Recently someone said to me, “I think I’ll write a book. So, what do I need to do?”
The answer, of course, is simple–Sit down and write it.
But they usually want more than that. They want to know “How do I get an agent?” or “What’s the easiest way to get mybook self-published?” They don’t realize all the steps a writer takes before a book is in a form that can be purchased. And many of these wannabe writers have an exaggerated impression of how much writers earn.
Therefore, my first question usually is: Why do you want to write a book?
If my wannabe writer thinks it’s a way to make money–lots of money–I understand. After all, the media is always eager to announce huge advances paid to politicians and actors for their memoirs. We hear how J.K. Rowlings is richer than the Queen (I don’t know if she is or not), and that she went from rags to riches because she wrote a book. (Several, in fact.)
A report issued by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics certainly makes it sound like writers are doing well. According to their most recent figures, the average income for ‘writers and authors’ in 2016 was $61,820 per year.
Not bad, but I don’t know many writers earning that amount, and the bureau’s definition of authors covers more writers than just novelists. Authors of text books and non-fiction books are included, along with those authors who get 6 and 7 figure advances. So this isn’t a perfect answer on more than one level. (To read the entire article, go to: Average income for a fiction writer )
In fact, the issue of authors’ declining earnings has been the subject of several articles, and on November 13th the Authors’ Guild is sponsoring a free event for members on the topic of “Writers on the Brink: The Current Economics of Authorship.”
According to the promo for this talk, “Published American authors today average $11,000 per year down from $25,000 a decade ago. Full-time author incomes in Canada and Great Britain have declined as well. What does this mean for the future of literature? Is writing no longer a sustainable career except for the rare few? Panelists from the Authors Guild, the Society of Authors in the UK and the Writers’ Union of Canada discuss the latest income survey results and the challenges of surviving financially as an author today.”
Some of the topics for this event will be: Whether published in print or online, what types of fiction and nonfiction books still attract sales and vast readership? How can working writers supplement their incomes? What do authors and publishers working collaboratively need to do to ensure the book industry remains healthy and robust to deliver stories that enlighten, educate, and entertain?
They’ve invited writers, book publishers, booksellers, literary agents and dedicated readers alike to join this important discussion. I’d love to be there in person, but it’s being held at Scandinavia House in New York. However, it will also be available via streaming video.
And, if you’re interested in how books have been selling and what authors earn, here’s another article on book sales and author’s earnings in 2017-2018 Author earnings report January2018
Note at the end of this article, the author says income depends a lot on the type of book, even within the fiction category. (And, as we know, romance sells.)
I do like to encourage people when they say they want to write a book, but I also want them to be aware of the realities of this profession. Simply writing a book does not guarantee wealth.
That said, I know if the person really has the urge to write, this won’t stop her or him. And, of course, we all have the hope that our next book will be the one that reaches #1 on the best sellers’ lists and makes us millions of dollars.