Writing is a great career but ….. how much does it pay?

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author 2Many romance readers seem to think that a writing career is something that is not only glamorous but a way to make pots of money quickly in their spare time and, if they’re very lucky, they can parlay writing into a full time career. However, only the most successful authors can afford to write full time and there are not that many of those rare beings in this genre, so it’s important to know what you can expect to make as a writer before you jump in.

And the dreams don’t stop. Readers also have visions of their books turning into movie scripts like one very famous (or infamous) writer who recently did just that! They figure they can write in their pyjamas and not have to commute to work, as the commute would be from their bedroom to the den/office, :) after they catch up with the morning shows and drink their second cappuccino or latte. Doesn’t that sound idyllic? However the truth may not be the picture I just painted because writing is hard work if you do it right and produce quality work, as any experienced author will tell you. So this post is an attempt to find out if there’s any money to be made from all that hard work, and if so, how much.

Where to publish? We used to think that there was only one way to get your literary works of art into the hands of readers – by publishers – but as current events and trends have shown us, publishers are facing stiff competition from an unlikely source: self publishing. Seems authors are doing it for themselves. To demonstrate how far we have come in this business, I’m enclosing a link my friend TJ sent me to a New York Times article about Steven Soderbergh, the well known filmmaker, who is publishing a hard-boiled suspense novella on Twitter, tweet by tweet, called “Glue”. So far, he has published seven chapters. Twitter may be the next mountain in publishing for writers to conquer, but not today. :lol: Of course if you tweet it you can’t charge for the book. :shock: Here’s the link to the article

http://tinyurl.com/cynwe76

Just how much money can be made? This started out as an article about self publishing and I’m still going to write that essay soon, but today I want author 3to zero in on how much money M/M writers make. This post is directed to all our writers out there, novice and experienced, and I’m looking for their help in completing the enclosed survey which could be used to develop a database of what M/M authors make, before taxes. There is no definitive or credible information around currently and this database of author salaries would be a boon to every M/M writer, either current or aspiring. With the incredible influx of new authors into the genre I thought this would be useful comparative information for everyone. I should say right off the bat that I’m sure it’s not just the money that attracts people to writing as a career because many writers have told me that they can sooner stop breathing before they can stop writing. However, conversely I know that a lot of authors write to supplement the incomes from their full-time or part-time jobs. Can a romance writing career be based on something so unromantic and prosaic? Surely creativity and art must play a major role! :) I’m sure it does.

authorThere are two important sides to the revenue coin. The first is that most M/M authors still currently publish their books through publishers – mostly epublishers – but this is changing. Today more and more authors are discovering self publishing. The main reason for this shift is money. If the writers are good at what they do and/or have a large fan base they typically make a lot more money by self pubbing. Royalties through an epublisher are usually between 30 – 45% of what the publisher nets (not grosses), meaning sales through a third party like Amazon earn an author less when the author is going through a publisher middleman.

By self publishing through Amazon Digital Services, on the other hand, an author can make as much as 70% of the gross receipts, depending on the pricing structure of the books. As writers get back their rights to books that were previously under contract with a publisher, the likelihood of them going the self publishing route rather than renewing their contracts is very real and publishers are bleeding a lot of their more popular writers. Likewise, some new writers choose to self publish from the getgo because they believe they can make more money that way rather than the traditional one through a publisher, and going by the numbers they may have the right idea. However, if you’re an aspiring writer don’t quit your day job without doing a lot of research, and the data from this survey could be part of that research in terms of the answer to the question: How much does an M/M writer make from his/her books?

Money, money, money. So how much does an author really make and is there a huge difference between releasing his/her books through an epublisher vs. self publishing? The enclosed short survey should provide some useful data on writer income that I hope will benefit all m/m authors. You can help your fellow authors and yourself by completing the survey which will also be on the right hand sidebar. BTW, no one will know how much anyone makes individually because the poll is completely anonymous: Here it is:

How long have you been published as an M/M author?

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How many stories/books are in your backlist?

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How much did your first book earn?

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Was it a:

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Do you currently use an epublisher?

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How much do you currently earn on average using an epublisher? > Per novel

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> Per novella

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> Per novelette/short story

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If you currently self publish how much do you earn? > Per novel

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> Per novella

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> Per novelette/short story?

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Do you plan to continue self publishing exclusively?

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How much do you earn now annually from your writing career? > Using an epublisher

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> Self Publishing

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NOTE: The term “epublisher” is used interchangeably in this post with “publisher” since the majority of epublishers also publish their novels in print.

138 thoughts on “Writing is a great career but ….. how much does it pay?

  1. Erastes

    unsure about the poll – my books are published in eform, but I’m careful to only use publishers these days that will publish in all possible formats, I wouldn’t use one now that didn’t publish in paper as well – so I couldn’t leave answers to the final set of questions.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Erastes

      I assumed, perhaps incorrectly, that the majority of epublishers, if not all of them, offered their novels in print (POD) as well as in ebook form. I buy a lot of print books from epublishers that originally published them as ebooks. e.g. Samhain, Dreamspinner and Amber Allure. I also buy books directly from Amazon that were originally released as ebooks.

  2. Josh Lanyon

    Hmm. Good point. I just went by ebook sales since that’s where the bulk of income is earned for most m/m authors. Or at least it’s where I earn the bulk of my income now. For the total revenue earned, I did lump it all together. But even if I removed those numbers, I’d still fall in the same tier, so maybe it’s moot?

    Thanks for doing this, Wave. I hope we get lots of good data. It would be so helpful to have realistic numbers.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hey Josh

      Many readers buy the same books in ebook format as well as print, especially if they are part of a series. For example, I have all of the Adrien English Mysteries in both print and ebook as well as your Collected Novellas. So even though they are called epublishers, and that’s the majority of their business, they also publish their books in print using POD .

      I, too, hope that the authors will respond in large numbers so that there’s a big enough sample to provide some definitive data.

      Thanks for responding.

  3. Sara York

    What jumpstarts earning is as variable as each authors name. There is no rhyme or reason why one of my books sells well and another doesn’t. The best way to earn more money is to write another book.

    I will add that a friend IRL had no idea that “these types of books” were out there. He’s elated to find stories with characters like him. So even now, with all the internet advertising, FB’ing and Twitter there are readers who have no idea gay books are out there.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Sara

      As you indicated, obviously there are many factors that contribute to an author’s earnings and the more well-known the author the better the sales in most cases if the product is good. Also, knowledge of what’s available in this market has a lot to do with it. Many readers are still not aware that male/male romances exist and the more we advertise through different media and word of mouth, the better the likelihood that someone will buy the books. However M/M has been around for 10 years and there has been a lot of exponential growth since I first started reading these books. Just take a look at the number of epublishers who specialize in these books since Torquere first came on the market; the number of authors has also exploded, so the message is definitely getting through – maybe not to everyone, but to a large group of dedicated readers who help to spread the word.

  4. Elliott Mackle

    Erastes and I have chewed through the epublish-only situation before. I’m happy that my publisher (Lethe Press) produces both print and cyber versions of my work. Royalties on ebooks are better because they cost little or nothing to produce. For my own reading and reviewing, however, I don’t WANT to use a Nook or Kindle, and I’m disinclined to read works on my laptop because I spend a great deal of time there on my own work and play. Recently, I’ve had to miss fiction I want to read by, for example, Alex Beecroft and Aleksander Voinov because they were ebooks only. The industry is definitely changing but I’m in favor of making our work available in both platforms long term.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Elliott
      The larger epublishers offer their books in both print and ebook except for Carina. Riptide is fairly small, they call themselves a boutique publisher, but I don’t know what their policy is on print. However I believe only novels are generally available in print (with exceptions, because there are always exceptions) because it would probably be uneconomical to print shorter books such as novellas. However I do know that some publishers offer a compendium of several books by the same author in print in form of an anthology, or a series. I think it’s strictly a matter of economics why more publishers don’t offer their books in print.

      1. Angelia Sparrow

        Ellora’s Cave is very slow to offer their books in paperback, choosing to wait 2-3 years after the ebook comes out. This is a holdover from the days when their contract was not life of copyright, but 3 years for ebook and 5 for print. They tried hanging on to the rights as long as possible.

        Most other publishers offer them simultaneously.

        1. Wave Post author

          Hi Angel
          I was not aware of EC’s policy on print. Samhain provides print copies 8/9 months after ebook release.

