November 6th, 2009 by LViehl
More on The Reality of a Times Bestseller

Back in April when I posted and discussed the royalty statement for Twilight Fall, my top twenty New York Times mass market bestseller, I promised I would post the next royalty statement that came in for the book. That arrived this week, so today I’d like to take a look at that and share some thoughts on how the book performed in the eleven months since the initial release.

First, the actual statement, which you can view here.

As before, the only thing I’ve blanked out is Penguin Group’s address. This statement represents the sale period from November 30, 2008 through May 31, 2009. It was issued on August 18, 2009 and I received it on November 2, 2009.

On the statement my publisher reports sales of 7,550 copies and returns of 10,812 copies. The publisher released credits of 21,140 copies or $13,512.69 from reserves held against returns, but at the same time reserved credits against another 13,790 copies or $8,814.57, which reduces the credit adjustment to 7,350 copies or $4698.12.

Total sales for the novel now stand at 89,142 copies, minus returns of 27,479, for net sales of 61,663 copies. My credited earnings from this statement was $2,434.38 with no money due; it will probably take another six months to a year for the novel to earn out the last of my $50,000.00 advance.

So how much money have I made from my Times bestseller? Depending on the type of sale, I gross 6-8% of the cover price of $7.99. After paying taxes, commission to my agent and covering my expenses, my net profit on the book currently stands at $24,517.36, which is actually pretty good since on average I generally net about 30-40% of my advance. Unless something triggers an unexpected spike in my sales, I don’t expect to see any additional profit from this book coming in for at least another year or two.

One thing I didn’t mention in the last post is whether or not my sell-through, advance, and royalties are typical of an author with a top twenty Times mass market bestseller. Very few authors offer up their numbers, and even when they do they either go the anonymous survey route and/or don’t post statements, and publishers rarely give us any information at all, so it’s difficult to know. But based on my estimation of comparitive print run sizes, placement, distribution and a couple of other factors, I’d say no; my numbers overall probably run lower than most of the other authors on the list (of course if any other Times bestseller authors out there want to post their royalty statements, we’d all love to see the real numbers so we can establish a range.)

Speaking of comparisons, the publisher’s portion of sales on this book has grossed them around $453,839.68. I don’t have any hard figures on the publisher’s net, so I can’t give you the bottom line there. If I had to make a guess, I’d say they probably netted around $250K on this one.

What I’m taking away from this statement: returns were about what I expected; booksellers have been keeping these books on the shelves due to steady sales, and that helps.

My export sales are up, and they’re now constituting about 10% of my total sales, which is great. I’ve been reaching out to overseas readers for a couple of years now via blog promotion and I’m seeing a growing return on that investment. I’d love to see some foreign rights sales so that more of my readers could have the books in their native language, but unfortunately that doesn’t happen very often, and I can’t do anything about it because it’s all decided and handled by the publisher.

My income per book always reminds me of how tough it is to make at living at this gig, especially for writers who only produce one book per year. If I did the same, and my one book performed as well as TF, and my family of four were solely dependent on my income, my net would be only around $2500.00 over the income level considered to be the U.S. poverty threshhold (based on 2008 figures.) Yep, we’d almost qualify for foodstamps.

I finished this novel’s series in January of this year with the seventh book, which debuted eight spots lower than TF on the Times extended list. I’ve since moved on to writing a spin-off series, the first book of which is Shadowlight, which debuted at #17 on the Times list, two spots higher than TF. Shadowlight is now my bestselling novel to date.

What it boils down to is that you never know. I won’t find out for another six months how well Shadowlight initially performed or if TF will earn out in the next six months, which keeps me from obsessing over my sales. Either the books sell or they don’t; I have zero control over whether or not they appear on any list. My focus has to be on the writing (and Carrie did an excellent post this week to celebrate her series anniversary and to discuss excellent reasons to focus on the work; check it out when you have a chance.)

The overall response to the last statement I posted in April was quite positive and supportive, especially here at Genreality. A few places elsewhere, not so much. Several times since April I considered forgetting all about this follow-up post because I knew if I did it I’d be painting another great big target on myself, and no one wants to volunteer for that kind of duty. But I did promise my writer friends and you guys that I would do this, and I keep my promises. So I will duck and dodge one more time.

I know how important writer dreams are — sometimes they’re the only thing that keep us going — but I think they also have to be tempered by facing reality. To me, sharing an uncomfortable truth is better than perpetuating a myth. I know Publishing will never rise up to meet our expectations, but fiction belongs on the page, not in what we tell each other. Otherwise we risk becoming characters uttering lines of dialogue instead of working writers helping each other make good decisions.

So there you have it. If you’d like to share the info, please do; a link back to this post in return would be appreciated. If you’d like to express any gratitude, you can buy one of my books (or if my work doesn’t appeal to you, buy a book written by one of my blogmates. They’re all very talented folks.) And if you have any questions about the statement, let me know in comments.

