Wednesday, March 19, 2014

All the Money an Author Doesn't Make

I am writing this for those people who wonder (and ask me) how much money I make? Dan did our taxes today, so now I know. First, let me explain the reality of my profession.

People think having a book published is like winning the lottery. Now that my book is published, I'm living like this:

Au contraire mon ami.

Statistics vary but the following are safe estimates:

Three percent of writers see their book published, so in a way I have won the lottery. My published books number three.

The average book sells 90 copies. My books sold many more than 90 copies, so I am above average. In fact, I've hit some best-seller lists and had some second and third printings. Celebration time!

One percent of those three percent who publish earn enough money to support a family. Oops, I'm fading fast. I didn't make that glorious one percent, even if I lived in a third world country.

So the average and above average published author does not look like the woman above, but rather like the man below.

Rob Eager stated in a recent blog that a self-published book yields an average $5,000 income and a book published with a traditional publisher yields $10,000. Now we know why authors write more than one book a year, and, most likely, still can't support their family.

I hate disappointing my enthusiastic fans who are thrilled at my sudden wealth. Taxes don't lie. I figured out my income and I earn about 59 cents an hour. I use the term "earn" earnestly, because writing and speaking is hard work.

The question remains, is it worth the time, effort, and money I invest to write a book? Oh my YES! The royalty checks aren't much, but the emails from readers are priceless. The marriages saved, encouragement given, new lives committed to Christ, joy-filled hearts, and  splashes of serenity on readers who knew no hope until they read my books — well, how do you put a salary on those blessings?

So, what do you think? Are you surprised? You can take me off that pedestal now.

Writing Splashes of Serenity for not much money, but with plenty of joy!



  1. Elaine,
    Thank you for this honest blog. I know some think authors, self-published authors included, are rolling in the dough. Not so much. I prepared my information for the accountant and shed tears at the loss, the amount of red, at the end of the year UNTIL I realized, it is The Red that counts. Jesus shed His blood for my sins, and the sins of mankind, so we have hope for life in eternity with Him. A gift to us all.
    I've received more notes, messages, hugs, personal notes, comments, and feedback from readers that God chose to use my book to touch and change their lives.
    This is priceless and a gain - I may never support myself or family as a writer and speaker. I may never make enough to even have a new car BUT I tear up each time I think of some of the stories I've heard in how God used Where's Heidi? One Sister's Journey or one of my other books to change someone's outlook and/or life.
    God is good - you are a rick woman Elaine and God is working through your books to grow His Kingdom.
    Love you,
    Lisa M Buske

  2. Rich indeed! I could write trash and make lots of money. Much better writing for the Lord and reaping eternal rewards. Praising God for His gift of writing He gave to you and to me. It's all about obedience to the call to write and make a difference in this world. You are, Lisa. You are! Love you, my friend.

  3. Christina Brown ParkerMarch 19, 2014 at 10:54 PM

    Elaine, all too true. My data: one book published by a major publisher, in 1990. Total sales over a few years, about 7,000 copies. Translated into Spanish and German. Total income, between $5,000 and $10,000, equivalent to a very part-time job. Also, worked as a reporter/editor for a small-town newspaper and made less than a first-year public school teacher. Since then: 20 years in an insurance-related state government job, for the sake of being able to support myself. Will be able to retire soon, and my plan is --of course--to go back to writing. Because there are so many rewards other than financial, and because it's who I am.

  4. Writing is within each writer and must come out or we get very agitated, don't you think? I read your first book Excellent! At the time I had no idea I would ever write a book too. Congrats to us on our accomplishments. We'll make good roommates in the poor house, but we'll have lots of fun. Just joking.

  5. You nailed it, Elaine. The general public sees authors as sitting around, eating bon bons, and getting paid to do it. Yeah. Not so much.

  6. Thanks for the comment Michelle. We also have to nail ourselves to our computers and write so much that never is read. blessings to you.

  7. Congrats on your books! A Garden of Love is a delightful title. Green Key Books, which no longer exists because the owner retired, published both of my Splashes of Serenity books. Green Key worked with a professional photographer, Soni Sensor, for the photos. I had no idea I was receiving a hard cover gift book with photos until the book arrived. The publisher put it all together without consulting me. I provided the words. What a great job! Anyway, I have no idea about self publishing a book of this quality. Sorry. Green Key paid for all publishing costs and did all the work too. Thanks for purchasing Splashes of Serenity. I hope both you and your wife are blessed by it. May the Lord direct you how to proceed with your books, and may He bring the increase.

  8. Thank you Elaine,
    Most people today think of self-publishing as either a CreateSpace or Lightning Source printing using very good HP laser printers that are capable of binding the manuscript. Your quality, and what I am striving for, well exceeds the limitations of those machines.

    I suspect that no one in Italy offered POD printers at that time so Green Key found this offset press that was hungry for business. You are so very blessed to have your first title published with this quality including the skill of Soni Sensor. And to be done without your consultation!!

    I also suspect that I may have to find a printer located outside the USA. My understanding is that the EPA has caused so many environmental controls that many such quality color books are printed in China, India, etc.

    As a side note, like your husband, I recently stepped into retirement only three years ago. My wife's health is not what it could be so I am glad to be home as a Christian author to attempt to meet her needs and still have a reason to be productive for the Lord. Hopefully your husband is finding his new purpose.

    Thank you again for communicating with me,
    In Christ, Tom

  9. Happy retirement. I pray your wife's health improves and you have delightful days together. To clarify, Splashes of Serenity was never POD. The first printing was 5,000 copies. We've had two more printings. Green Key did a lot to market. I'm not sure in today's publishing world this would happen. Family Christian Bookstores bought 3,000 copies and put 10 each in their 300 stores. Now Family Christian is going bankrupt today. Sad. Don't be discouraged. I admire your desire to print quality. Thanks for liking my books.


I would love hearing from you! Thanks for sharing!