    2. Lou Harper

      Samhain puts their books out in print a year after the electronic release, but only the ones that are 50k words long or more.

      I’ve self-pubbed one novella so far, and plan on a couple more. With all of them I make print versions through CreateSpace. There’s not much money in print but it’s worth to do for the few readers who still prefer the feel of paper. Plus you can take them to conferences, etc.

      1. Wave Post author

        I thought Samhain offered print books 8/9 months after the electronic release – guess they have extended that time. They have always only made just novels available in print.

        I used to buy a lot of print books but I have run out of bookshelf space now so I have 3 Kindles. :lol:

        1. Lou Harper

          Technically, mine was 11 months later. Maybe it varies.

          I’ve run out shelf space too, but some books that I really love I have in both formats. I grew up in a house full of books, and seeing them around me fills me with comfort.

  5. Josephine Myles

    Thanks for doing this, Wave. It’s hugely useful information, if only to see what’s a realistic guess at my possible income over the next few years. Budgeting when you’re self-employed as an author is an incredibly tricky thing!

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Jo

      For some reason authors’ annual income, or even earnings per book are closely guarded secrets and no one knows what to expect when they start writing. For example I was surprised to learn the large difference between author royalties from a publisher vs. self publishing. Of course there is a huge learning curve for the first self pubbed book and some upfront sunk costs, but the money is soon recovered if the book sells well.

      I thought that authors like yourself who are new to writing would appreciate this information as it comes from their colleagues, and the beauty of it is that it’s anonymous, so everyone will be truthful. :)

  6. Princess so

    I wasnt able to finish. One one of the questions the processing froze up on me, and even trying to fresh to start over it still says it is processing the last vote. Its been this way for over an hour. ??? I tried. Sorry
    :???:

    1. Wave Post author

      I’m really sorry Princess. Sometimes the server is slow. I hope that you can try again because everyone’s input is needed.

  7. Angelia Sparrow

    I use both a publisher, and self publish my reprints.
    I have 12 novels currently out, and over 70 short stories.

    The absolute most I have ever made on a book is $1300 (2600, split between Naomi and me). It came out before mid 2009, when the bottom seemed to drop out from under every publisher. I have never had numbers that good since.

    My top-selling book has sold 1831 copies. It was an Ellora’s Cavemen anthology.
    My top selling solo endeavor is Glad Hands, at 1320 copies.
    My worst selling title (as myself) is Hard Reboot, a het cyberpunk novel.
    My worst selling m/m piece is Barbarossa’s Bitch, but I only have 3 months of sales data for it. For more than a year, it’s “Swimming through the Net,” set in the same Cyberpunk universe as Hard Reboot.

    Contemporaries sell best, especially kinky ones. Cyberpunk…there’s no market for it. It’s my worst performer across all years, publishers, genderlines and plots.

    So far this year, with a new book out last September, one out in October and one out in January, I have made $112 in royalties. I’ve made $350 in hand sales.

    I can’t seem to sell books. I’ve been reviewing very well, but no sales.

  8. Wave Post author

    Angel

    Thanks for the information but did you enter it in the survey? That’s the only way your information can be integrated, and while it might skew the results it’s still very important to include the good, the bad and the ugly.

    I guess, since your books don’t sell well you’re one of those authors who love writing too much to give it up. :)

    1. Angelia Sparrow

      I did the survey with no glitches.

      I write because when I stop I end up with a very expensive vacation to Sunny Rancho Loco in beautiful Downtown Memphis, with lots of fingerpaints and all the psychotropic meds I can eat. (Enough meds and the fingerpaints taste better than the “food” they’re serving.)

  9. Kaje Harper

    You might specify for “books in your backlist” whether you want to include freebies or only works for sale. I’m not sure how you’re using the data. I put in my for-sale books (12 including the shorts) but my total would be 25 if you include the freebies.

    I’ll be interested to see the data. I had no expectations whatsoever when I started publishing. I was taken a bit aback by how much of a cut Amazon, ARe and other retailers take – 40 to 60% off the top, for listing and selling the book. Considering the low overhead for online ebooks, that’s a pretty good deal for them. I do try to buy from publishers directly more, since I became an author and saw the numbers, but convenience and lack of bookshelves holding past purchases, and security concerns about some pubs websites do reduce that.

    Paperbacks are definitely not much of a money-maker for me. I love having them – it feels real, and I bought a fair bit of paper, before getting into e-books and running out of shelf space. But there are times when I’ve made around a dollar, off a twelve-dollar PB sale. The vast majority of my sales are e-book. And contracts between epubs do vary (percentages, and whether on gross or net.) New authors would do well to ask around about that, if income is a high priority.

    1. Kaje Harper

      Also “How much did your first book earn” will continue to increase somewhat over time. My books earn most of their return in the first six months, but my first book is still selling slowly but steadily, two years after release. One of the things about ebooks and POD that is nice, is that the books don’t go out of print. Unlike the old days, where most genre books had a limited time to sell, most of our backlists can be kept available indefinitely. So building a backlist can result in a slowly increasing annual income, as long as you continue to add new books to it. (Hopefully, piracy issues and so on aside.)

    2. Wave Post author

      Hi Kaje
      Since this survey is related to income I’m assuming that any books listed by an author are those offered for sale, otherwise it would skew the data.

      It’s a real eye opener to see how much is the split between publisher/author in terms of royalties paid to the author. Of course the publisher invests the money for the cover, editing, listing the book, promotion etc., but it’s still the author’s proprietary work and the income split doesn’t seem to favour the author. A few authors told me that the sunk costs for the “publishing” elements when they self publish are not that much but that the learning curve is steep.. The numbers I quoted in the post came from an author who has been in the business for a number of years and uses a range of publishers as well as self publishes.

      The purpose of this article and another one on self publishing that I will be posting in a few weeks is to at least provide some information to authors who are looking to self publish, by outlining a few of the traps and the rewards. :)

      1. Kaje Harper

        It’s more the bookseller portion that was an eye-opener for me. I expected the publisher to take their cut – they do the editing/art/formatting/distribution/publicity. But the distributer basically lists the book on their database, and maintains records – it seems crazy that for that, they often get more off my books than the publisher and I earn together. But that’s the way it works.

  10. Sarah_Madison

    Interesting survey. I will have to confess, my royalties have paid the mortgage over ten times–but then again, I live in a pretty crappy house. :wink: It was good to discover that I’m selling on a par with a lot of other people.

    I’ve just stepped a toe into the self-publishing waters. I was curious and I had a project that was a bit different, so I thought I would give it a try. It was definitely a long learning curve for me. Not sure I will do it again, unless I hire people to help me do the formatting and such. I just don’t have that kind of time to invest in each writing project. I think I’d be better off writing the next one. But maybe it gets easier as you do it more often? :???:

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Sarah

      You’re one of the lucky ones. A lot of authors have it rough, but I think that depends on the demand for the type of book you publish as well as your reputation. I’ve been in love with your writing since you first published as are many other readers, so we’re happy to buy your books (and pay your mortgage) . :lol: Raincheck will always be one of my favourite books and I absolutely adore Rodney. :) It’s amazing how one book just resonates.

      As for the self publishing experiment, i understand that formatting expertise is available for as little as $50 as are covers for approximately the same price, and editing is based on a per word formula. The industry to provide services will grow as more people get into self publishing. I understand from a few people that the learning curve of the first self published book is very steep but then it’s almost like a piece of cake because you know where to get the services you need and what are the steps.

      1. Sarah_Madison

        Aw, you are seriously making me blush here! :blush: Thank you, that is very kind of you to say! (I love Rodney too, I keep thinking he deserves a sequel so we can find out what happens next…)

        Lordy, it took me nine hours to format the self-pubbed venture (and that was with help!) and when I discovered that I had *still* managed to screw it up, well, let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. Before reading this post, I would have sworn up and down that I’d never self-pub again (despite the fact I love the end result), but reading what Kaje had to say on the price breakdowns is making me rethink that again. Hopefully it *does* get easier!

        1. Wave Post author

          A Rodney sequel??? I am so there. :grin:

          Formatting help is available from $50 I understand. I hope to get information on other resources for my post on self pubbing.

          Why do authors think that because they can write they have the skills for all the other elements that go into publishing. :eek: Stick with what you know. :lol:

          1. Sarah_Madison

            Ah, I tried to do it all myself because of financial constraints at the moment. But yeah, lesson learned.

