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

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, ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 readersย โ€“ by publishersย โ€“ 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. ๐Ÿ˜† Of course if you tweet it you can’t charge for the book. ๐Ÿ˜ฏ 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! ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 โ€“ mostly epublishers โ€“ 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 โ€“ 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.

Anon E Mouse
Anon E Mouse
3 years 2 months ago

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).

Kari Gregg
3 years 2 months ago

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.

EM Lynley
3 years 2 months ago
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… Read more »
Josh Lanyon
3 years 2 months ago

How long will the poll run, Wave?

Anne Brooke
3 years 2 months ago
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 ยฃ1,000 to ยฃ1,500pa (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… Read more »
Erastes
3 years 2 months ago

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* ๐Ÿ™

Erastes
3 years 2 months ago
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… Read more »
Sarah_Madison
3 years 2 months ago
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. ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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… Read more »
Kaje Harper
Kaje Harper
3 years 2 months ago
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… Read more »
Kaje Harper
Kaje Harper
3 years 2 months ago
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… Read more »
Angelia Sparrow
3 years 2 months ago
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… Read more »
Princess so
3 years 2 months ago

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
๐Ÿ˜•

Princess so
3 years 2 months ago

Gah! lol … it finally let me finish.. perseverance ๐Ÿ˜€ !

Josephine Myles
3 years 2 months ago

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!

Elliott Mackle
3 years 2 months ago
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… Read more »
Lou Harper
3 years 2 months ago

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.

Sara York
3 years 2 months ago

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.

Josh Lanyon
3 years 2 months ago

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.

Erastes
3 years 2 months ago

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.

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