OK, so you may not have noticed, but I have been gone for a few weeks. Why? I didn’t
actually go anywhere, and my online presence has been as ubiquitous as ever, but I
haven’t been blogging. Why? It’s simple. My website got hacked.
Why anyone would want to hack me is a mystery, but they did it well and good. I mean,
I am a sweet Christian writer, right? So boring! So bland! Why hack me? Well, whatever
the reason they did it so well, in fact, that parts of my website needed a significant rebuild.
So I gave up and switched to a straight-up blog. Easy. Free. Moving on!
It’s November, and that’s royalty time for many authors. So let’s talk money.
Big Question #3: How Much Do Authors Get Paid?
Not much. At all. And very infrequently. Don’t let that discourage you, but you should
remember this quote from Mickey Spillane, “Authors don’t get paid. Writers get paid.”
When I was writing non-fiction, I was definitely an author. I wrote one book that took 6
years of research. When I got accepted by a publisher, I received no advance. And my
first royalty check was for $50.00. I am not joking when I say I sat down and cried after
that. For days. After all the work I did, I really expected to make—I don’t know what, but
certainly more than $50.
The royalties trickled in slowly after that, but at least on a quarterly basis. However, the
most I’ve ever received in a quarter is $200. With that publisher, I make 20% royalties.
With other publishers, you might make less.
When I moved to fiction writing, I did have the joy of an advance, but your advance
comes in pieces too. I am also realizing that royalties take forever to come in. My
publisher, Love Inspired, pays out royalties twice a year. There is some talk of moving
to a quarterly system, but it has not yet happened. My first book, Captain of Her Heart,
was released this past January, and I just got my royalty statement for that book. I
haven’t received a statement for The Temporary Betrothal, since royalty periods run from
January through June, and July through December.
As of yet, I haven’t earned out my advance, but nearly half of my sales were kept “in
reserve,” in case people returned my book in droves. (As if!) Those reserves should
be “released” the next time they do royalties, but I don’t know how many of the reserves
were actual returns. So I still don’t know if there will be any money in my next check.
There is no set answer to this question, because it varies so greatly depending on your
genre, your publisher, and how many books you have out at any given time. I will say
that doing a little research can help you know what to expect. I guess my biggest stress
has been earning enough to justify the continuation of my writing career. As you know, I
got a day job at a law firm to help alleviate that stress. If I am earning a little steadily in the form of a paycheck, then it’s OK if my books take over a year to pay out.
The life of a writer is feast or famine. Some day you might get a check for thousands
of dollars. Six months later, you haven’t made a dime. It’s feast or famine with your
emotions, too. You might be thrilled one day because you got THE CALL or a fan wrote
an email to you. And then you’ll be devastated because someone wrote a negative review
on Amazon, or a new book proposal got rejected.
All I can say is that if you are meant to be a writer, you will be. None of these issues
will dissuade you from writing, if that’s what you’re meant to do. But this is a question I
am asked often, and I feel it’s one that merits a response. You should get paid for doing
what you love. And if you are writer, you will. But you won’t be able to give up your day
job…unless you are J.K. Rowling and hit the jackpot.