            Hah, that’s two votes for a sequel to Rodney’s story! Maybe it’s not such a far-fetched idea after all! :smile:

  11. Erastes

    I’ve now filled in my stats using publisher/epub interchangably so i hope it helps. My sales have always been rather low , but I’m not really able to say how much any one book has done because they are all still in print and still earning money – Standish has earned me over $6k and has just been re-issued so it will be interesting to see how it does in the new version. Transgressions had a $4k advance but never repaid even half of that, last royalty statement was for about three quid, I think. My ebook primarily sales have been appalling, Last gasp makes about two dollars a month and a book I had with Aspen made about sixty cents a month, I’ve never had anywhere near the ebook sales that I have in paper which makes me wary of epubs, specially new ones. (Riptide excepted, if I had a book for them I’d be begging them to take it, they work hard, it seems) My Carina sales have been very disappointing too, hardly worth cashing the cheques!

    My goal is/was to be self sufficient, but I’m sadly a long way off that after ten years of publication.

    1. Wave Post author

      I think the historical market is geared towards print books. Whenever I talk to readers who love historical they all talk about waiting to get the print copies so that could be the reason your ebook sales are so low. I found that the fans of each genre have wildly differing tastes when it comes to format. It’s a shame that authors work so hard writing their stories and in the end, in terms of return on investment (their time) it hardly seems worth it. Contemporary authors have a much better sales record because that genre is more popular and has a larger fan base. We once did a post about which genre was more popular and contemporary was way ahead.

  12. Erastes

    I’m amazed that so many people are making money – If anyone can give me advice as to how to earn $15k a year I’d be very grateful. that is beyond my wildest dreams, and would make me able to pay my bills. *depressed* :sad:

  13. Anne Brooke

    The voting button is very slow – so I’ve had to cancel out my attempt but, in truth, it’s pretty easy – the answers are the highest number for the number of years I’ve been writing, and the lowest all the way through in terms of the salary earned. I only make, all in, about UK £1,000 to £1,500pa (and that only in the last 2 or 3 years though – with grateful thanks to Amber Allure!) – so writing is definitely not what I’d recommend if you’re in it for the money. And certainly not for a decent career for most! :)

    Anne
    xxx

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Anne

      I just restarted the server for what seems like the umpteenth time, so I hope you can input your information. Every little bit counts. Only the data in the survey is recognized by the system. Thanks.

    1. Wave Post author

      Josh
      i don’t plan to close the poll in the foreseeable future which is why we also have it on the sidebar. This way authors who are late can still enter their information. I do plan to provide an update on the results periodically.

      1. Josh Lanyon

        Great! I keep hearing that authors are having trouble with the page loading, etc. so I’m guessing we’re still a long way from any solid figures.

        1. Wave Post author

          Hey Josh

          Posts like this one put a heavy load on the server so it’s not uncommon to have problems with page loading. Currently we have over 1 million page loads a month, and while other sites would kill for these stats they are creating a huge burden for our systems. The only solution is to upgrade our hosting package yet again, however the costs are so high for a site of this size, based on the latest estimates, we may have to look at other options.

          So yes, the survey will be kept open for a while.

  14. EM Lynley

    This is a great survey. I think the comments are interesting too. Like Angelia, so far my bigger seller and earner was my first novel in 2009. Back then everyone bought everything, because there were far fewer books out. Now, even though the readership has grown, the number of titles released each month is growing more quickly.

    For the readers who are checking this out, perhaps surprised at how little authors make, I’d like to strongly encourage you to buy direct from publishers for books which aren’t self-pubbed. Because Amazon also takes a cut, the author’s share is only about half of the publisher-site sale when you buy from Amazon. On some titles I get less than a dollar on a distributor sale. Print sales through Amazon are almost meaningless: 20 or 30 cents per sale on a book you pay $13-$15 for.

    So if you want to help your favorite authors who work through publishers, please buy at the publisher. If you check for pre-order discounts or other sales, you can probably get it for the same price, but the author’s share is much larger.

    With the average book earning $1,000-2,000, you can see why full-time authors need to putout a book per month to support themselves. Backlist sales are a very small fraction of earnings: it’s the latest title that brings it the money each month.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi M
      Thanks for commenting.
      I was very surprised when as part of my research for this post I found out that the author was low guy on the totem pole in terms of making money, standing in line behind the publisher and the re-sellers which include, ARe, Amazon etc. However, I have always noticed that as the productivity goes up the quality goes down so I don’t think that the solution to making more money is to write more books. I think the solution is to write better books so that people would buy more copies and the author wouldn’t have to work as hard. Many authors seem to have found the key to making more money without joining the book of the month club.

      I think the reason people buy from Amazon is the convenience of having their books delivered effortlessly using Amazon’s Whispernet technology. Whenever I’m out of town it’s a real boon to buy a book and have it appear on my Kindle in an instant. However, we all want our authors to make more money because we don’t want them to give up and leave so maybe there are other options because I think many readers are addicted to Amazon for the reason mentioned. Maybe we can become advocates for books we love by telling everyone we know when we find a book that’s really great – this way the author makes more money. I have found that word of mouth is much better advertisement than anything else. I hope that helps. So authors if your latest release is a wonderful story I will tell my friends about it and hopefully you will make more money. I’m sure the other reviewers on the site as well as other readers would be willing to do the same – think of how many more books you will sell.

      BTW I hope you completed the survey. :)

      1. Princess so

        Amazon was working great for my brother, {not posts numbers to brag but i think the info is significant} his second book which was a super novel was bringing in over 800.00/month within 6months of release. now mind you no other book of his was selling as well. But we both agreed it was riding on the shirt-tails of the 50Shades of Grey book. And then in December when Amazon dropped the ‘tag word’ search, instantly in the first month sales dropped by 40% and continued to drop. Now that same book which gets really good reviews is only selling a third of its original sales, while his other titles that sold moderately well are lucky to have one or two sales a month, because of that one feature Amazon did away with. {note for comparable: new author 2yrs; 6 titles; all Indie-published}

        I have spoken with several authors over this and they too have seen a measurable drop in sales, depending on genre and ‘hot commodity’ just some fodder to consider how distributors effect an author’s sales

        1. Wave Post author

          So the “tag word” search affected the sales of your brother’s book. Does anyone know why Amazon changed their policy in this area? I read recently about a woman from Canada who published a het romance that was self pubbed (very little sex) that I believe eiher made $150K or sold 150K copies. Obviously there’s a workaround which, while not ideal, helps to mitigate the problem.

          1. Princess so

            the answers from Amazon have been as vague as “we’re are redesigning the book pages’ to “We became increasingly aware that some authors were having tag word parties on facebook and felt that such misuse of the feature was unfair to other authors.” I thought that was absolutely ludicrous since I went to an Amazon seminar about marketing on Amazon and using the tag words was one of the things they focused on. Some author discussions feel Amazon was pushed to remove it by Publishers to diminish the success rates of Indie published authors (ex: 50 Shades is Indy and no publisher wants to see another multi million best seller indy again)

      2. EM Lynley

        Wave,
        Dreamspinner and Total-E-Bound have a direct to Kindle option via Wi-Fi. No need to plug in the device. I’m sure other publishers do too. It’s usually mentioned in the download section as another option.

        As for quality vs quantity, the books I spent the most time on and felt were my best have sold far less than books that I wrote more quickly. A book I spent 6 months on sells less than one I wrote in a month. I was so disappointed my extra work didn’t pay off at all.

        There are a lot of factors in what sells. My point is that given the average earnings, that’s probably the only way most authors can earn enough if they write full time. Superstars will make more per book and sometimes that isn’t a reflection of quality either. But a full-time writer can put a lot of effort into a book in a month. From my experiences and hearing from other authors, twice as much time writing doesn’t mean twice the sales. If it were true, you would see far fewer books published and lots of richer authors.

