What Should Authors Expect To Earn?

A funny thing about authors: they’re not a modest bunch.

A funny thing about authors: they’re not a modest bunch. Even the most humble, down-to-earth authors I know have wild expectations about the potential their book has to be a best-seller; to earn out; to change their life. I get it. A lot of authors pin their dreams on their books, and there’s something beautiful about that. And while no aspiring author needs to be denied hope, or to be told not to dream big, I’ve seen the flip side of soaring too high. Sometimes hope balloons get launched only to be deflated later in so many ways–slowly with the dawning of a realization that the aim was too high; violently with angry resentment; tragically with the onset of self-pity. If knowledge is power, authors could spare themselves these sad aftermaths by understanding what the industry considers to be good sales numbers.

Earlier this year, NPR reported a story called “When It Comes to Book Sales, What Counts as Success Might Surprise You,” whose message boiled down to the fact that traditional publishing’s sales aren’t nearly as good as most people believe them to be. Literary agent Jane Dystel, interviewed for the piece, said, “A sensational sale would be about 25,000 copies. Even 15,000 would be a strong enough sale to get the author’s attention for a second book.” Notice she said the word “sensational,” not “common.”

When I first started She Writes Press, I used to ask the authors what kinds of sales they expected from their first book–generally a debut novel or memoir. I heard one number come up pretty often: 10,000 copies. That seemed to be a benchmark authors deemed to be possible, perhaps attainable. But the truth is it’s a very hard number to hit. A few of our authors have hit 10,000 copies sold, but that’s with paperback and e-book sales combined, and it usually involves some sort of ebook campaign.

If you want a crash course in author earnings, there’s a whole site dedicated to it called Author Earnings. Its limitation is that it’s dedicated to a discussion of ebooks. Run by self-publishing advocate Hugh Howie and a guy called Data Guy, their unequivocal goal is to show how indie authors make more money self-publishing (ebooks) than do traditional authors traditionally publishing anything. It’s good to dig into the numbers, but it’s also self-evident that self-published authors would make more money (hand-over-fist more, actually) than traditionally published authors on ebooks because they take home 70% of their earnings whereas traditionally published authors take home 25%, minus their agent’s commission.

I recommend reading Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s October 2015 post, “Business Musings: Author Earnings.” not just for her dissection of Howie and Data Guy’s logic and analysis, but also for another important point she makes about how to make a living as an author–that you have to publish often and well.

I see two types of independent authors: The first batch are those who have a legacy project they want to publish beautifully and be proud of. They want their book out in the world and for it to have a fighting chance at getting reviewed, being carried in bookstores, and selling a decent number of copies (maybe 1000 or more). These authors have a very good chance of achieving their goals. The other subset are those who aspire to be career writers. These authors expect to earn out their expenses and to turn a profit on their investment. They want the other things too–to be in bookstores, to be reviewed, etc.–but their expectations are generally higher, and wrapped up in money, because earning out and selling a predetermined number of books is tied together with their perception of success. Thus, more is at stake, and they expect to succeed.

If you’re in this latter category, there’s good news/bad news. The good news is that it’s possible to earn out your expenses and turn a profit on your investment. The bad news is that there’s a very slim chance that this will happen with your first book. You need to keep creating content and stacking up more product (in the form of new books) to generate five-digit sales numbers. Very few independent authors reach 10,000 sales, and when they do, they’re typically scooped up by traditional publishers. Rusch makes the incredibly good and valid point that the most successful type of authors are those who are publishing every which way they can. Sometimes called “hybrid authors,” these are writers who publish traditionally, who self-publish, and who publish in between–perhaps through other independent models, or perhaps publishing some digital-only books.

To make money in book publishing, you are best off looking at your first book as an investment in yourself. It’s unlikely to earn its money back, and its success should be directly measured against how much money you put into publicity. It’s difficult to give a hard number on what a “successful” independently published book might be, but we can look to traditional publishing to direct us. In traditional publishing, a book is a “failure” if it doesn’t earn out its advance. By that logic, an independently published book might only be considered a success if it earns out its investment. An author who spends $500 on a marketing and publicity campaign will have a very different experience than an author who spends $10,000. However, the author who spent only $500 will be “successful” at a much lower rate of sale than the author who spent the ten grand.

