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Thread: motivation?

  1. #1
    Lovin' Upriser Lifino's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    I've seen all good people turn their heads each day so satisfied I'm on my way!


    I've been wandering around these boards for a few days and while we discuss stories and writing and the process and the art and the fine details of the craft there is a little question that I have yet to come across.

    I know that most of the people at SFFw write from the heart. Personal satisfaction is what burns in the cylinders, a dark, locked and private drawer is the final destination for most of the stories(if/when completed) There are a few members who have become published, and a few established authors have begun frequenting these digs, but still I haven't seen the answer to my question...

    What's the money like? I know there are people out there who write novels for a living, as thier primary job. What do they make? Or, for the budding author, how much should be expected for a rookie novel?

    So often I hear about people who have published their third, fourth book and still writing is not their primary income. It is an art, and while there is great personal satisfaction to be found in the creation, I personaly believe that art is inherently a public form of communication. Like any other artform the cliche of the starving artist is not uncommon even after becoming 'established' and developing a following of loyal readers. It is clear to me that if fame and fortune are your goal then authoring is not a logical career choice...

    But not all the names on the spines of all those books lined up at the bookstore can be attached to a starving artist. Some of those authors must be making a respectable living - at least something that Grandma can brag about at the pinocle games. Clearly the industry generates money, if there wasn't a profit there wouldn't be so many outlets... But where does the money go?

    Just thought I'd toss out a newish topic: Money. What can an author expect to make? How much do you want to earn from your writings? Have you seen S. King's paycheck and how much was it for?

  2. #2
    The Great Flying Bear choppy's Avatar
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    Jul 2002
    Alberta, Canada
    A member of my local writing group just sold a SF novel to a major company (author and company name witheld for privacy) and he received something in the $10 000.00 (CND) ballpark for it - plus more if and when it goes to print. I'm not sure what exactly royalties are like, but from what I understand the advances offered are sometimes more than what would come in from royalties - in which case the publisher loses money.

    Apparently advances in the ballpark of $100 000.00 are not unheard of, but they are very rare - especially for a first time author. Big names like King and Grisham get advances in the $ million range from what I understand.

    The only other fact I know is that the average Canadian first time author can expect to make about ~$1000.00 on his or her first novel. When you think of it like that, it sounds like a lot less effort to write 5 short stories and sell them for $250 a pop!

  3. #3
    I have heard that it is very common for first time published authors to recieve $5-$10K on an advance. Then they recieve royalties only after the publisher has made back the advance on the authors royalty percentage. This is only what I have heard, and I do not know if it is true or not.

  4. #4
    Guardian of sffworld Moderator James Barclay's Avatar
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    Jul 2001
    Teddington, England
    First time SF&F authors in the UK can expect 5-10K as a starting point. Of course there are exceptions and phenomenons etc but the reality for most is a pay cheque that will not free them from the office. I had written six books under contract before being able to sign a contract that let me go and write full time (at least for the time being).

    The fact is that in the UK at least, the majority of genre authors have additional sources of income. But if sales rise as you hope they will, and your books still meet with the reception you want them to, then your career path can be the full time route.

    I'll caveat again... that's the 'standard'. There are exceptions.


  5. #5
    Loveable Rogue Moderator juzzza's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    In the shadows
    Quote Originally Posted by choppy
    When you think of it like that, it sounds like a lot less effort to write 5 short stories and sell them for $250 a pop!
    Agreed if your sole goal is financial. I think most writers these days are realistic about the money aspect of getting in print. It's passion and making it for most?

  6. #6
    Speculative Horizons Moderator JamesL's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    I'd just like to get a novel published. That would be the best feeling. If it sold well and became popular, all the better. If - and it's a big IF - it actually made me a bit of money, then great. But money is not the issue for me. Writing, most of the time, isn't a profession that will reward you hugely in a financial sense. Still, if you strike it big then who knows...

    I write for the enjoyment, the sense of fulfilment and with the ultimate aim of getting something out there.

  7. #7
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Mar 2003
    In a Cloud
    Authors are licensing the rights to publish their work, not selling the work itself. The author retains the copyright ownership of the work. A publisher usually buys licensing rights, making it that the publisher is the only one who can publish the work in book form in a contracted territory, for the term of copyright. In return for the licensing rights, a publisher gives an author royalties, a percentage on the invoice price or net receipts of copies of the work sold. The amount of the royalty varies, depending on the publisher and the negotiations with the author or the author's agent. Some writers receive a flat royalty rate, others an escalating royalty rate that increases if a certain number of copies of the work are sold. Royalties for hardcover editions of a work are usually higher than royalties for paperback editions of the work. A standard hardcover royalty might be 10% or 15%.