        1. Wave Post author

          I guess I have read so many books from authors who produce a book a month and they all seem the same. The characters have no depth, the plots are stale (something I read just a couple of months before) and typically the book flounders at about the half way mark – for me anyway. I find it difficult to believe that an author could have so many excellent plot bunnies running around in his/her head to produce a book a month that holds readers’ interest, or maybe it’s the execution. I agree that it takes more than a lot of time spent on a manuscript to produce a book that people want to read – skill and writing ability have a lot to do with it, and sometimes a book just doesn’t resonate, no matter how much time is spent on it. There are quite a few authors whose books I no longer read because the plots are almost identical, “only the names have been changed to protect the innocent”

          I’ll try DSP’s Wi-Fi option the next time I buy a book from them (I don’t buy much from T-e-B) to see if it’s as good as Amazon’s Whispernet. I’m all for giving the author more money – in fact we now include the publishers’ “buy” link as well as Amazon’s when we review a book.

          1. Carol Lynne

            This statement has been made before, and I think it’s incredibly unfair. A writer who actually writes full time, and I’m talking 8 to 12 hours per day, every day, is perfectly capable of releasing a novella or novel each month because that could translate easily to only 1 to 2k words per day. Yes, it does take some writers longer to put out a book, but my guess is they have a full time job that requires most of their time and attention.

            If you don’t like an author’s work, that’s completely up to you, but please don’t blame output for the reason. There was a time when I wrote 16 or 17 hours per day seven days a week in order to feed myself and my two daughters. I usually managed two releases per month at that time and those releases allowed me to break out of a bad situation and get on my feet. After Bill Neale died so suddenly, I had a really rough time of it, and I decided that although my kids were incredibly well fed, they were starving for my attention. I’ve since dropped back to a release every six weeks. I now try to stop writing once they’re home from school, and I don’t tend to write on the weekends. This has nothing to do with the quality of my books, only the quantity. I know a lot of people don’t care for my stories because they’re simple or whatever, but I continue to stay true to myself and write the books that I want to read. Again, that has nothing to do with how long it took to write because if you’re comparing output from a full time writer vs output from someone who has a full time job outside of writing, you’re comparing apples to oranges.

            1. Wave Post author

              Hi Carol

              As someone who has been reading these books for a long time I can only go with what I’ve read.

              There are authors whose books I no longer read because each one seems to be a carbon copy of the other and typically these authors tend to put out an incredible number of books in a short period of time. The law of diminishing returns I guess. Obviously some authors are more creative than others and can write 20 or 30 books a year without the plots seeming to be carbon copies of the other books they have written and their characters remain vibrant. Maybe I happened on some writers who put out a lot of books a year but weren’t very creative.

              I do agree that there are many factors that contribute to how well written a book is: skill, writing ability and creativity have a lot to do with it. However if I, as a reader, can see the same character in a writer’s work over and over again, whether or not that author produces 3 books a year or 30, then I usually move on.

              You’re an excellent writer Carol who is very experienced and you have a huge fan base. Many new writers try to do what you’ve done and then fail because they don’t have the skill, creativity and experience.

              I’m not the only reader who has commented on this trend of authors releasing several books within a short period of time, and some writers who used to be auto buys for a lot of readers are no longer on their lists, for this reason.

              1. Carol Lynne

                And that’s fine. My response was not a judgement on quality because, in my opinion, that’s completely subjective. It’s obvious to me from reading your posts that we don’t have the same taste in books. That’s why it’s a good thing that writers write something for everyone. I’m saying that you cannot compare the output of a full time writer to one who has to also deal with a day job. I believe the annual earnings part of the poll is skewed because of that.

              2. Sirius

                That’s exactly it. I would never say that the writer who produces book a month (or book every two weeks, or every two months, any period of time) that I consider short cannot write just as well as the writer who writes say, I don’t know a book a year. Write well in term of technical writing I mean. And I am not talking about Carol Lynne’s books, I have read two stories by her, that’s about it. However, based on my reading experience it is a given that the writer who produces a book a month is bound to produce much more similar characters and plot than the writer who writes a book a year, or two books a year, or even three books a year. I mean, it is common sense, how could that be otherwise and for me it is supported by the facts as I see it. I dropped several famous writers from my reading list almost completely and NOT because of my usual reason to drop the writers (only sex, no plot). No, it was more like – I open new book, I start reading and start thinking, wait, didn’t I already see all of that except different names for the characters in your previous book and the book before that and before that?

                So, yes, there could be exceptions to that, but so far I have not seen them yet, what I saw is the faster the writer produces, the more sameness I see in their books. Their craft could be excellent, it is just nothing new and how could one come up with something new every month? Sorry for the detour.

                1. Nikki

                  I am with Sirius and Wave. I too have dropped a lot of previous autobuy writers for the very same reasons. Also I used to be able to tolerate 50% or more sex in my MM book but no more. These kind of MM books only cheapen the whole category.

          2. EM Lynley

            Wave,
            For me, the process of writing has three steps: planning, writing, revising/editing. I can’t do all of those steps for the same book in one month.

            I will plan a book for a week or two before I start writing, but the first draft takes about a month. Then there is editing/rewriting, which can take another few weeks (much longer with a publisher).

            It’s possibly to be planning one book while writing another, and revising a third book and still put out a book every 4-6 weeks without them all being carbon copies of plot and character. I think this is how most full-time writers work. It’s not one month from start to pub. But since the starts are probably staggered every month or so, that’s how often a new title can feasibly be released.

            I haven’t tried writing fiction full-time (I write 50% fiction and 50% freelance financial) but I spend 12-14 hours per day between all my writing/planning/editing activities. 6 or 7 days a week. That’s a lot of hours. If I spent all that time writing fiction, I could put out a lot of words.

            Since many of the high-volume authors still use publishers, the publisher and editor also have some responsibility for quality and originality. They can suggest content edits, and even hold a release back until a book is in better shape. They do a disservice to the author if they don’t work on making each book better. Some rush through the editing process, which is also harmful and stressful for the author (I quit working with certain publishers for this reason).

            So there are a lot of factors in quality, and not just how often a new release comes out. However, some readers do want more of the same and are happy. That’s probably another topic to discuss for another posting. Not all readers want complicated layered stories. Some do want the comfort and ease of knowing they’ll get what they really want. I’m not one of those readers and I know you aren’t, Wave. But millions of them are out there and are buying books!

  15. Kari Gregg

    Thank you for doing this, Wave. Dead useful info. After you’ve been at this a few years, you get a feel for what you’re good for, what’s normal, how you’re doing, etc. But when you’re first starting out, you know bupkis.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Kari

      Thanks. I think it’s important for the newer authors to see what other authors make so everyone is playing from the same sheet music. Knowledge is power. I hope you completed the survey. Your colleagues need your input.

  16. Anon E Mouse

    Please disregard vote for annual earnings from self-publishing of $25,100-$50,000. It was meant to be in the e-publisher category (and I’ve voted there too now).

    1. Wave Post author

      Thanks for the clarification Anon. Maybe you should tell Erastes how you did it because she only wants to earn $15K – she needs a new strategy.

      1. Anon E Mouse

        *Maybe you should tell Erastes how you did it*

        Nope. Not gonna. Because the advice would be “Don’t write historicals” and I love Erastes’ historicals!

        And sorry about the error, btw. Apparently I totally fail at reading comprehension.

  17. Holly

    For our first book, a novelette/short, In the Name of the Law, we’ve made so far $997US. (I was so bummed not to get to next level in the poll! Only a hundred short. *g*) That is after a year of being published. However, I will say I think it has to do with the word count as I see that longer novellas/novel sell better than shorts. Which is why my writing partner and I have geared our next novel to 61,000 words to see if the larger word count means higher sales?

    I see time and time again on GoodReads that readers want longer books, they rate and review shorts/novellas lower and sometimes leave the comment: “Wish it had been longer.” I’m not upset about that because I as a reader tend to want a higher word count in a book I buy too. *g* While writing is certainly not paying my rent, it does allow me some added luxuries like a vacation I took last year to New Orleans — for research for the next book (vampires)!

    I expect that best sellers like Josh Lanyon, K.A. Mitchell, R.J. Scott, Stormy Glenn and Sandrine Gasq-Dion will skew the higher end of the poll, but I think that mid-range authors could make a decent living if they publish enough titles per year. As for genre, I think contemporary and paranormal out sell all others in M/M. Is there a genre aspect to the poll? Because that would be interesting to know too.

    But I am very interested in the final results from the poll. Great idea to do this.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Holly

      Thank you for completing the survey. What’s disappointing is that there are almost 500 hits on the post so far and I’m sure that most of those were from authors, but only about one tenth of that number completed the survey.