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138 comments to “More on The Reality of a Times Bestseller”

  1. Rose Gott
     · November 6th, 2009 at 7:32 am · Link

    Thank you so much for sharing his with us! Again! Sorry that it paints a target on you in some circles. I feel like your the awesome professor at college that the stuffy traditional professors gap at in horror while your students hang on your every word and are constantly in your office. You give us any and every detail that you can about the reality of the career that we are trying to get going and you are loved for it by the ones really listening.

    So take heart! You might get the arrows after today but hopefully some of us will someday be in your shoes, carry on the tradition and take a few for you. 😉

  2. Elizabeth Scott
     · November 6th, 2009 at 8:35 am · Link

    Thank you so much for sharing this info with us–it’s beyond generous, and please know it’s greatly appreciated!

  3. B.E. Sanderson
     · November 6th, 2009 at 8:38 am · Link

    Thanks, Lynn. Seeing the reality of writer income helps keep me grounded. Heh, when I think back to the start of this writing thing I do, and how I had dreams of huge royalty checks, I want to slap my former self. Now I can focus on the real dream of seeing my work in print – which I was I was doing this in the first place. =o)

  4. Lynn
     · November 6th, 2009 at 8:44 am · Link

    Thanks for the kind words, Rose. When your turn comes, I hope those archers run out of arrows. :)

  5. Lynn
     · November 6th, 2009 at 8:44 am · Link

    No problem, Elizabeth. I hope it proves helpful.

  6. RKCharron
     · November 6th, 2009 at 8:46 am · Link

    Hi Lynn :)
    Thank you for posting. It was an eye-opener for me. I still want to be a published writer but I can understand more why authors say it is the love of writing that keeps them writing and why so many have jobs outside of writing. I’m in the 61,663 copies you sold! *happy dance* I made a difference!
    Thanks again for sharing,
    All the best,

  7. Lynn
     · November 6th, 2009 at 8:49 am · Link

    I don’t think it hurts to dream. Every time see a J.K.Rowling book, I’m reminded of the story that she had to type two copies of the first Harry Potter manuscript because she was too poor to have it copied. I love that she now has more money than the Queen of England.

    I think enormous success can happen to any writer; the trick is to remember that it happens to only a very few, and it seems to be entirely random — so we can’t depend on it.

  8. Lynn
     · November 6th, 2009 at 8:52 am · Link

    RK, the financial reality does force most writers to depend on a second household income or work a day job. I think it’s wonderful, though, how many are devoted to writing in spite of that. If you’re not in this for the love of the work, then you’re probably doomed to disappointment and heartbreak.

  9. Maria Zannini
     · November 6th, 2009 at 9:19 am · Link

    Ref: A few places elsewhere, not so much.

    I’m curious. Why do you suppose these people are unhappy with your revenue post? How does it hurt them? What’s wrong with an occasional reality check?

    Thanks for the follow up. This helps me a lot.

  10. Chad
     · November 6th, 2009 at 9:28 am · Link

    Thanks for the honest info.

    It does make me wonder if self-publishing will be the way to go in 5-10 years when some type of ereader is as ubiquitous as the iPod. Even if you assumed you wouldn’t sell as many books and you had to pay for an editor yourself the numbers still fall in favor of self-publishing (in ebook age). Only 40% of the sales would still be double or triple the profit made by the author in a traditional publishing model.

  11. Lynn
     · November 6th, 2009 at 9:31 am · Link

    I’m not sure, Maria. Maybe people who are not working writers want to believe that we’re all raking in the millions. Or some writers want the grandeur and mystique of having a Times bestseller preserved so that everyone thinks they’re rolling in it.

  12. Rose Gott
     · November 6th, 2009 at 9:34 am · Link

    My hubby is a children’s book illustrator and works from home. I have many friends and family members who mistakingly think that just because he is self employed and his books are easy to find in major bookstores that we have lots of money. Wow! Not true. I mean, we hold our own, but I shop at Aldi’s most of the time.

    This morning I told him about Lynn sharing her royalty statement and her comment about some being unhappy about it. His response was that it was great to have someone “break the cloud of mystery”. I think that some people feel that they have worked their way up and want to maintain the illusion and facade that comes with being part of a relatively exclusive group. They are the Great Wizard of Oz and Lynn pulled back the curtain on them. My hubby does that for aspiring artists that contact him. Writing, illustrating, and any other art type job is still a job. Long hours, usually unamazing pay (with occasional bonuses) and lots of things to pay for.

  13. Lynn
     · November 6th, 2009 at 9:35 am · Link

    It does make me wonder if self-publishing will be the way to go in 5-10 years when some type of ereader is as ubiquitous as the iPod.

    I’m seeing a shift in attitudes about self-publishing, particularly among published midlist authors whose careers have stalled or are in decline. If things continue without publishers cracking down on authors who self-publish some titles, the self-pub e-market might create a new sub-industry for authors.

    Even if you assumed you wouldn’t sell as many books and you had to pay for an editor yourself the numbers still fall in favor of self-publishing (in ebook age). Only 40% of the sales would still be double or triple the profit made by the author in a traditional publishing model.

