The Realities of Money and Novel-Writing: Can it really pay the bills?

The bottom-line question is this: Can writing novels really pay the bills? 

Of course, for a big-time author, there's no question. But what about mid-list authors, or novelists published by small presses, and self-published authors?

I decided it was time to examine the financial realities. I was already aware that even with a traditional publisher, I couldn't expect huge amounts of money. 

Advances get spread over a year or more. Agents and the government take their cut. Authors are increasingly expected to shell out money for publicity. And most books don't earn back their advances, so expecting a fat royalty check is a pipe dream for most authors.

It's really helpful when authors share the realities with those of us still on the journey. Be aware that many authors are restricted from giving their exact advances, but here are a few posts that will give you an idea:

Eric Wilson bares all about his income for ten novels.

Do you see a trend? These authors are not making a huge amount each year. What's the solution? Book sales. Being the author who actually receives royalties. And the way to encourage that is by writing the best book possible. Studying the craft of writing. Mastering marketing.

But what about self-publishing? Is it possible to earn more going the indie-route? J.A. Konrath certainly thinks so. And PassiveGuy shows how author Dean Wesley Smith plans to make $100,000 a year with only an hour a day of writing time. Very interesting.

Most of us long to be published because we want to touch readers. We want the validation that our words are meaningful. Money is nice, but it's not the biggest issue. We struggle with writing while keeping our jobs, and penning words around the rest of our lives. Because we have stories to tell.

Don't worry about me, I'll keep writing no matter what I make or don't make. I don't think I could stop. How about you?


  1. I'm much the same. I have a "real" job. The writing thing is really more... well... for me rather than for money.

  2. I love how you tackle the writing subjects I'm wondering about just as I'm wondering. ;) Another post that hits the nail on the head.

    I write for God, and because of that I write for myself and for readers. Can't stop. I've tried. But it would be lovely to be recognized and even get a paltry amount, wouldn't it? Lol.

    Thanks for the post!

  3. I think as more authors expose the real numbers game in all of this that many writers will seek self-publish publication. As everyone moves to this method of publication, the ebook market is getting really crowded. I think most writers can't afford to give up their day jobs. I pledge to keep writing and trying.

  4. This is why the small presses who don't give out advances and the indie authors are stepping up. There is more money (still not a lot) but more to be made this way.
    S.B. Niccum
    Author Website
    Author Blog
    Chicks In Lit Blog

  5. I am of the mind to still do it no matter what. I read up on this early on so I wouldn't have any shock if ever the day came that I did get published. I think just having my name on a book on a shelf to sell would be payment enough:)

  6. Great comments! It's definitely a wise idea to have our eyes open, instead of imagining huge advances and royalties (I'm trying to get my husband to see reality on this!).

    For most of us, the validation of having enthusiastic readers is the biggest piece of the pie, and if there's a little money to be made, that's a nice cherry on top.

    I agree that the small presses will start to take a bigger market share. They're more nimble, and poised to snatch some of the real estate the Big Six have been occupying.




Related Posts with Thumbnails