      It’s true that some readers don’t like novellas or shorter books, but in the hands of a skillful and experienced writer such as Josh a novella is just as satisfactory to me as a novel. I have read many novels that disappointed me because it was obvious that the author was padding the story and introducing all kinds of irrelevant sub plots just to increase the word count.. For me the ideal word count is between 40-45K which is rated as a novel. If an author can’t deliver a story with 40K words (unless it’s science fiction or a similar genre) then maybe something is wrong with the writing.

      You’re right that contemporary and paranormal are more popular with readers. I did a poll a couple years ago and clearly, while contemporary was the most popular genre, paranormal came in second. I love science fiction but it definitely is not as popular in M/M. Maybe that’s because the authors don’t develop the world building enough in sci fi and there isn’t enough science – apparently many authors are more interested in the romance than the sci fi aspect of the books. This is probably where a longer book such as you mentioned (61K) would work better.

      Sorry about your numbers but at least you were able to take a trip on your earnings. :cool: Good luck with the new book. :)

      1. Holly

        As with any survey there is usually a 20-25% drop out rate which means if you want a 100 sample population, you have to give out at least 150 surveys to get the response you want. Grad statistics, fun times, fun times. *g*

        Is there a way to add the genre thing to the poll? I’d be interested in seeing the percentage of an authors first book whether it was: contemporary, paranormal, historical, sci-fi, etc. Thanks.

        1. Wave Post author

          We can’t add anything to the poll now or it will skew the results since it wasn’t included originally. However, there’s nothing to say that I can’t do another poll later strictly on different genres, but that would be a reader preference poll.

          I’m aware that there’s usually a 25% drop out rate on any survey or even higher, but 500 people have read the post so far and if I assume that about half are authors, then it’s still about a 50% dropout rate or higher, depending on how many completed the survey since the last time i checked.. One would think that authors would like to contribute to the survey to make the results meaningful with a large enough sampling, especially since only authors would benefit from the information.

        2. Kaje Harper

          FWIW – I put out a contemporary and a paranormal, both first books in a series, half a year apart. I think the quality is similar, and the Goodreads ratings are within 0.04 of each other. The paranormal has sold about 1/3 as many copies as the contemporary.

            1. Kari Gregg

              I seem to perform the flip side of everybody else. My paranormals generally do better than my contemps. The weirder the world is, the better for me. That ‘s probably an author branding issue, though. I don’t write a lot of contemps so readers probably look to me for non-contemps and the odd contemp throws them off. It’s like when I write one of my sweet, funny ones. Sure, I adore it. Reviewers tend to like the sweet comedies better, too. But my reader base is all :shock: “WTF is THIS?” LOL

              1. JL Merrow

                *g* Kari, I think you’re absolutely right re the author branding thing. I naively thought if I didn’t set out to create a “brand” I wouldn’t have one – but these things seem to create themselves!

                I guess this is why some authors have 2 or more pen names – but honestly, life’s too short! ;)

  18. K. Z. Snow

    A noble endeavor, Wave, but dang, so depressing!

    When I first began writing erotic romance (for EC, in 2006), my royalty checks used to bowl me over. One title could easily net me two grand in its first month of release.

    But those were the gravy days. My earnings have been on a downhill slide ever since. In terms of monetary reward, this is an increasingly brutal business.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi K.Z
      I’m sorry but i didn’t mean to depress you or anyone. I’m as surprised at the survey results as you are.

      I think part of the reason for the downhill slide in earnings is due mainly to the number of new writers entering the M/M market who produce a staggering amount of books every week, so readers/purchasers are spread very thinly. Even with the increasing number of readers in the genre there is only so much money to go around, and with the current economy readers’ wallets are also pretty thin. This is no reflection on your writing because I think your books are incredible, but a lot of new readers apparently want books with every other page filled with sex, and you focus more on the plot and characters, qualities I and more discerning readers look for, but unfortunately it seems we are in the minority.

      As you said, this is an increasingly brutal business.

      1. Josh Lanyon

        This is the reality of a glut. The pie is a little bigger but not enough to compensate for the fact that it’s being cut into many, many more slices. I don’t know what the answer is. I think authors like myself — KZ, Erastes, Anne — we’ve got that advantage in that we’re better known, our branding is established, we’ve got a solid track record. But even that doesn’t seem to mean a whole heck of a lot as I’m studying these numbers.

        The sub-genre definitely matters. Historical sells the least well, so that’s something that has to be calculated in.

      2. K. Z. Snow

        No need to apologize, darlin’! What you’re doing here is giving all m/m writers, published and aspiring, a useful reality-check. (But, um, can something be done about these vertically compressed comments that snake down the page? They’re driving me nuts! :wallbash: Your previous format was infinitely more readable.)

        1. Wave Post author

          I can’t do anything about the comments. Apparently that’s the way WordPress sets them up – guess they don’t want us to write too many responses. Sorry. they drive me crazy too.. :eek:

          I’ll ask Christian but I think I know what his answer is going to be. :sad:

  19. Sarah Black

    I think the low numbers aren’t low enough. Where is the catagory for less than twenty-five bucks? Gosh, taking this survey makes me want to go find some nice rat poison to munch on. So I only sell a hundred copies, and with a time study it looks like my average return for the last novel is around nine cents an hour. Even in fucking Bangladesh I would be going hungry with that level of reimbursment! Luckily I love my stories and I love the characters and I love writing. And I love the few people who read my last book. You made that nine cents worth it, baby.

    1. Wave Post author

      My dear Sarah
      I had no idea that your sales numbers were so abysmal. I think of you as one of the premier writers in this genre and if you can’t make it in terms of sales I don’t know what’s the criteria for doing so.

      I thought you had a huge number of fans because your books always review well and the comments on the reviews reflect that, but clearly readers want something different. Don’t eat that rat poison just yet though, things may yet turn around and then we can have a party with virtual champagne to celebrate.

      1. Sarah Black

        Two hours of Qigong (my favorite exercise- standing like a tree) and a Skinny Cow ice cream cone have calmed my fevered brow. Listening to Pancho and Lefty, good role models for adversity. All I can think to do is stand at home plate and point my bat toward the outfield and when it’s my turn, I will slam that fucker over the fence.

    2. Anne Brooke

      Yes, I think the survey also skews the real truth about writing in that it doesn’t have a category for those of us like Sarah (welcome to the Poor Club, Sarah – nice to have you with me!) and me who make probably less that £50 per book across the board. I’m always really thrilled if anything makes it into a three figure number in terms of royalties, and most often I’m in the £10 or £20 category! I certainly don’t expect to sell more than 150 to 200 copies of anything, if it’s VERY popular, and never have. :)

      I have to say it does get hugely exhausting when people assume I’m well-off or famous just because I write. Um, no, in no uncertain terms. As my Accountant (AKA my husband – good writing move, to marry your Accountant, btw!!…) will tell you. Thank goodness for a solid secretarial career which pays well!

      Anne

      1. Wave Post author

        I thought of having a much lower threshold for the sales numbers but that would have made the survey too long. If I started at $100 then I would have to go to $500 and probably $750, before I reached $1000 so I made the decision to lump everything under $1,000.

      2. Sirius

        That is beyond depressing to me Anne to see which authors are not selling well (some of my favorite ones lol). On the other hand, I saw Sarah Madison’s comments who seem to be doing well and that gives me some hope :)

  20. Amanda Young

    Great poll idea. I’m only seeing the results and no vote buttons, so I guess I missed the cut off on voting. :( It’s definitely interesting to see the results though.

    ETA: A quick refresh popped up the vote buttons for me and I filled out the survey. :D

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Amanda

      Thanks for filling out the survey. I appreciate it and I’m sure your colleagues do as well.

  21. Sharita Lira

    Thank you for doing this story Wave. As a newbie, I kind of find it encouraging to see a lot of votes close to mine. I actually make more money being self-pubbed than under my pubs but I also work at two small houses.

    I planned on subbing to some of the bigger ones this year as I continue to learn my craft. No question longer books, particularly series seem to do best.

    I’ve also noticed even in my het books, the 99 cents book idea works. I feel the same as well, when pricing at 99 cents, sure you won’t get a lot of return unless you sell in the triple digits, but someone out there that hasn’t read you will take a chance if it’s priced right. As a whole I’ve made more on my 99 cent titles over my pubbed and self pubbed novellas that are priced higher.

