Thursday, April 27, 2006

How Much Money Writers Make

One of my nieces told me this week that she's writing a book! I was very excited for her, of course. I have lots of happy memories throughout my childhood of writing my own stories...of finding some paper and folding and stapling it into a book, and then grabbing my trusty pencil, turning to the first page, and spinning fabulous tales that would take me anywhere I wanted to go.

Well, some things have changed. My niece tells me she's writing it on the computer. I can't say I blame her; that's what I do myself, now. But there's something charming and inviting about those folded-paper books, and flipping through those blank pages and wondering what will be on them as my story unfolds.

After we discussed her story a little bit, she asked me how much money I made from my book Just the Way You Are that was published last year. Well! Kids these days do know what's most important. I told her "not as much as I wanted to make," but I think that was a little more vague than she was wanting.

OK, Niki, here's the scoop. When someone publishes your book, there are a lot of people involved. There are usually a few people who read it over and help you fix things that need to be fixed. This is their job and they need to be paid for it. Then there are the people who actually put the book together into a book--people who make the pages look nice, people who design the cover, and so forth. They also need to be paid. The company that actually prints the books and puts them together needs to be paid, too. And the publisher who's overseeing all this wants some money, too.

But that's not all. Then someone has to "distribute" the book. That means they get it put into bookstores. If no one distributes it to bookstores, then guess what happens? Your book won't be in any stores! And if it isn't in any stores, it's pretty hard to get people to buy it. Distributors also get your book put in online stores like and (It is kind of fun to bring up these websites and see your book for sale there, and to see comments people have left about your book.)

Then the bookstores buy however many copies of the book that they want. They pay a lower price than people who buy the book at the store will pay. The reason why is because the bookstore needs to make money, too.

If you look at the back of my book, you'll see that it has a price on the cover at the bottom. The price is $16.95. This is how much it will cost you if you buy the book in a store. The store can offer a discount if they want. They might sell more copies of a book if they offer it at a lower price, but then they won't make as much money from selling it.

So, after all of these people get paid from putting together my book and selling it, guess how much money I get for each copy of the book that is sold? $16.95? No way. $15? $14? Not even close.

I get about 74 cents for every copy of my book that is sold. 74 cents! So, if they sell 1000 copies in bookstores, I get $740. But if they sell 100,000 copies, I get $74,000. (That is, if I don't demand that my publisher increase my royalty rates because my book sold so many copies.) So, you can make lots of money IF lots of people buy your book. But the truth of the matter is--and this is the sad part--most books don't sell anywhere near 100,000 copies. (And many of those that do are sold in bulk and the author makes even less per book than I do.)

But there are other ways to make money. I can buy copies of my book from my publisher for a lower price than you can buy them in the stores. Then I can sell them for more money. So, if I sold them for $5 more than I paid for them, and I sell them to 20 people, I'd make $100. Some writers "self-publish" their books--they pay a company some money (instead of the company paying them) and they make the book for them. Then these writers have to take care of distributing the book to bookstores themselves, and advertising, and everything else (unless they pay someone else to do it), but the nice thing is that they get more money for each book they sell. People who are good at selling lots of things by themselves can do really well with this option.

And there's always the chance that a movie producer would want to make a movie from my book and would be willing to pay lots of money for the movie rights. Part of that money would go to my publisher, but I'd get to keep the rest. That would be nice, wouldn't it?

But so far I haven't been approached by any movie producers. I don't think it will be happening any time soon. But I'll let you know when it does.

(Maybe then I can buy an iPod.)


Maxinewilsonperry said...

Great information. As a first time author this is a need to know. Thanks

Katie Parker said...

Glad you found it useful. It's too bad we don't automatically get paid lots of money just because we write a book!

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