    Agreed. Personally I’m waiting to see what happens with the e-reader market. Right now the devices are still being developed and improved, but in a few years electronic format may become more popular than print. Then I think things are going to get very interesting.

  14. Nadia Lee
     · November 6th, 2009 at 9:36 am · Link

    Mostly b/c people are told never to reveal how much they make…?

    Or maybe some people are just jealous. Who knows. But I find Lynn’s posts very informative. :)

  15. Amelie Markik
     · November 6th, 2009 at 9:54 am · Link

    Thanks, Lynn! Poo on those other losers who are calling you out. :) I appreciate knowing the truth so I can make intelligent, informed plans about my writing future. I’m more likely to succeed if I know the difficulties before I start and can plan for them.

    I’m still going to get published someday, regardless of how low the pay is. Although, even if I got an agent today, by the time they actually sold it to a publisher (if it sells) and it makes it onto shelves, we could be coming up on the the 12/21/12 end of the world scenario. :) You don’t think that my finally getting published is what causes that, do you? Oops. Sorry in advance if that’s the case.

  16. tanya
     · November 6th, 2009 at 9:59 am · Link

    Thank you for posting this.

  17. Lynn M
     · November 6th, 2009 at 10:20 am · Link

    How timely, and thanks for sharing! You are a brave and generous sole.

    Yesterday in the car with my kids, my daughter asked me if I was “finished with my story” yet. I told her I was working on it (still!) and my son asked if I would publish it. I told him I’d like to publish it but it’s a complicated processes. But he got excited that I’d be rich and famous! I laughed. A lot. I pointed out to them how many books they saw when we visited Barnes & Noble and how few names of writers they knew and what that meant. Sorry, kids, no new iPod Touch 3Gs for you!

    And then we spent the rest of the drive writing our version of “Mary Kotter” and her friends “Jon Beasley” and “Romione Danger” who go to a school called “Frogmorts” and fight an evil magician named “Moldiwart” so I’d have a chance at fortune and fame.

  18. Lynn M
     · November 6th, 2009 at 10:22 am · Link

    Um…that would be generous soul as you are, to the best of my knowledge, neither a fish nor a leather shoe part!

  19. Charlene Teglia
     · November 6th, 2009 at 10:32 am · Link

    Thank you very much for the first post and the follow-up, despite the backlash. Real information is much more useful to somebody trying to do income projections and career planning than hype.

    I’m sure the backlash is due to people who want to be seen as doing better than they really are on the published side, or who do not want their illusions shattered on the unpublished side, but neither attitude is very businesslike.

    When I wrote my first writing business plan, I projected earnings of 30K a year before expenses within 3 years, writing multiple books per year. Despite all the info out there, like the fact that an average first advance is 5K, the myth that you have it made and can quit your day job the day you sell your first book persists. And myths do not help writers plan for success. Real information does. People who think they’ll be rolling in money as soon as they sell are set up to fail, and I think this also adds to the willingness to sign any contract, however bad, because then you’ll “have it made”.

    Like everybody else, I’m extremely interested in the viability of self-pubbing with new technology. I plan to run an experiment shortly and compare numbers with similar titles published through traditional and e-publishers.

  20. Chad
     · November 6th, 2009 at 10:50 am · Link

    I agree things will be very interesting over the next few years. I’m thinking the ideal device is essentially an iPhone 1-3 generations in the future, with an expandable screen (rolled screen) that can change display settings (normal or e-ink). Of course, it would be nice if the software was open, so you wouldn’t have to sell through Apple or Amazon.

    Much of this will be interconnected to how newspapers reinvent themselves electronically, as they will need a reader as well.

    By the way, I am new to this site (3 weeks or so) and have really enjoyed the great posts here. Really good quality…thanks.

  21. Carrie Vaughn
     · November 6th, 2009 at 11:38 am · Link

    I don’t talk about my numbers for a lot of reasons (though I have a feeling in a few years, when I’m less new, I’ll be more like Lynn and more forthcoming about it).

    Oddly enough, one of the reasons is I don’t want to be judged or told I’m doing it all wrong. For example, over the last year I’ve discovered that the advances on my last couple of books were seriously lowball. Now, there are reasons for that (we chose to fight about other things on the contract). But I’m a pretty private person and I don’t like having to explain myself.

    Also, as a woman living alone, I really don’t want everybody knowing what my income is.

    There’s basically a lot of self-defense going on on my part.

  22. Eva
     · November 6th, 2009 at 11:44 am · Link

    Wow. 😐

    I really wish other authors would be as brave as you are (in posting #s), and I’m sorry that you catch such flack for it.

  23. Rose Gott
     · November 6th, 2009 at 12:36 pm · Link

    Carrie – You are polite and don’t shoot arrows! 😉 There is no way that anyone should feel like they HAVE to show numbers. But if someone wants to for some reason, like educating and reality checks for aspiring authors, then no one should attack them for doing so. That’s my point, trying to explain those who are negative about the demystifying.