    Although I do like being paid for what I do, I love to write. The love is what keeps me from quitting. :smile:

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Sharita

      You’re quite welcome.

      Obviously you’re a success story where it comes to self publishing if you make more money doing so than with a publishing house.

      I hope you filled out the survey as this information will be helpful to your fellow authors.

  22. Wave Post author

    AUTHORS
    If you’re reading the results of the survey and haven’t participated by filling in your information, please consider taking the time to do so as your information will be helpful to your fellow authors. Your input is very valuable as the data sample would be more credible if more authors took the time to provide their own information.

    If you have already completed the survey THANK YOU.

  23. Jules Jones

    I’m not going to fill in the survey, because the last new title I had out was five years ago and the market’s changed enormously since then. But my backlist is still doing about $1000 a year, from a peak of $8000 in the last year I had a new title out. No idea what I’d get this year if I manage to get a new title out (I’m writing, I’m writing!), but because I’ve dropped out of sight, I would expect to make a lot more money putting it out through Loose Id than by self-publishing.

    On the publisher re self-publishing thing: You can’t just compare royalty rates. As noted above, few writers have all the skills needed to publish the book themselves, at least in a way that won’t result in reviews saying “will never buy this author’s books again”. So out of that juicy Kindle Direct rate, you as the publisher pay for the things that are the domain of the publisher, such as cover art, editing, formatting. You pay for them before you you get any income stream from the book. (And that 70% rate? Read the fine print very carefully, especially the bit about the per megabyte download charge taken out of your royalty.) And it takes time, time which you are then not spending writing. This is not a problem if you enjoy being the publisher, but not everybody does. I’ve been looking at self-publishing some material where I don’t have clear sole rights to sell, and discovered that I don’t enjoy the process of putting together the ebook anywhere near as much as I did putting together a printzine back in the day. I’ll do it, to make that material available again somewhere other than my website, but I’d rather be writing.

    As an example on the self-publishing front — I put up a short story at Smashwords in October last year, to test the sales profile before putting serious money/work into self-publishing more stuff. It’s a free download. I’ve not done any promo on it other than doing my best on the keywording. After 6 months, it has around 430 downloads in total, and is currently doing about a download a day. That’s a free title, on a distributor where I don’t have any name recognition. I’m still dithering about putting it on Amazon for comparison, because I’d have to put a minimum cover price of 99c on it, and I don’t actually want to charge 99c for something that’s been available on a couple of free-to-access webzines for years. Not even in the name of science…

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Jules

      Thanks for commenting.

      To respond to a couple of your observations, the publisher vs self publishing comparison was intended to be very general since this post is about author salaries and I didn’t intend to burden it with a lot of detailed information. I think I said that I’ll be writing another post that will be discussing this comparison more in depth.

      As for the costs for formatting, editing, covers etc. I briefly mentioned in my comments that these costs will have to be covered upfront, and I also indicated that since most authors don’t have the technical skills they should hire resources which I believe are available at a reasonable cost.

      No one is encouraging authors to try self pubbing – they are already doing so and some very successfully, going by what they tell me, but the learning curve for the first book is steep. Anyway this will all play out over the next couple of years as more and more authors try this route.

      1. Jules Jones

        I did notice you point out that there are costs to be taken into account, and I’m grateful for that. :-) But I’m already seeing early signs in this thread of the “publishers are ripping off writers, why take only 35% from a publisher when Amazon will give you 70%!” conversation. I know where that can go, so I tend to put the boot in early and often.

        Just adding one more datum: my best-selling title is Dolphin Dreams, and that finally sold its 3000th copy last month, six years after it was first released. Fast seller I ain’t.

        1. Wave Post author

          I don’t think I said anything about the pubs. ripping off the authors – I just stated what’s the current situation with royalties.

          As a matter of fact I heard on the grapevine that Dreamspinner dropped a shit load of money promoting their authors at RT – something in the region of $40K to $45K, which is a lot of money, even for DSP if my information is correct. So some authors are treated well by their publishers. (Of course my information on the amount may not be entirely true. :shock:

          1. Jules Jones

            You didn’t, and I’d be surprised if you did. It was a couple of the other comments that made me think “here we go again”. I do tend to be a bit hair-trigger on this because I get most of my exposure to this sort of discussion over in the sf blogs, where there’s a hard core of evangelists who will rant at length at the slightest excuse about how publishers are exploiting the writers and readers, and they could have the much cheaper ebooks they’re *entitled* to if only writers would see the light and ditch the Evil Publishers. And deal with the cost of art, editing, etc by “But we don’t want to pay money for unnecessary frills, we just want the text!” and “you can do it all by crowd-sourcing instead of paying for professionals!”

            I can just imagine the reaction on *this* blog if it was suggested that editing and proper proof-reading were unnecessary fripperies that we can do without in order to trim the price of a book. :->

          2. Josh Lanyon

            Hmm. I’ve been glancing over the comments after not checking in for a few days. I don’t see that comment or even that sentiment anywhere. And the numbers would seem to indicate the absolute opposite. Most authors do *much* better under the wing of publishers.

            I did make the mistake of clicking the wrong box for total earnings from traditional publishing. But then again, maybe it’s not so wrong because I did earn that amount before I moved (the following year) to mostly self-publishing. That amount is absolutely earnable through a publisher, and perhaps that’s really what other authors need to see. Not *when* the money was earned, but that the amount is within reach.

            Though I mostly self-publish now, I will continue to work with publishers as well. I strongly discourage the idea of new authors going straight to self-publishing. I can’t stress this strongly enough. The author who believes this would be a good idea is the author who most needs to be working with a publisher.

  24. Joely Skye

    I filled in the survey, although I feel my input is skewed a little because a lot of my numbers reflect books from some years ago when the climate was a bit different. (I’m a slow writer.) My latest book was last year and it seems to selling less, which might be the book itself, or today’s competition, or the fact I seem to find it harder to do the right things to market my stuff. (Remember when yahoo group chats were the thing? :)

    1. Josh Lanyon

      I think that reflects the new reality of publishing, though. Backlist is now eternal. The AE books are covered in cobwebs but continue to sell about a hundred copies a month from Amazon alone. And I sell about ten copies of each in print. Most of my very old titles don’t do that well, but leaving out the AE books wouldn’t make sense because breakout and long tail titles are a reality in publishing. Most of my numbers are pretty consistent, but we all have those star performers. As well as the books that just never quite click.

      Interestingly, while I think it’s true readers prefer novels above all else, I sell about the same number of novels as novellas (I don’t earn as much, of course, because the novels are priced higher). Where I do see a big difference is between novella and short story sales. That’s partly because I don’t throw away short stories and partly because readers just do NOT like them as well.

      1. Joely Skye

        Interesting stuff! My novellas don’t sell as well as my novels, but I doubt that’s generlizable. I find novellas more difficult technically, even if I like to write them from time to time.

    2. Wave Post author

      Thanks for filling in the survey Joely. A lot of factors will skew the results such as genre e.g. historicals sell the least number of books while contemporaries sell the most, the age of the books, etc. That will be taken into account. :)

      1. Joely Skye

        Thanks for running it! I’m finding it interesting. I also, in a fit of wishful thinking, have decided historical m/m is going to turn around. Some of the best books I’ve read in the genre, that have stuck with me the longest, have been historical, and I’ve got an eye on a couple coming out from Samhain this year. (I’m most aware of Samhain books, I’m published there, but I’m sure there will be others elsewhere as well.)

  25. Treva Harte

    Actually none of these numbers surprise me very much. But no one ever listens to publishers. And for those who think publishers and Amazon are in one big partnership…no. The reasons why Amazon does anything are known only to Amazon.

    1. Kari Gregg

      They (the numbers) shock the hell out of me. Writers talk. Of course, we do. So I kind of knew where I was, how I was doing. But the majority of respondents so far report earning less than two grand on a novel and less than a grand on a novella? Holy fuckballs, Batman, that’s… :blink: WHOA.

      I sincerely hope readers are paying attention to this,. Even before this poll, I know I had my occasional chuckles whenever I saw a reader asserting so-and-so must have done xyz for the money…No. No, no, no. We aren’t doing it for the money. There are easier ways to make money. Judging by the survey results so far, the majority of us can best our writing income with a job at McDonalds — and work a whole lot less hours while we’re at it, too. We’re in it for love. We may struggle with our craft and our stories. No matter how hard we try, we may sometimes disappoint readers and not deliver what the reader wants. But we, generally speaking, aren’t out to rip anybody off. I suppose dollar signs may flash for statistical outliers, who knows. I doubt that. A lot. But those dollar signs sure aren’t flashing for the rest of us poor shlubs. We do it for love.

