Monday, 8 June 2009

A life of luxury??

One subject I always try to explain, when giving talks etc, is how authors get paid. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the fact that celebrities earning huge advances for their books are the only ones ever mentioned in the Press, most people seem to believe that as soon as an author has a book contract, they've 'made it'. People used to ask me why I was still working at my day job, whether we were going to move to a bigger house, and even whether my husband could now afford to retire! It's quite difficult to get people to believe that the reality of authors' earnings is normally so far removed from this fairy tale, that it's actually quite hilarious to hear it discussed in those terms. For instance, some people seem to believe that virtually the entire retail price of a book goes to the author (a typical author's royalty is actually 7.5% on a paperback).

So I was pleased to read THIS post on author Kate Hardy's blog this morning:
She's summed up the whole process perfectly, and it makes really interesting reading.

The only reason for pointing out these facts, as far as I'm concerned, is to warn would-be authors not to go into it for financial reasons. Personally I never expected to earn a living from writing (and never have done) - so whatever I earn is a bonus for me and for my family - not our sole means of support. I write, first and foremost, because I love doing so, and it was always my hobby; secondly because I'm thrilled that my books are actually being published; and only as an afterthought is the consideration of the little extra income it brings in - I'm very grateful for it, but would never rely on it. Short stories (which I also write, under another name) actually bring in a much higher rate of payment if you consider how quickly they're written, compared with the time it takes to write a novel. Of course, it's just as difficult to write them, and to get them accepted for publication, so it isn't an easy option by any means.

Having said all that - over the next few weeks I'll be telling you all about my next book - 'Tales from a Honeymoon Hotel' - which is due for publication on 2 July and I'm very excited about it - so watch this space (as they say!). You never know, this one might actually make my fortune for me and I might become one of those 'rich' authors everyone imagines! Hmmm ....


  1. Hi, Olivia! Yes, it's amazing how little non-writers know about what a writer earns. They seem to assume that you are loaded!! Might be true of authors like JK Rowling, but for the rest of us mere mortals it just ain't so!

    I write because I love it and I don't think I could stop even if I wanted to! Of course earning a bit of money from it is always a bonus. I'm very lucky to be in the fortunate position of being able to write 3/4 time. I no longer go out to work outside of the home, due to health issues, but I still keep house and care for my daughter. The writing fits around that. I don't earn a great deal, and a lot less than some more proficient and successful writers, but I'm working on it!

    I'd write even if I didn't get any money from it, and have writen several articles for The Link magazine (NAWG) for no other reward than to inform other writers of things I've found helpful and to see my name in print!

    I'm very excited about your book coming out in July! Can't wait to see it on the shelves as I bet you can't!

    Julie xx

  2. Thanks, Julie! Yes, I'm excited about it too -although I have to say, it was a struggle to find my previous two books on the shelves in the big book shops. Often hidden away at the back like most mid-listers! My local independent bookshop used to be great, in that respect - looking after me and promoting me - but sadly they've gone out of business now. Also, of course, it's available from sites like Amazon.

    It sounds like we have a lot in common. Like you, I stopped working at the day job mainly for health reasons - an operation last year that made working impossible and I haven't gone back since. I love being a full-time writer too, although I do miss my friends at the hospital - and having a regular salary! Can't have everything. x

  3. I don't anticipate ever being able to give up the day job and live off what I earn from writing. Getting paid is a bonus but certainly not enough to get excited about.
    Looking forward to seeing your new book Olivia.

  4. I didn't anticipate giving up the day job either, but had no choice in the matter! That's why I try to use every possible minute I have to write - luckily my husband has a full time job, but it's a struggle as we aren't entitled to any benefits as he gets paid a silly low amount just over the benefit threshold, but it does mean there are many folks out there on benefits that get more than he does for working 12 hour shifts, often a 48 hour + week!

    Contrary to popular belief, it's not easy being a full time writer either, well for me it's not. I don't have the luxury of writing every day. I have to snatch time here and there, as I stil have the houswork, and my daughter to sort out, so in many respects, I still have a full time job in the house and my writing comes second!

    I don't think I'll ever make any serious amounts of money from my writing and I'm not aiming to. It's the love I have for writing that motivates me to write, and if a bit of money comes my way, just enough to contribute to the household finances, then that's great.

    You're right, Olivia, you can't have everything! Hope you are well now following your op, and I'll have dig mid-shelf for your books!!

  5. Thanks, Gonna Be. I will be posting more about the book soon! You're right - getting paid is a bonus, not something I ever expected!

    And I sympathise, Julie - it wasn't because of mega-earnings that I gave up the day job!
    It's true that it's not easy, but it's so good that you do it because you enjoy it. Keep at it, and you never know - those little bits of money add up, and hopefully will multiply too! Good luck.

  6. Ooooh, how exciting. Huge congratulations and can't wait to hear more.

    Last year I made enough from writing to cover my costs (stationery, RNA membership, postage - not the Amazon bill) with some left over for the 12-year-old's birthday party, so I'd agree with everyone who's said that they don't do it for the money.

    I'm a self-employed book-keeper which I hate, that's why I keep buying the lottery tickets - so I can write all day when I win (that's the plan anyway).


  7. Thanks Suzanne! Yes, it's quite funny seeing the 'expenditure' page of my notebook (I do my accounts the very old-fashioned way - that's quite scary enough for me!) getting fuller and fuller! Computer stuff, computer repairs, writing magazines, fares if I have to go to London for a meeting - all adds up. And all legitimate, unlike the MPs so-called expenses!

  8. That's exciting news about the book! Have just treated myself to Hen Weekend to get me started!
    Hm if we could claim as much as MPs - I'd get my drawbridge repaired and have my turrets polished!

  9. Ooh, nice to know you're going to read 'Hen Weekend', Teresa! Isn't it strange how you never quite get used to hearing people say they're going to read one of your books? It's like introducing a friend to your husband or child and hoping they're going to like them, otherwise it could be embarrasing or they might have to pretend! Well, I hope you do enjoy it and that you don't feel you have to! (pretend)!

    Laughed out loud about your drawbridge and turrets! Yeah - my turrets could do with a good polishing too! (likewise the furniture but that's another story!)