    Some publishers (small ones for instance) may pay a writer only their royalties as they are earned. Other publishers can estimate what they expect the author to earn in royalties for the work and they then pay the author that estimate in advance of royalties. This payment is called the advance. The advance is paid to the writer in installments -- the larger the advance, the more installments there are usually. This is called the payment schedule. The publisher does not have to pay the author any more monies until the author has earned the amount of the advance in royalties on net sales. If an author earns enough royalties to equal his advance, he is said to have "earned out." If the publisher guesses wrong and the author does not earn enough royalties to equal the amount of the advance, the author still gets to keep the entire advance and the publisher then swallows the loss.

    When the work is sold at a heavy discount, for instance for a bestselling novel, the author usually receives a lower royalty rate or percentage of proceeds on those sales, which can make up a significant part of the total net sales. Booksellers and other vendors place orders which the publisher then fills. These are known as gross sales or copies shipped. Booksellers then can return copies that they did not sell for a full refund. These are called returns. The amount of copies shipped that are not returned or remaindered by vendors are the copies sold or net sales and it is these sales for which the author receives royalties. In anticipation of returns, a publisher can hold on to a portion of monies due to the author in a given accounting period as a reserve against returns. This does not apply to the advance payments to the author. The publisher usually gives the author royalty statements twice a year covering a six month period, and at that time, pays the author any monies owed. Some smaller publishers may issue royalties only once a year.

    Subsidiary rights are those licensing rights subsidiary to the right to publish the work in book form in the publisher's contracted territory. Some subsidiary rights, like film/tv rights, an author may reserve for himself and sell the rights himself or through his agent, sharing no proceeds with the publisher. Some subsidiary rights, like book club licensing, are traditionally given to the publisher as part of the licensing agreement with the publisher. If the publisher exploits those subsidiary rights itself, say puts out its own audio edition of the work, it pays the author an agreed upon royalty rate for the audio edition. If the publisher sub-licenses the subsidiary right to another company, the publisher receives a fee for those rights and the publisher and the author split those proceeds according to the contracted percentage split. Monies earned by the author for subsidiary rights handled by the publisher, whether proceeds or royalties, are added to the total of the author's earnings and applied against the author's advance. It is possible for an author to earn out their advance in subsidiary rights licensing fees before book copies of the work are even sold, but this would be unusual in sf&f publishing because subsidiary rights are less often exploited.

    Genre books have a short shelf life, a limited audience and fairly standard rates of returns and sales. Therefore, average genre fiction usually receives fairly low and fairly standardized advances. An advance of $1,000 or $2,000 US would not be considered strange for a first novel. Advances of $5,000-10,000 are perhaps around average right now. Authors with good sales track records and established fan followings can usually bargain for larger advances. Sometimes, a new author will have more than one publisher interested or be the subject of good buzz and will be able to obtain a much higher advance than usual, as the publisher gambles that the person's work will sell better than average. This happened, for instance, to Terry Goodkind for "Wizard's First Rule" which was the subject of a sales auction. If you have a large advance and you don't earn out, causing the publisher to take a large loss on the advance, it can hurt your opportunities in selling your next work and greatly shorten the shelf life of your current work. Ultimately, you want to earn much more in sales and royalties than your advance payment.

    Bestsellers may have advances that are in the millions, because they are expected to earn millions in royalties and subsidiary rights licensings, but that is often for more than one contracted work and the advance is paid out in installments over several years. And bestsellers have less marketplace clout than they did thirty years ago. For "Bag of Bones," Stephen King wanted a very large sum of $6 million US for the advance. His long-term publisher, Viking Penguin, said no. King then ended up selling "Bag of Bones" to Simon & Schuster for only a $2 million advance but an experimental royalty rate of somewhere around 50%. The book did well, but I don't know if the reduced advance and increased royalty rate did earn King $6 million or not.

    But the majority of authors, even those who sell in high numbers, do not have million dollar advances because publishers do not want to risk a large loss and the potential for large returns. Most works of fiction, genre or not, receive relatively small advances, and many authors receive no advance at all. Twenty years ago, the average yearly earnings of authors, from King on down, was $4,000 US. Of course, that was before Harry Potter bumped the curve. But the average remains low enough that many fiction authors have to keep their day jobs.

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