        1. K. Z. Snow

          See, here’s where the “depressing” comes in. You’re such a wonderful writer, Anne! And Erastes’ Junction X is one the most brilliant novels I’ve read in years, regardless of genre.

          What’s going on? (Oh man, now Marvin Gaye will be singing in my head all day.)

          1. Wave Post author

            What’s going on is probably the readers who drive the bus. I have said time and again that part of the problem with lower sales of quality books is the readers who seem to want page after page of sex and don’t seem to care about characterization or plot. I have had my ass handed to me on countless occasions for that statement, but it’s true. If we don’t buy what’s currently selling, the days of quality over the lowest common denominator will return. However that’s probably not going to happen until people are tired of what’s selling..

            1. Kaje Harper

              I do wonder how much piracy is also cutting into sales numbers. I see sites with hundreds of downloads of a single title. Sometimes it adds up to more copies than I’ve actually sold.

    2. Wave Post author

      Hey Treva

      Welcome to the discussion.

      A lot of authors are learning a few things today (and yesterday). I’m sure this survey has been a big eye opener for them. The comments are particularly interesting and I’m sure you’re finding them just as revealing.

  26. Amanda Young

    I think Kari hit the nail on the head. Most of us write because we love it and can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s certainly not for the money. The most I ever grossed (before promotion expenses and taxes) was 22k and that was a few years ago when I was much more prolific than I am now. Having just jumped back into writing after a nearly two year hiatus, I’m finding that the landscape of publishing has changed a lot in the time I’ve been absent and I’m sure that will carry over into future royalty checks as well. Only time will tell. I do think anyone rushing into publishing thinking it’s some sort of get rich quick scheme is in for a rude awakening.

  27. Finn Marlowe

    I don’t think anyone should get into writing m/m with the expectation of making tons of money – do it for the love of writing it. Not that I don’t think there isn’t money to be made, just that burning readers with a bunch of hastily published crap to make a quick buck is not going to earn you fans. It’s a small genre despite the recent growth and word gets around fast.

    I filled out about half the survey. I only write novels, so had no input on the shorter works questions. My only self-pubbed book was free, so even though it’s had a large number of downloads (based on what I see in the survey), I obviously didn’t make any money off it (and with no regrets, even though it cost me $650.00 to publish it). I would feel comfortable self-pubbing another book now, for money next time, but I would just as happily have it put out by a publisher knowing I would make less because of the exposure and their expertise. I know this will piss you off to hear Wave, but sex sells. I write erotic romance and make no apologies for it. I also like to read it. And I’m shocked to discover from this poll and the comments, that I guess I’ve made above-average money at it. Hmmm….maybe I shouldn’t quit.

    Sad to see so many great writers are not making more money. I always buy from Amazon because of instant downloads that never go wrong, yeah lazy, I know, but now I think I’ll start buying more from the publishers directly to support writers with more cash. Readers – if you love an author, buy their stuff, don’t borrow/lend non-stop or download pirated stuff, because it just might be the last book you get to read from them.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Finn

      I know this will piss you off to hear Wave, but sex sells.

      This is news to me? :grin: I have been saying all along in many of the posts I’ve written that this genre is now known as “the sex at all costs genre”. It’s no longer M/M. Contrary to popular belief, I have no problem with books that have lots of sex but there has to be more than the sex to interest me. Hell, I have given K.A. Mitchell’s books more 5 stars than a lot of other writers whose books I have reviewed. The reason I rate her books highly is that, in addition to lots of sex, there’s a credible plot and the characters rock; her prose and dialogue also sparkle.

      Sad to see so many great writers are not making more money

      The main reason they are not making money is that they write plotty books with very little sex. I know that the readers are driving this bus but what they are also doing is driving away some of the really talented and excellent writers in the genre because their books emphasize actual plots and incredible characterization. The only way these authors will make any money is to pocket their pride and write what sells – s-e-x. I know that we all have different tastes but some weeks, despite the number of books released, I can’t buy a book because I don’t want what’s on the menu. However these books are flying off the virtual shelves because other readers are just eating them up..

      1. Finn Marlowe

        Just because a book has lots of sex, doesn’t mean it can’t be well written, have great characters or an interesting storyline. There’s room for both.

        1. Kari Gregg

          Amen, Finn. I may not always manage to pull it off, but God knows I work at it. I try. I’m not cranking out pornylicious first drafts. How much time & attention I invest in stories is absurd given how much I earn and I apparently earn more than the average bear. The story is the absolute best I’m capable of, though. Every time. A lot of sex isn’t directly equivalent to sloppy work, poor craft, shallow characters, etc.

        2. Wave Post author

          I thought I gave a great example with K.A. Mitchell whose books have a shit load of sex. The reason I love her books is because of the other elements you mentioned – great characters and a plot. However, some of the books I have read omit the last two elements and focus on the sex. But there’s room for both in this genre – I’m just sorry so many authors are not making any money because of the lack of sex in their books.

          1. Lasha

            I also like KA Mitchell’s books and I like sexy plots, but her last novel, Bad Attitude had WAY TOO MUCH SEX in it for me. I think I rated it on Amazon 3 stars.

            For me it has to be a mixture of plot, characterization and scorching sex scenes and if you add too much of one to the pot, it’s a pass for me. But I think I am in the minority on that as I know some authors who get a big failing F on characterization and plot and are only churning out porny plots are now out-selling well-known authors who have been nominated for LAMDAs. It boggles my mind but then I thought 50 Shades was a hideous piece of recycled fanfiction that ought to have been set afire and the buying public adored it!

            So what do I know? *g*

  28. Joanna Chambers

    My first MM novel comes out later this year but my two MF historicals have both done similarly low(1k) numbers and I’ve written a couple of contemp MM novellas under another name that’ve done about 200-300 each. All epubs. I filled in the survey with reference to my MM novellas only since you’re looking for MM info.

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I make out of writing and have come to the conclusion that the promo work associated with writing (which I find time consuming and not particularly enjoyable) isn’t worth worrying about since I don’t make enough to feel like it’ll make a difference if I do it or not.

    I’m kind of surprised no one’s mentioned piracy yet in this thread. I’ve had to send quite a few take down notices and the numbers of views/ downloads showing on the sites have tended to show higher numbers than I’ve sold. Sadly, one of the reasons writers make no money is because there’s plenty of readers out there who prefer to get their books for free, even if it is stealing.

    1. Kaje Harper

      And I’ve seen some of them use that idea – “Well, they write because they love it. ” – as an excuse. “They aren’t in it for the money, and they’ll never stop no matter how little they make, so I can just go ahead and not pay for this and it doesn’t matter.” Not that we want to get into a discussion about pirating here, but I do think it has to be making a difference, just as it clearly has for music sales.

  29. Ally Blue

    This is an interesting poll, Wave, thank you for putting it up. A couple of years ago, I was making almost $30K a year on my books. My royalties have taken a nosedive since then, though. I’d die of shock if I cleared $20K in 2013. Keeping in mind that I have 20-something books out there, with more on the way. After this poll, I feel very lucky. Still, the downward trend makes me nervous. I only work part time, I have one kid still in college and I’m the sole breadwinner for my family. Yeah, I’d write no matter what. I started writing just because I loved it, and I’ll keep doing it regardless. But I need the money from writing to help pay the bills. I can’t afford to romanticize it. So to speak, ha.

    1. Wave

      Ally

      You’re very welcome. I thought it was time to bring the matter of salaries into the open so authors, especially those just joining the ranks of M/M, know what to expect. For someone like you who’s been in this genre for a long time, it gives you a perspective of what’s the current situation.

      Lots of luck with the current series and I hope your leg is 100% better. :)

  30. EM Lynley

    Given that the majority of the votes are “Under $1000″ it might be good to do a follow-up with categories by $200 intervals in addition to the larger amounts. Many readers will be surprised to see how many books only earn $100-200, even novels and novellas from well-known authors.