  24. Heather Howard
     · November 6th, 2009 at 12:42 pm · Link

    I still have dreams of being able to write and then roll in the resultant greenbacks, but that day is… well. I hope it’s in the future, because I gotta have something to dream about, but thank you for the reality check.

  25. Darlene
     · November 6th, 2009 at 1:28 pm · Link

    Thank you for sharing again. Information is power. I’m sorry you’ve taken some heat for sharing some of your power.

  26. Melissa Blue
     · November 6th, 2009 at 1:42 pm · Link

    Well, you can roll in greenbacks, just make them singles. :mrgreen:

  27. Melissa Blue
     · November 6th, 2009 at 1:46 pm · Link

    I appreciate the hard numbers.

  28. Renee Field
     · November 6th, 2009 at 3:54 pm · Link

    I can’t thank you enough for taking the mystery out of this aspect of publishing. Not only does this make me feel better but it truly inspires me to BUY ALL YOUR BOOKS! Please keep writing.

  29. E.E. Knight
     · November 6th, 2009 at 4:27 pm · Link

    I think Lynn has done a brave and interesting thing in posting her numbers and I applaud her. Usually authors only talk hard numbers with a few close friends, also in the industry.

    At least for me, the trick seems to be having a substantial backlist that keeps selling. Therefore it stays on the shelves, therefore it keeps selling. Out of the gate I don’t have numbers like Lynn’s with any of my books, but over the years it builds. Now that I have a dozen novels out, still in print, still earning me (small) checks every six months, it’s a decent income, in fact better than anything else I’ve done in my life.

    (But then my other jobs involved stacking dog food and scooping french fries, so it’s a pretty low standard of financial success)

    I’m pleased to see Our Heroine on the NYT list. I started up with her back in the day of the Stardoc novels. One more personal note: she was kind enough to respond to an email and give me some advice when I got my first publishing contract.

    Thanks for your insight into this crazy game, Lynn.


  30. Suzan H.
     · November 6th, 2009 at 4:47 pm · Link

    Lynn, thank you always for the straight talk. And I think every fantasy world needs a Toto to pull back the curtain.

  31. Grace
     · November 6th, 2009 at 5:22 pm · Link

    Lynn, thank you for this timely and informative follow-up post. I’m a bit flummoxed that you got flack over the first post. Who could possibly take issue with such an grounded and detailed explanation of royalties and income in the publishing industry? I often refer back to your first post on this when chatting with aspiring authors who are interested in the hard numbers of compensation.

    Again, thank you for sharing with us the reality, not the hype, of publishing.

  32. Jessa Slade
     · November 6th, 2009 at 5:41 pm · Link

    Thank you for being willing to share these numbers. Not only do I appreciate them for myself as a writer (maybe someday I can share my list numbers!) but I love having somewhere I can send people who ask me about money, lists and writing for a living.

    So thank you thank you thank you and however many more thank yous it takes to drown out the sniping. Thank you!

  33. Jason P.
     · November 6th, 2009 at 6:08 pm · Link

    Thanks for sharing this information with us. That takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there like that. And it’s very enlightening. The one thing I know though is that this statement doesn’t make me want to not be a writer. I want to be an author because that’s my dream and I strongly believe that since we only get one life to live we should live it fulfilling our dreams.

  34. Likari
     · November 6th, 2009 at 11:07 pm · Link

    Thank you so much for these numbers. I just went over to the Sony store and bought Shadowlight.

    Do you make more on ebooks I hope? At least there are no return issues with ebooks, right?

  35. Sasha White
     · November 6th, 2009 at 11:52 pm · Link

    I think some people just like to stir up shit where they can. Even if they don’t really care about the numbers Lynn’s revealing, they see a controversy waiting to happen, so they jump on a train. O r create a controversy.

    Personally, I think it’s great to share, as I like to know where I stand in what I’m doing and making so I can make informed choices in my own path. I’d share numbers too, but it’ll have to wait until I have a new release. Which BTW, should be in APril 2010….an eBook release with an ePublisher, so the response to that’ll be interesting to see. 😈

  36. Lynn
     · November 7th, 2009 at 12:56 am · Link

    A quick note, as I’m just now getting home from a school function — thanks to everyone for your comments, and I will follow-up with you all tomorrow morning.

  37. Eve Silver
     · November 7th, 2009 at 9:40 am · Link

    Thank you for your generosity in sharing this valuable information. Tempering dreams with a little reality creates a healthy perspective, IMO.

  38. Angelia Almos
     · November 7th, 2009 at 10:03 am · Link

    Thanks Lynn for sharing this information. I for one appreciate it and I know many others do. I also don’t see why anyone would be angry with you for posting information about yourself, but there are those that are just looking for something to fight about. People don’t want to hear what they don’t want to hear.

