It's a good book, it's in good shape now and readers are enjoying it a lot. The sequel took me 7 months to write. It's being edited at the moment and hopefully released next month. I admire those who can throw out books every three months, but I personally doubt they are of quality. I just doubt anyone can produce a good quality 70-90k novel in three months. I might be wrong, but I just doubt it.

Posted on 30 Dec 2011, 10:58:53 GMT
A. Duff says:
To answer the OP - I've met reasonably well-known authors at conferences who admitted to having a day job.

A thousand words a day is a real stretch if you're trying to hold down a full time job and stay married at the same time. When I was finishing my first novel I averaged 5,000 words a week for ten weeks. I'd think twice about doing that again - aside from the eighty-hour weeks it was difficult to maintain my passion for the story. Had I pushed any harder I'd have started writing rubbish that needed massive editing or scrapping.

Posted on 30 Dec 2011, 13:38:38 GMT
There are some books you can finish writing in a few months, and some which you don't even finish in years. It's impossible to generalise, even for one writer! But statistics from the Society of Authors, whose members would all consider themselves to be professionals, show that most authors earn rather less than £5000 a year from their writing. And most of us do such a variety of other writing: articles, plays (in my case!) blogs for publicity purposes and even things like scripts for audio tours, that we would find it very hard to say exactly how long it takes to write a novel. On the whole, most of us do it for love, rather than for money. When I occasionally teach creative writing classes, my advice is always to write because you just can't help it! It's hard work but most of us do it because we love it - even the boring bits. And many of us have a 'day job' too. I have an online shop, selling antique and vintage textiles, and that's what helps to buy time for me to write. Most of us have to manage a portfolio of jobs and still don't make any fortunes. But I'd add that it has never ever stopped being enjoyable, for me - at least!
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Discussion in:  fiction discussion forum
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Total posts:  138
Initial post:  26 Feb 2009
Latest post:  2 Apr 2016

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