    I know one who admitted that her recent book sold on 13 copies the first month. I have books that have not earned more than $200. The number of copies sold for many books is surprisingly low, on average. For example, the Going for Gold Olympic anthology I edited (even though it contains wonderful long (20+k) novellas by Kaje Harper and Sarah Madison, among others) has probably sold fewer than 50 copies in the 9 months since it came out. It’s gotten very good reviews and ratings, but not much attention or sales. Other books from big names, with poor reviews, sell in the thousands.

    In my experience the publisher makes a big difference in terms of exposure and perceived quality. (That’s probably another topic for discussion). I won’t name names here, but the lowest-sellers of mine all came from the same publisher.

      1. Wave Post author

        That’s the reason I used under $1,000 as the bar, plus I didn’t want to depress anyone more than you guys are already depressed. Sometimes the truth really sucks.

  31. Cat Grant

    I must be one of those weird outliers who gets frustrated when sex overwhelms the plot. Frankly, I’m kinda over writing sex scenes. I’m more interested in exploring the dynamics between my characters.

    I’m not even sure what I write is romance. Very few of my books have a traditional HEA ending. There’s just something in me that rebels against tying everything up in a pretty pink bow.

    RE: sales… I’ve had books that have done remarkably well, and some that have barely moved 200 copies.

    As for promo, I don’t think it makes much difference. My current Riptide book’s doing fine, and they didn’t even schedule a blog tour.

    In my experience, readers are interested in a very narrow range of subjects. They love military heroes, cowboys – basically, any kind of alpha male. They want sex, and plenty of it. And if there’s a woman in the story, she’d better be the hero’s mother or sister.

    1. Josh Lanyon

      As for promo, I don’t think it makes much difference. My current Riptide book’s doing fine, and they didn’t even schedule a blog tour.

      The difference on the months I do promo and the months I don’t is easily 1 – 2K. It matters. But it is not the only thing that matters.

  32. Mara

    I filled out the survey (though it kept getting stuck and I had to keep reloading the page. I hope that doesn’t mess up the end result.)

    I don’t know how much benefit there may be in offering specifics, but I don’t mind doing so (not to discourage you if you’re starting out by writing sweet romance or historical romance or :death knell: sweet, historical romance. I think there must be writers who do all right with it. Aren’t there?)
    Over a four year period, my second novel, Whistling in the Dark, made approximately $3,400.00 in royalties; so, less than a thousand a year. I think that comes out to about 30 copies a month (but I may be wrong. I got the lowest math scores in the history of the SAT. And I know I’m not figuring POD vs. ebook correctly.)

    In Whistling’s first year of sales, it sold 122 copies. It did better in subsequent years.

    My first novel, Downtime, does about the same–30 copies in a good month, but usually 15-20 copies (although when it was first published, it sold almost nothing. Only in the past couple of years has it picked up some sales; helped, I think, by word-of-mouth on Goodreads. And having a modern-day POV character.)

    My third novel, The Only Gold, sells about 1 copy to every three of Downtime. So it’s doing poorly–but I probably should have known a story about stodgy bankers in love was not destined for big sales. :)

    My sales are at their current level because I’ve been fortunate enough to be reviewed at m/m review sites and m/f review sites, including DA.
    But good reviews don’t bring my sales anywhere near the level of contemporaries or books with sex scenes in them; nor will they, because what I write isn’t the type of story most readers of m/m are looking for.

    At this point, I’m not anticipating a day when I’ll make a living at writing. I’m not sure a writer can, if she produces only one novel a year (unless she’s writing the type of Twilighty story that has a ready-made market.)
    I don’t believe a writer can make a living selling “sweet” m/m, either (but I’d certainly love to have someone prove me wrong.) I don’t know if m/f historical authors make a living at it. Maybe for them, too, it depends on whether they include sex scenes. I really don’t know.

    I feel like I’m at a crossroads. Compromise and write explicit sex?
    Don’t compromise and write inspirationals? :) Plod on for another ten years and hope I get to the point where I’ll sell forty copies a month?
    In my case, I think trying out other genres and perhaps failing to succeed in them will give me a better idea of whether hoping for a more substantial career is realistic.

    I do agree with your post title. Writing *is* a great career if you love telling stories. But if you write a niche (sweet) in a niche (historical) in a niche (m/m,) the finding-an-audience part is just killer.

    1. Sirius

      Mara is my favorite mm writer – there are a lot of authors whose work I like and enjoy, and couple that come close, but for quite some time she had been number one for me. Not that I find it a shocking surprise that sweet historicals are not selling well, but I still find it depressing that the stories which are written so well are not selling well.

      I will follow Mara into any genre she decides to try, that goes without saying (cookbook? So there :-)), but I still feel that it is mm genre loss if she leaves it. Too bad there are apparently not enough readers who feel like I do :(

      1. Kaje Harper

        I hope you don’t change your stories too much, and that appreciation grows for your backlist – I put Tamara Allen as my choice on the new Goodreads thread of “What book (or author) makes you wonder why more people aren’t reading it” In general, I think historicals are under-appreciated. Several of my all-time favorite M/M have been historicals.

      2. Hunter Frost

        I’m with Sirius! It’s a damn shame that Mara’s books aren’t making her millions. She’s one of my inspirations. I can only hope that I’ll write anything as perfect as one of her novels. (I LOVE stodgy bankers…well, she MADE me love stodgy bankers is her real talent!) I’m sorry to gush, but I, too, will follow her to any genre she tries.

    2. Josh Lanyon

      I think 30 copies a month of an old title is quite respectable.

      The advice I give my mentorees (is that a word?) is 4 books a year, ideally novels. In other words, a new, quality release every quarter. If you can do that (and it is NOT an easy thing to do) you will steadily build your backlist at the same time you are steadily acquiring new readers. You keep your name out there — very necessary — and you keep the quality high. More than four books a year, well, I think very few writers in this genre or any other can write more than four quality full length titles a year.

      The key to a lucrative career in this or any other genre is the consistent and regular production of top notch commercial fiction.

      Next question: what is “commercial” fiction.

  33. Lisa Henry

    Wow, some awesome responses here. I’m doing okay, I guess, but not thinking of quitting the day job yet. Not with a mortgage and that damn cat who keeps running up expensive vets bills, at any rate…

    But I didn’t get into this for the money. And I think every writing class I’ve ever taken has warned me that if you think you’re going to make a bucketload of cash, you’re in the wrong game. And that’s okay. I think it’s a slow process to build up a fan base and really start seeing great returns. Self-publishing looks great, royalties-wise, but there is so much self-pubbed stuff out there that I think a lot of authors are struggling to get noticed. And that’s a benefit of having a publisher that I’m sot sure anyone has mentioned yet — you get to borrow their reputation while you get yourself established.

    As for promos and stuff…well, if I spent all my time on that, when would I find time to write? I think that some new writers make the mistake of concentrating too much on Facebooking and tweeting and blogging, when your best advertisement is a solid backlist. At least I hope it is, because that’s the theory I’m working on.

    My worst seller so far has been my one and only historical, which is no surprise going on the above comments. But will we see a turn around in the popularity of historicals? I hope so, because I love them and want to write more!

    Any my best seller so far, I think, will be The Good Boy, written with J.A. Rock. I’m only saying that because it actually hit Number 1 for a few days on the Amazon Gay Romance rankings, and hung in for a long time in the top numbers. But of course, I haven’t seen any money from Amazon yet, since I think it takes them three months to pass the royalties on to the publisher. So it’ll be interesting to see how that translates into a payment.

    But as for how it hit Number 1…well, I have no idea. I guess sometimes you just get lucky.

    And now I’m off to give the cat his expensive medication… :smile:

  34. Kim Dare

    I think a lot depends on if your chosen sub genre happens to be popular at any given moment. I’ve been pretty lucky that BDSM erotic romance seems to have been doing okay over the last few years. (Although I think I’m starting to see hints that the tide might be receeding for it.)

    In general I find that longer books do better than shorter titles, paranormal books do better than contemporary ones, Christmas books generally do pretty badly, and, strangely enough, I’ve also noticed that books where the royalties are to go to charity do less well than non-charity titles.

  35. Nikki

    I wish all writers will complain to Amazon about the kindle ebook refund within 7 days. This is encouraging free reading. I know people who finished reading and returned their kindle ebooks within 7 days. I did complain to Amazon but all they said was it was part of their return policy ?? It is a library for free lending!
    I am a fan of the gay/MM romance genre and this Amazon ridiculous policy is not helping you guys at all!

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