If earning out is going to be your measure of success, consider a few points. One, do as traditional publishers do and allow that earnout expectation to be spread out over three years. Two, allow for your first book to be an investment in yourself–in the brand of you, future author of many books. And three, get savvy about all the ways you might sell your book. Savvy authors are doing ebook campaigns through companies like BookBub. They’re finding avenues to sell their books directly–to corporations, hospitals, rehab centers, associations, etc. They’re creating affiliations and partnerships.

Publishing a first book may be a thing on your bucket list, and if that’s the case, and you don’t want to think too much about the money, then don’t. But if you’re serious about earnings and have your sights set on becoming a career writer, writing your first book is not unlike standing at the threshold of a new galaxy. There is so much to learn, so much to explore, infinite paths that might lead to sales, and any number of unexpected relationships that might be forged. If you have the aptitude, this could be the beginning of something amazing and exciting and lucrative. But don’t for one second think all you have to do is to keep writing. You have to treat your writing as a business. Take a course. Read up. Follow people who know more than you. And then you keep writing, yes, but also keep producing, keep learning, keep growing, keep up. And godspeed!

What’s The Secret Of Good Writing?

If you find yourself procrastinating, or stifled by panic, or writer’s block, I can reveal that the solution to your troubles.

I first encountered Robert Boice’s name about three years ago, somewhere online; after that, it started popping up every other month. Boice, I learned, was a US psychologist who’d cracked the secret of how to write painlessly and productively. Years ago, he’d recorded this wisdom in a book, now out of print, which a handful of fans discussed in reverent tones, but with a title that seemed like a deliberate bid for obscurity: How Writers Journey To Comfort And Fluency. Also, it was absurdly expensive: used copies sold for £130. Still, I’m a sucker for writing advice, especially when so closely guarded. So this month, I succumbed: I found a copy at the saner (if still eye-watering) price of £68, and a plain green print-on-demand hardback arrived in the post. So if you hunger to write more, but instead find yourself procrastinating, or stifled by panic, or writer’s block, I can reveal that the solution to your troubles is…

Look, you knew this would be anticlimactic, didn’t you? The kernel of Boice’s advice, based on writing workshops conducted with struggling academics, isn’t merely old. It’s the oldest in the world: write, every weekday, in brief scheduled sessions, as short as 10 minutes at first, then getting longer. Reading that, I nearly flung my £68 book across the room in impatience. But that wouldn’t surprise Boice. Because impatience, for him, is a huge part of why writing causes so much grief.

His students, he explains, tell him they can’t afford to limit their writing to short sessions, or try his other exercises: they’ve got deadlines to meet! But that proves the point. They want to have already written – and it’s precisely that manic urgency that triggers panic and procrastination. As I kept reading, a realisation dawned: the non-excitingness of Boice’s book – from its title to his step-by-step advice, which you’re meant to implement gradually, over months – is itself an exercise in cultivating patience. It’s slow going because slow is the only way forward.

This gets clearer when it comes to one of Boice’s favourite tips: when your daily writing time is up, stop dead, even if you’ve got momentum and could write more. Maybe you could. But you’d be reinforcing the notion of writing as a mysterious force, to be harnessed whenever it shows up, rather than a humdrum activity you choose, undramatically, to do. “The urge to continue,” Boice writes, “includes a big component of impatience about not being finished, about not being productive enough, about never again finding such an ideal time for writing.” Stop when the timer goes off, and you’ll build self-discipline. Keep going longer, and you’re just indulging your insecurity.

Boice would have helped nobody, then, had he offered a quick fix – because wanting a quick fix is the essence of impatience. Instead, decelerate. Make writing only a middling priority in your life. Don’t binge-write. Aim for mild happiness as you work, not storms of passion. And if all this strikes you as a waste of time, ask yourself: could that very reaction be part of the problem? Staring paralysed at the screen is an even bigger waste, after all.

What to Expect in Self-Publishing?

Self-publishing will give authors the opportunities, creative tools, new ideas and resources for them to successfully publish their books.