  39. Lynn Crain
     · November 7th, 2009 at 10:28 am · Link

    Thanks, Lynn, for the numbers. It’s always good to have a reality check…LOL! It does let us know how hard it is in this business but to be honest, I’m still going to try for the NYC sale. Still, I love getting my monthly checks from all my ebook publishers but an advance will be fun too. 😀

    Again, thanks for opening up your royalty statement. It’s always good to be prepared in this business.

    Lynn Crain

  40. Lynn
     · November 7th, 2009 at 10:50 am · Link

    Hey Rose — I just e-mailed you; check your inbox. :)

  41. Lynn
     · November 7th, 2009 at 10:54 am · Link

    I don’t think it’s jealousy. If anyone is jealous of me, they need their head examined.

    I think it’s fear. There’s a lot of fear in this industry.

  42. Lynn
     · November 7th, 2009 at 11:05 am · Link

    You bring up some very good points, Carrie. While I don’t have a problem sharing some aspects of my writing life, I have other areas that I consider off-limits. One reason I stopped talking about my books early on in my career was because I never could do that confident author-speak thing. Also, I have a terrible voice.

    We should all do what’s right for us and what feels comfortable.

  43. Edie
     · November 7th, 2009 at 11:05 am · Link

    Thanks for sharing. Awesome information.

  44. Lynn
     · November 7th, 2009 at 11:06 am · Link

    Yay, new release! I need more books for my Sasha shelf. :)

  45. Lynn
     · November 7th, 2009 at 11:07 am · Link

    I’m really interested in seeing if Murdoch can pull off charging people to read newspaper sites online. My gut feeling is, no. There are too many other free sites to do to for the news.

  46. Lynn
     · November 7th, 2009 at 11:14 am · Link

    Lol. I have it on good authority that 12/21/12 is not the end of the world, and since according to another source I’ve survived at least a dozen other Armageddon predictions, I promise to be first in line to buy the book. 😉

  47. Lynn
     · November 7th, 2009 at 11:15 am · Link

    No problem, Tanya. Happy to be of help.

  48. Candace Havens
     · November 7th, 2009 at 11:41 am · Link

    I’ve been doing this for seven years, and you are the first person who explained royalty statements in a way that I understood. I’ve been reduced to, did I get a check or not, because I just gave up trying to figure them out.

    Thank you for your honesty!!!


  49. Robin Cain
     · November 7th, 2009 at 12:16 pm · Link

    This was such a great post! And such an eye-opener. Kudos to you for sharing the info with all of us. It really provides an insight into why writers should write… like anything else, it should never be about the money. Best of luck to you and your writing! Just for this, I am now a fan :-)

  50. Bill Peschel
     · November 7th, 2009 at 12:47 pm · Link

    Gee, you spend your time making up stories and not having to work a full-time job (like me), and you don’t care a flip what other people think, annoy people by speaking your truth, and don’t feel you have to visit 5,000 bookstores and plug your work incessantly, and you hit the NYT bestseller list.

    Can’t imagine why people would feel jealous …. 😉

  51. Bill Peschel
     · November 7th, 2009 at 12:50 pm · Link

    Lynn, it depends on the value of the product. General news, no. There are plenty of news sites still doling it out. Even if every news site shut down, people would end up rewriting the news and posting it on their site, if only to comment on it.

    Before the Associated Press, newspapers did it just that way. They’d subscribe to each other’s newspapers and rewrite the stories (or just reprint them).

    The sites that have worked are those that offer specialized content that a particular audience can profit from. For example, Bloomberg News focuses on financial information that is useful for investors. They make money.

  52. Sasha White
     · November 7th, 2009 at 1:12 pm · Link

    YAY! Lynn has a “Sasha shelf!” :mrgreen:

    In case it didn’t come across clear, I love that your post your numbers. I thank you for sharing. And I think people who don’t like it should simply not read the post. No one’s forcing them, so they should grow up and get over it. *hug*

  53. Denise A. Agnew
     · November 7th, 2009 at 1:30 pm · Link

    Thanks for being brave enough to post on royalties. There are a lot of myths about there about writing, and the idea that even best sellers are always rolling in dough. :)

    Still, wishing you the best, and many, many sales. :)

    Denise A. Agnew

  54. Denise A. Agnew
     · November 7th, 2009 at 1:31 pm · Link

    Oy! Speaking of writing…I should have tweaked my last post to fix the incoherent sentence. :) Sorry about that. LOL.

    Denise A. Agnew

  55. CatsMeow
     · November 7th, 2009 at 10:59 pm · Link

    I appreciate all you do for us. Thank you. :smile:

  56. Sarra
     · November 8th, 2009 at 2:12 am · Link

    Thanks so much for your honesty! It’s very refreshing. As an unpublished author just starting out, I’m honestly baffled by all the “mystery” surrounding numbers. So many authors say they have no idea how well their book is selling until they begin to get royalty statements six months or more after the book went on sale! Don’t most bookstores keep meticulous records and scan books when they sell them and keep inventory electronically? I don’t understand why communication with authors isn’t to the point where an author is getting a daily email on how many books were sold at each bookstore and how many were returned, etc.

