Let’s Talk Money

When I first started writing, I had no idea what publishers were paying and therefore no idea of my potential earnings. The only thing I knew with certainty was not to give up my day job and that I would be lucky to get a $5,000 advance on a book that took me five years to write. The only site that I knew of to find out what publishers were paying was Brenda Hiatt’s Show Me the Money.

Personally I like knowing what’s possible. For the past two decades, like many writers, I didn’t make one dime, but I kept on writing because it’s what I love to do. But I also realize this is a business and as a business I need to earn money if I want to be able to stay home and write full time.

Stephen King is estimated to be worth $400 million dollars.

Stephenie Meyer is said to be worth $125 million dollars.

J.K. Rowling is said to be worth $1 billion dollars.

We all know that King, Rowling, Meyers and, of course, E.L. James are rolling in the dough. But what about everybody else? I believe we are going to see more and more indie authors hitting the million dollar mark. Many already have. It used to be that once or twice a month I would read about another author making a sale to a traditional publisher. Now I’m reading about authors quitting their day jobs. How cool is that?! And, of course, it’s all relative–if you have zero kids and a husband with a full-time job, you’re probably going to be able to quit before the single writer with kids to feed.

Some indie authors, whether they are both self-published and traditionally published, or not, are making $20,000 a month and some are making $500 a month. And some have yet to make a total sum of $500. Not everybody who self-publishes is going to make a ton of money. I read an article the other day where the blogger stated that too many indie authors are telling other writers that there’s money to be made so hurry up and release everything you have and see what sticks!

I like to think that writers are smarter than that. Of course, there are always going to be people who are going to try to take shortcuts just for the sake of earning a quick buck. But why waste time worrying about those people? This is not a competition. It’s also not a good idea to compare yourself to other authors. Better books than mine will earn less money and vice versa. That’s never going to change. There are too many variables for it to be any other way (genre, story, pricing, timing, cover, blurb, luck).

Let the possibilities of big money motivate you to finish your book, but don’t let these same possibilities put unnecessary pressures on you, and certainly don’t let EXPECTATIONS ruin all the fun if you don’t earn $20,000 a month.

I believe more and more writers are talking about money now because they CAN (no confidentiality clauses when you’re an indie author), and because it’s pretty exciting that authors don’t have to give 80% of their money to publishers. We get to keep the money our stories earn. How cool is that?

I know writers who happily agreed to a one thousand dollar advance and 6 to 8% royalties. Less than two short years ago, I would have taken a deal like that, too. And no, I’m NOT bashing traditional publishers. I would have taken that deal and I would have been happy because there weren’t too many choices back then. If taking that deal was the only way to get my foot in the door, I would have signed on the dotted line. I recently signed a contract with Thomas & Mercer. I might never know if it was financially the best move for me, but no matter what, I have zero regrets. I’m having a blast. I will have maximum exposure on the Amazon site and I love working with my editor and I have a whole team of people available to help me at T&M.

I don’t know about you, but now when I’m writing a novel, I like knowing that all of my hard work might actually pay off in the end. It’s just one more way to motivate myself to sit in my chair and write. And I don’t think it’s a bad thing to be motivated by money. If an author is making money, that means people are buying their book, and if their book keeps selling, it probably means that their book is being recommended by readers. Word of mouth is powerful advertising. Nothing is more important than readers.

And for those of you who are curious like me and like to see real numbers, here are a few:

Having My Baby, my most recent 80,000 word contemporary romance, earned over sixty thousand dollars in four months.

$523.76 is how much I earned after my first month as a self-published author (3/11).

$107,816.07 is what I earned in my best month as a self-published author (2/12).

I will earn one million dollars before my two-year self-publishing anniversary.

Copyright © 2013 Theresa Ragan. All rights reserved.

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