Getting published not only depends on intent prayers and ardent wishes. Not only has the traditional way held the key anymore. As self–publishing industry grow in its popularity, authors found avenues that can take them into the spotlight.

Self-published authors aim of giving themselves the chance of getting successful by looking for a ground in where they can market their books. Self–published authors opt for self–publishing companies that are cost effective but offers marketing help so authors can focus on their true craft – writing.

With the advancement in self-publishing tools and technology for the last year, it brought authors closer to their dreams. New ideas and opportunities explode, it’s imperative for authors and self-publishing companies to take a look at what the future may hold and what challenges they may encounter.

Back to Basic – Writing

With a huge number of authors and books worldwide, readers face a problem in choosing a book that is both high quality and cost-wise. Writers, who will surely succeed in publishing, are those who take readers as their precious gems giving them the super fabulous book ever. This covers the finery of the book – professional quality editing, well-written stories with catchy and appropriate covers in order to avoid mistakes that can lead to unnecessary rejection.

Authors Platform

Sometimes, no matter how nice your book is, if it won’t reach into the hands of your readers, it will useless. Creating a platform can help sustain and increase your leverage as a self–published author compared to those who aren’t doing it. Through this, potential readers will be aware of your existence where you can earn positive feedback and desire for your book. The larger the platform is, the greater chances of meeting new buyers that can lead to high demands of your book.

Self–Published Authors Develop Maturity

Self–published authors recognize writing not just a hobby but a step forward into entrepreneurship. They are now more aware on why certain things don’t happen and builds acceptance that writing a book is just a part of the whole process. They’ll learn from their experiences and other author’s success stories as they go along the way with a sense of seriousness taking a long-term perspective on their craft.

Build up Collaboration

In order for self–published to succeed in this tricky yet fulfilling industry, one should utilize the help from professional experts. Seeking publishing partners aside from the all-in-one self-publishing package can give assistance to authors in improving their books.

Self–publishing has shown its best days ever. A writer who doesn’t stop aiming high and foresees a brighter tomorrow has all the means available to succeed his/her self-publishing career.

Why Is Everyone Publishing A Book These Days?

If you haven’t noticed that the “publish-or-perish” phenomenon has moved from academia to the general population, you haven’t been paying attention.

If you haven’t noticed that the “publish-or-perish” phenomenon has moved from academia to the general population, you haven’t been paying attention.

My chiropractor is writing a book on nutrition. So is Don, a former HP sales consultant, just booted out the door of his organization. His topic: cloud computing. My friend Rexanne is writing a romance novel during her off-duty hours as a nurse. Bev, a former social marketing assistant, is writing a book on gardening. Steve, an engineer and inventory/supply manager and former contract trainer for our organization, is working on a spy thriller. Rick, a three-star general I met at a mixer this week, has published a book on leadership principles.

Anybody with a computer and a printer can become a published author. Several apps (from free to $4.99) let writers upload their manuscript written in a Word document into a “book format” template. They can be selling their book in the Apple store and on Amazon within hours.

But should they? That depends on purpose and platform. Certainly, technology has made the process to become a “published” author fast and painless — if no one asks or cares “published by whom.”

The challenge now is NOT just to publish — not just to toss anything out the door to join the deluge in the marketplace.

The real challenge is to write a quality book that major publishers will offer you a good advance for and that people are willing to pay money to read for years to come.

Why are more and more people working toward that bigger goal?

  • A well-published book provides credibility. “Of course, he’s an expert on the topic; he practically ‘wrote the book’ on the subject” became a cliché for good reason.
  • Businesses and their owners need a bigger platform than a pitch when everyone else has a website as their bully-pulpit. The published book is a step-up.
  • The “noise” of websites and ads rises to the level of competing noise. The book is louder than an article or blog, yet classier.
  • The book can tell as well as sell for you. And that telling builds relationships and trust.
  • You have space to build your case. Communicating through a book doesn’t have to happen in real time. Readers can reflect on your message over time.
  • Authoring a book released by a major publishing house builds reputation by association. Almost all substantive arguments and concepts down through history have been presented in written form to have staying power.

