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  1. #1
    LaerCarroll.com
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    World's Top-Earning Authors

    If you want to get depressed about your sad earnings, read this article!

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffberc...nings-authors/

    One thing I noticed: almost every writer has been at their game for many years, and has written many books.

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by Laer Carroll View Post
    If you want to get depressed about your sad earnings, read this article!

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffberc...nings-authors/

    One thing I noticed: almost every writer has been at their game for many years, and has written many books.
    I'd love to see that list go on indefinitely. James Patterson was first at $94MM, then Stephen King at $39MM tapering more evenly down to Rick Riordan at #15 and $13MM, but my question is how far into the list would we have to get to come to $1MM? What about $500K? $100K? $50K, even? $50K is an interesting number because it is what most middle class folks would consider a "livable wage." Not a lot, but enough to live on and support a small family with the basic necessities. How many sff authors make $50K a year or more on writing? A few dozen, maybe?

    Anyone care to guess? The list includes all authors, fiction and non-fiction and any genre, so we can be either specific to sff or be more broad. I really have no idea.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Alchemist View Post
    ... how far into the list would we have to get to come to $1MM? What about $500K? $100K? $50K, even? $50K is an interesting number because it is what most middle class folks would consider a "livable wage."
    I (like many of us, I imagine) am also curious about this. I poked the internet a little and got a bunch of blogposts about the Taleist self-publishing survey, and its most widely quote statistic: half of self-published authors earn less than $500. A number of the blogposts say, "whoa, whoa, you gotta look at the context!" If I recall, that the was the gist of conversation here on the same subject. For instance, this post notes that 53% of the Taleist respondents first self-pubbed in 2011. As Laer points out above, there's a certain link between time in the game and $$$ in hand. Here's another post taking the media interpretation of the Taleist numbers - less than 10% of self-pubbed authors make a living - and doing some rough number crunching to say, 'sure, and in 2009, 4% of trad-pubbed authors were making a living.'

    I haven't yet put in my $5 to get the Taleist survey on my kindle, but I wonder how many ways they split their data. If half the respondents had been in the game for less than a year, how are the earnings spread for those who've been playing longer?

    For traditional publishing, a little further back in time, I found "What Are Words Worth?" a 2005 survey of British and German authors from the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society. Only 20.3% of the ALCS UK respondents earn their entire income from writing, or 40% if you count only professional writers (those who spend upwards of 50% of their time writing). The first page shows "skilled metal and electric workers" with average yearly earnings of 24K in the UK and UK authors with 16.5K. But wait - the youngest UK group, ages 25-34, have a median income of just 5K (and just 11 respondents); the youngest German writers (n=12) do a little better, with a median income of 7.5K. The 45-54 and 55-64 categories earn about twice as much. The median income for UK fiction writers is 13K. I'm quoting the medians because although the means are rather higher, the coefficient of variation for all the data indicates there is a lot of variation. Also, based on 2004-5 tax data, only 14.7% of UK authors had received any monies from "online uses" of their work.

    Personally, I'd love to see the same survey repeated with 2012 data, and adding US authors to the pool. Does anyone know of any other survey data out there?

  4. #4
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    I loved that list because of its theme that the women: Danielle Steel, Stephenie Meyers, Nora Roberts and oh my stars, J.K. Rowling were "finally" "catching up" to the men. It was such a wonderfully strange thing to say with a full amnesia of publishing history, and so typically Forbes. They also really don't know what to do with James Patterson, who turned himself into a book packager in a partnership deal with his publisher. Essentially James Patterson didn't make $94 million estimated. His packaging company did. But that's okay, Tom Clancy did the same thing and I'm sure they just estimated it as personal worth then too. Political authors like Bill O'Reilly also buy up batches of their books to pump sales records, plus his real money is in other things, so I'm not sure how well they estimated his either.

    Most authors aren't going to make that much money. But the more authors we have making good money, the better book publishing is as a whole. And the more really big successes we have in fiction, the better off fiction is as a whole.

    NicoleDreadful: There's not a lot of data on these things because no one much is interested and pays for the data. Amazon would be best poised to give a lot of data on sales, but Amazon's business strategy has been to not release data, only those figures that they want to and which cannot then be checked.

  5. #5
    Omnibus Prime Moderator PeterWilliam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    Most authors aren't going to make that much money. But the more authors we have making good money, the better book publishing is as a whole. And the more really big successes we have in fiction, the better off fiction is as a whole.
    Yes!! It kills me that rabid fan bases, bent on ridiculing one author or another, fail to understand that they're doing absolutely NO favors to the health of book publishing, or fiction, when tearing someone down. I understand offering a well-reasoned negative review of a particular work, but the tribal reactions of intense fan bases only help to impede those big successes KatG mentioned.

  6. #6
    Creator of Worlds sullivan_riyria's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NicoleDreadful View Post
    I haven't yet put in my $5 to get the Taleist survey on my kindle, but I wonder how many ways they split their data. If half the respondents had been in the game for less than a year, how are the earnings spread for those who've been playing longer?

    Personally, I'd love to see the same survey repeated with 2012 data, and adding US authors to the pool. Does anyone know of any other survey data out there?
    The biggest problem with the Taleist survey is it doesn't provide the raw data, and because they lump hybrid authors (those that self and traditional publish), and hobbyist and those doing this as a career all together it is difficult to make much sense of the information because you only see the cross sections that they want you to see.

    I also had a problem because Taleist did not include traditionally published authors and as you pointed out from your sources, many of them are also not "making a living," a fact they seem to not concern themselves with.

    To me what is needed is a survey with ALL authors: self, small press, medium sized houses, big-six, and so I attempted to do one myself. I didn't get enough respondents for my liking but I do have 836 people who took the survey and 153 of those reported yes to the question "Regardless of whether you do or not, could you live EXCLUSIVELY from your writing income?"

    Of that 153 the major responses were:

    • 22% self publish and continue to do so
    • 21% are hybrid and focus primarily on self-publishing
    • 16% are hybrid and focus on traditional and self equally
    • 13% are traditional and plan to continue as such
    • 8% were hybrid and focus primarily on traditional


    NOTE: I think much of this survey was slanted toward self-published authors because they tend to a) be more open with information about their sales and b) are easier to find on forums and such which is where I advertised the survey a great deal. I would love to see a survey like this done by one of the big organizations such as the Author's guild or SWFA or RWA and see what kind of results come out of that.

    If you want access to the whole data set to slice/dice as you desire - send me a PM with an email address.
    Last edited by sullivan_riyria; August 13th, 2012 at 08:52 AM.

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