    Yes, I know many authors are probably rolling their eyes at this idea because it’s just completely not done or expected, but why isn’t it? Why is there so much mystery about sales numbers in a day and age when everything is done on computers? I just don’t get it. But, of course, to question the current business model is to be a pain. Haha. I seriously think there are going to be major changes in the way authors market and sell/publish books in the future if there aren’t some changes in the way publishers and booksellers communicate. But that’s just the humble opinion of someone who is really very new and inexperienced in this business.

    I definitely enjoyed your post and thank you for sharing!

  57. Lynn
     · November 8th, 2009 at 8:33 am · Link

    Lol. My kids and I have an ongoing, serial story we’ve been telling each other in the car about a group of five orphans stranded by shipwreck on Castaway Island, which often bears a striking resemblance to the one occupied by a certain Swiss Family. Before Castaway, we had the adventures of Captain Wierdbeard, Gentleman Pirate (but that was before Pirates of the Carribean wen platinum, I swear.)

  58. Lynn
     · November 8th, 2009 at 8:34 am · Link

    I always misspell that one, too. Maybe that’s why I have so many recipes for fillet of soul in the cookbook . . .

  59. Lynn
     · November 8th, 2009 at 8:38 am · Link

    People who think they’ll be rolling in money as soon as they sell are set up to fail, and I think this also adds to the willingness to sign any contract, however bad, because then you’ll “have it made”.

    Truer words were never commented, Charlene. You cannot imagine how many conversations I’ve had with other writers about the consequences of bad first contract deals, or the many ways how they’re still paying for them in some fashion.

  60. Lynn
     · November 8th, 2009 at 8:44 am · Link

    There’s nothing wrong with an author who keeps their head down and doesn’t try to attract any attention or controversy, though. In a way we’re all moving targets, and I don’t blame anyone who chooses to put or protect their career first.

  61. Lynn
     · November 8th, 2009 at 8:46 am · Link

    Heather, some of the greenbacks are out there. I don’t think we can roll in them, but a bit of toe-frollicking is still possible every now and them. If we don’t spend them all on self-promotion. 😉

  62. Lynn
     · November 8th, 2009 at 8:46 am · Link


  63. Lynn
     · November 8th, 2009 at 8:46 am · Link

    I needed to work on my tan anyway. :)

  64. Lynn
     · November 8th, 2009 at 8:47 am · Link

    Happy to share, ma’am.

  65. Lynn
     · November 8th, 2009 at 8:55 am · Link

    That’s really a lovely offer, Renee, although I’d try one first and see if you like my writing. :) Or run over to Scribd and check out the free ones.

  66. Lynn
     · November 8th, 2009 at 9:02 am · Link

    Eric! (Now here’s a trip through the Roc Way-Back machine. Eric is one of the few authors I started out with who is still working in the biz. Which means he’s as at least as stubborn as me.)

    Thanks for stopping in and the very kind words. Do you know my daughter, who was just out of diapers the last time we chatted, is now a towering high school freshman who has grown up into a dragon-book-loving fiend? She’s working her way through your Age of Fire books now. 😉

  67. Lynn
     · November 8th, 2009 at 9:03 am · Link

    Toto was the hero of that flick, far as I’m concerned. Lol. Thanks.

  68. Lynn
     · November 8th, 2009 at 9:07 am · Link

    Grace, the lack of real reference documents online that show writer earnings is another reasons I posted the statements — as a rookie I tried to find this kind of info online or at writer conferences, only to be told it was never done. I hope it does help writers just getting into the biz temper their expectations.

  69. Lynn
     · November 8th, 2009 at 9:20 am · Link

    My pleasure, Jessa. :)

  70. Lynn
     · November 8th, 2009 at 9:23 am · Link

    I don’t think having a realistic perspective on the biz is a bad thing, Jason. I think writers who know what to really expect are better equipped to deal with the many disappointments that happen over the span of a career.

  71. Lynn
     · November 8th, 2009 at 9:25 am · Link

    I’ve only published one fiction story solely in e-book so far; I mainly use electronic format for experimental and promotional purposes. But I’m keeping an eye on that end of the market; I think it may be very useful to make my OOP books available again once I have more of my rights revert back to me.

  72. Lynn
     · November 8th, 2009 at 9:26 am · Link

    Exactly. A writer who is equipped with real info is always going to handle things better than one who is trying to operate off guesswork or rumors.

  73. Lynn
     · November 8th, 2009 at 9:28 am · Link

    The myths are certainly prettier and more exciting than the real deal, Angelia, but you can’t pay an electrical bill with a myth.

  74. Lynn
     · November 8th, 2009 at 9:31 am · Link

    I don’t think NY is out of reach, they’re just hard to get. One of the things I’d love to see in the biz (and probably won’t) are more publishers willing to take a look at unagented queries and submissions. Or more agents willing to take on writers who haven’t yet sold to NY. It’s becoming almost impossible to get work in front of a NY editor now.