So my point: A book with a major publisher definitely puts you on the path to success as a branded author. Presidential candidates publish their philosophies on social issues. Professional athletes publish their memoirs of personal struggles. Celebrity CEOs publish their management challenges.

Do you have an idea or expertise worth putting into the world? Go for it!

If Jane Austen Got Feedback From Some Guy In A Writing Workshop

I don’t usually read chick lit, but I didn’t hate reading this draft of your novel, which you’re calling Pride and Prejudice.

Janes Austen Writing

Dear Jane,

I don’t usually read chick lit, but I didn’t hate reading this draft of your novel, which you’re calling Pride and Prejudice. I really liked the part where Elizabeth and her aunt and uncle went on a road trip, which reminded me of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales(also about a road trip — check it out!). Anyway, good job. I do have a couple of notes to share, in the spirit of constructive criticism.

So, a big question I have is “Why?” Why does Elizabeth do the things she does? Why does Mr. Darcy do the things he does? Why does Mrs. Bennet do the things she does? Have you read Hamlet? I feel like you could really learn something from how Shakespeare (the author) has Hamlet tell readers why he’s doing the things he does.

Another problem I noticed: Mr. Wickham (great name, by the way, evoking both a strong but flexible plant, and an earthly, bestial pig) is in the army, but you don’t make use of that. What if Mr. Wickham, instead of just being sort of a scoundrel (Again: why?), is a scoundrel because he’s suffering from his experiences in the war? (Which war, btw?) That way he could tell Elizabeth about it, and we would be able to see that she’s not just an independent young woman, but also a really good listener. He could tell some jokes, too, to liven up the mood, and show that Elizabeth has a good sense of humor. This could be the middle section of the book, like five or six chapters in there.

Also, why five sisters? How about just two? Combine Jane and Kitty. Or, better, make one of the sisters a brother (named “Jim,” maybe?), and then he could be the narrator who mentions his sisters from time to time! Like Hamlet!

While I’m on the sisters, is it just me, or does everyone treat Kitty really badly? Personally, I want to say “Huzzah!” to Kitty, and it’s annoying that everyone else — literally everyone else — wants to hold her back. Even you, I think— and, sorry, don’t mean to hit too close to home here, but… I’m just saying that I would totally court Kitty. She’s got a great sense of humor. But anyway, if you change her to Jim, problem solved!

A few other concerns: Mrs. Bennett is annoying, and you don’t have any people of color. Also, there aren’t a lot of men in this book. Only about the same number as there are women. I was thinking that what you could do is have Mrs. Bennett be dying, but give her a black best friend. Like Othello? (Have you read it? It’s also by Shakespeare, fwiw.) The Othello character could be her butler, maybe? There you go: three problems solved. You’re welcome!

I don’t know if you noticed this, but there’s a lot about hair ribbons here. Did you mean to do that? Maybe you could develop them into a kind of motif throughout, the way Shakespeare uses a skull in Hamlet? Maybe, when Mrs. Bennet is dying, she could ask to hold a hair ribbon? And Othello the butler could bring it to her, and tell her a story, or, better yet, get Wickham in there to tell her about the war. Oh! Perfect: just have Wickham, Jim and Othello talk about the war, while Mrs. Bennet lies unconscious in the background, holding a ribbon.

What do you think about Jim, Othello, and Wickham: Brothers in Arms as a title instead of Pride and Prejudice?

Anyway, while this isn’t something I would pick up on my own to read, I still enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Thanks for letting me take a look, and let me know if you need any more help with it.

Keep writing!

This article was originally published on the BuzzFeed Books.

Newly-Discovered Dr. Seuss Book Hits Bookshelves 24 Years After Author’s Death

Dr. Seuss’s recently discovered book, What Pet Should I Get? (Classic Seuss) has arrived in store shelves. The book was published by Random house and has already debuted at No.1 on Amazon.

Dr. Seuss’s recently discovered book, What Pet Should I Get? (Classic Seuss) has arrived in store shelves. The book was published by Random house and has already debuted at No.1 on Amazon since it’s July 28, 2015 release, is striking a soft spot with fans, who are effusive over yet another remarkable piece of work from the beloved children’s author, Theodor “Seuss” Geisel.