Friday, 9 September 2011

Do Writers Make Any Money...?

Many of the published authors I know - quite understandably - like to give the impression that they are fully professional, but the truth is they are earning less than £10k a year (with the occasional exception we shall come to in a minute...)

OK. So if I'm going to be brutal about this, who better to start in on than Me. I am able to say perfectly honestly that my book sales are in the thousands each month, and I am top 10 (and even number 1!) in some Amazon categories. All very impressive and worthy and yes, I'm very proud of that; BUT... at an average net profit of around 50p per book, that still doesn't amount to a decent living. As George Bush once said: Do the math: I would need to sell 100,000 books a year to get £50k before tax, and then pull off the same trick year after year after year to call it a living. I have five books out there, and yet I still take extra work as a story consultant, I give seminars, write articles and I take writing contracts for corporations in order to turn my earnings into a 'proper' living. 

I think it is important that aspiring writers understand the world they are entering - one of the very biggest disappointments in my career was when, having finally got a proper professional publishing deal that would put my books in the shops, I still couldn't 'turn pro'. I was so massively proud to get a deal, and yet I couldn't give up my day job.

As a writer, as you mooch about on Twitter and Facebook and look enviously at the blogs (and sometimes, the self-hype) of 'successful' authors, remember this: The writers making serious money are either:

      a) celebrities with a sideline in books (David Beckham, Katie Price, etc. sell more books than all of us 'real' writers put together...);
      b) writers with major film deals for their stories;  
      c) authors with at least six published books in the shops.

As a rule of thumb, if you ain't heard of someone from their writing, they ain't making a decent living from their writing...

So How Can *I* Make Money?
The VERY best way to plan realistically and to be sure to make money yourself is to plan towards c) above. Aim to write every day in order that you produce a book every year in order that you start to make a living from pure writing in 6 years. 

This might seem like a ridiculously long time, but in publisher terms, this is normal cycle times to plan against, and pushing very hard to get a deal on your one and only first novel is not going to get you far unless it is quite extraordinary. Bear in mind that even if you got a deal tomorrow, it would be around 2 years before your book hit the shelves anyway. So a five-year plan is the best timeframe to have in mind if you want to succeed. Get this: 

500 words a day, six days a week will give you back a 100,000 word book in 8 months. Polish and edit for four months == a book a year. Now, that's manageable, isn't it?! 

Fire and Forget
It also helps enormously if you don't sit at home watching the letterbox. Fire and forget, is my motto. In other words, remember How to Be a Writer in Three Simple Steps: 

1) Write the best stuff you can. 
2) Send it off, and forget it; 
3) Go to 1. 

Forget the submission. Get on with the next one. Rejected or accepted, you have a lot of work to do, so move on and keep busy. Expect rejection (there WILL be rejection...) and be pleasantly surprised when (not if...) you get something other than rejection. 

Writing is very much a 'more haste, less speed' world, but you can't get anywhere without product, and if you work hard,you increase your chances of overall success with every year that passes. And stick to a genre! Become known in the one field. That might not be something you want to do, but if you want commercial success, you have to stay within a genre (See my blog post on the critical importance of Genre HERE).

The writers I know who get success are highly professional. They are highly productive. They hit one genre. They don't daydream about being a writer - they get stuck in and do it. They are single-minded and they work very hard at getting product out there.  Does this describe YOU?! 


  1. Thanks for this honest post, I will spread the link around, I think all aspiring authors should read this.

  2. Hi David..thanks for this honest post. I think all aspiring writers should read this. Its a realistic picture of what we earn and should expect in the future too unless and until we sell a million and more copies of our books.
    I am sharing this post on both my blog and Facebook.

  3. Hey David, thanks so much for this. It's something no one wants to talk about but a healthy dose of reality sprinkled amongst our fantasy worlds is a good thing. (sometimes)

  4. Thanks for keeping it real David! Great words of wisdom :)

  5. I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article. I am hoping the same best work from you in the future as well. In fact your creative writing abilities has inspired me to start my own BlogEngine blog now. Really the blogging is spreading its wings rapidly. Your write up is a fine example of it. How to make money

  6. I thought it was going to be some boring old post, but it really compensated for my time. I will post a link to this page on my blog. I am sure my visitors will find that very useful. Increase Income Monthly