  75. Lynn
     · November 8th, 2009 at 9:31 am · Link

    You’re welcome, ma’am. :)

  76. Lynn
     · November 8th, 2009 at 9:34 am · Link

    Don’t feel bad; I still find certain line items on my statements confusing, and sometimes have to call the agent to have her explain why this or that was done by the publisher. Publishers are also changing some of their policies to hold writers’ advances and royalties longer — like the on-pub payments they made standard a few years ago — so it’s good to ask if you’re not sure about something.

  77. Lynn
     · November 8th, 2009 at 9:38 am · Link

    I think if you want to a pile of money there are other careers where it’s a lot easier to make it. I still wonder sometimes if I should have gone into the floral industry. Everyone likes flower deliveries, right?

    But writers generally aren’t in it for the money. No artist is. Most of us just want enough income to allow us to live comfortably while we live the dream.

  78. Lynn
     · November 8th, 2009 at 9:39 am · Link

    Thanks, Denise. (Publishing Fairy, did you hear that? Ha.)

  79. Lynn
     · November 8th, 2009 at 9:40 am · Link

    Not a problem. I think I’ve put up at least half a dozen typo-riddled comments today. It’s how one writer recognizes another, yes?

  80. Lynn
     · November 8th, 2009 at 9:40 am · Link

    Happy to be of help, Cats.

  81. Lynn
     · November 8th, 2009 at 9:43 am · Link

    Publishers and agents pay to have access to some of that kind of info, Sarra, but the sales analysis firms like Nielsen who sell it no longer allow authors to have the same access (and I’ve offered to pay a reasonable annual fee just to check on my own sales, only to be turned down flat.) Even firms as powerful as Nielsen can’t collect all the sales data out there; I don’t think they can get it from Wal-Mart and other discount retailers anymore.

  82. Denise A. Agnew
     · November 8th, 2009 at 10:11 am · Link

    Absolutely! And if I haven’t had enough coffee while I’m posting, who knows what can happen. :)

    Denise A. Agnew

  83. Sarra
     · November 8th, 2009 at 11:32 am · Link

    Wow, so there’s yet another middle-man that I never even realized existed. sales analysts. Jeez! The statement “The more I learn, the less I know,” seems to come to mind for me right now. It boggles the mind how much there is to this business that I had no idea about. We need more authors like you who can help us un-published authors know what we’re getting ourselves into so we can be prepared for the journey ahead.

  84. Likari
     · November 8th, 2009 at 12:01 pm · Link

    But I was able to buy Shadowlight in e format at the Sony bookstore. I hope your royalty is at least the same percentage as in paper — though it should be a lot more.

  85. Diane Chamberlain
     · November 8th, 2009 at 12:34 pm · Link

    Lynn, thank you for sharing. I’m emailing a link to this post to all the folks who think I’m rich because I’m an author! Ha!

  86. Lynn
     · November 8th, 2009 at 11:17 pm · Link

    Oh, sorry — I thought you meant e-book format only. At the moment I receive 15% of suggested retail for royalties on e-book versions of print novels, which I believe is standard, although my contracts all carry a rider that allows my agent to renegotiate that if the standard is increased by two other major print publishers.

  87. Caridad Pineiro
     · November 9th, 2009 at 11:50 am · Link

    Thanks for sharing and offering up a reality check. I’ve long given up on leaving the day job. Your astute observations only reinforce that decision.

  88. Liz Kreger
     · November 9th, 2009 at 3:42 pm · Link

    This information is greatly appreciated, Lynn. Thanx.

    I actually feel a whole lot better about the pittance I’m making. 😛 I’m certainly not in your league (someday perhaps), but this does bring home the fact that we must be writers for the love of the profession rather than the income.

  89. Cheryl Kaye Tardif
     · November 9th, 2009 at 5:31 pm · Link

    Lynn, thank you so much for your candid honesty and for sharing what most people consider to be personal financial information. I truly appreciate it. Like you, I’d rather be informed than not. I’d rather have a clearer picture of what to expect than to be living in a fantasy world (although some fantasies are darned intriguing).

    In the past couple of years I’ve gotten a few wake-up calls regarding the publishing world. There is money to be made, but it’s not the author that really makes it–even though the author creates the “baby”. However, I’d be happy to receive a payment like yours because at least I’d feel I was being paid for all my hard work. Thankfully, I don’t have to be the main breadwinner in my family, but that doesn’t mean I want to make pennies for my work either.

    I am very appreciative of your openness to share your royalty info and I found it very helpful and enlightening. As far as I’m concerned you’re wearing arrow-proof armor. This is your info to share and your thoughts on it all.

    I’d like to print the first 3 paragraphs of your article on my blog, with an intro about you and full credit, plus a link to your entire post here. Is that okay? I know a lot of writers who could benefit from your information. The blog I’d post it to is a multi-author blog that discusses all aspects of writing.

    Wishing you the very best in success!

    Cheryl Kaye Tardif
    aka Cherish D’Angelo,
    author of Lancelot’s Lady, a semi-finalist in the Dorchester Next Best Celler contest

  90. James Phelan
     · November 9th, 2009 at 10:40 pm · Link

    Hi Lynn,
    Thanks for posting your info here.

    I’m a novelist in Australia, 4th novel just out here and I’ll “hopefully” crack it in the US market soon. That said… I knew books were cheaper in the States, but your royalty amount is quite surprising. $0.6392 per book, pre commissions and tax, yikes!

    I’ve looked through my local (australian) statements of my mass market thrillers. Here’s a few main points of difference:

    – Cover price (Recommended Retail Price) here for Trade paperback is $32.99 and the smaller paperback edition which comes out 12 months later (around the same time as the new book) is $19.99.

    – My royalty rate is 10% of RRP up to 15k sales, rising to 12.5% of RRP after 15k sales. Eg, I receive from $2 to over $4 per copy sold, depending on format.

    – Tax is lower… not sure exactly how much I pay, but it’s pretty minimal!

    – Local agent fees are 12.5%

    – Our market is about 15 times smaller than yours, eg we have a population of about 22 million.

    So, as a middle-list author myself (they call me bestseller but I
    v never been in a newspaper’s top 10 list) of 30k-40k copies sold per year, it’s a good full-time income.

  91. M Canham
     · November 10th, 2009 at 8:54 am · Link

    I know all about targets and backlash from others in the industry. I used to give hard doses of reality by revealing statements and talking about royalties and exposing some of the shameful behavior of some publishers…and some authors. Mind you, there were no blogs or twitters back then, (the dinosaur age of publishing,lol) just message boards and online articles, but the target was there all the same. Kudos to you for speaking up. I’m still, despite all the blogging and twittering that *does* go on, amazed at how many people continue to look at publishing through rose colored glasses. These are the same ones who gasp and cry foul when someone actually comes forward who is willing to slap down some hard truths.

  92. Vicki
     · November 10th, 2009 at 9:05 am · Link

    Thank you for sharing this with us. I’m the kind of girl who wants to know the facts, cold and hard as they may be or not be.

    I guess the thing here is we’re writers and for me at least, make the list, don’t make the list, I’ll still be writing. It’s what I know. :)

  93. John Schofield
     · November 10th, 2009 at 11:05 am · Link

    I’ll add my thanks to the resounding chorus of gratitude, Lynn. You’ve clearly done a good thing here, judging by the response! Could I just ask if your experience is an argument for self-publishing?

    All the very best,

  94. Lynn
     · November 10th, 2009 at 11:52 am · Link

    My pleasure, Diane (and I think I know some of those people. They keep wanting me to pay them ten thousand dollars to make a book video for me.)

  95. Lynn
     · November 10th, 2009 at 11:56 am · Link

    I just wish some folks in the industry would be more understanding of how difficult it is to write pro and stay financially afloat. I’d like to see a move toward trying to help writers make ends meet instead of perpetually sucking all the money out of us that they can.

  96. Lynn
     · November 10th, 2009 at 12:00 pm · Link

    I think having support at home is crucial, too. Back when I got started, I was fortunate in that my guy supported me 100% while I was bringing in only a couple K per year. Otherwise I would have given it up after book three.

  97. LViehl
     · November 10th, 2009 at 12:03 pm · Link

    I’d like to print the first 3 paragraphs of your article on my blog, with an intro about you and full credit, plus a link to your entire post here. Is that okay?

    Sure, I’d appreciate the chance to reach out to your readers — thanks. :)

  98. Brenda Hiatt
     · November 10th, 2009 at 1:36 pm · Link

    Lynn, more thanks for your willingness to put your numbers out there for the benefit of the “masses.” I really, really respect that!

    For those who’d prefer to share more anonymously, I’m still doing my “Show Me the Money” page and just updated it on my website. I’m hoping to expand it beyond romance soon, as I’ve been receiving more and more non-romance data. I just have to figure out how to separate things out to present the figures coherently (and without spending TOO many dozens of extra hours to do it! )

  99. Brandilyn Collins
     · November 10th, 2009 at 1:49 pm · Link

    You’re very brave for posting this information, Lynn. I respect and commend you for it.

    I’ve written 21 books now–19 published and 2 in line-up. One thing that’s always fascinated me is the ratio of a publisher earning out for a book–long before the author earns out. An agent once charted it out for me, using one of my novels as an example. Even so, I was surprised at the huge difference you show. Your publisher has earned around $454,000, while you haven’t even earned out your $50,000. We novelists often hear stats about how few books earn out, and we may wonder how publishers make it. THIS is how.

  100. Mark
     · November 10th, 2009 at 2:20 pm · Link

    Thanks for being so honest and forthright regarding the writing market and the struggle to survive. I wish you well on your writing journey.

  101. Karen Cioffi
     · November 10th, 2009 at 2:32 pm · Link

    You’re brave. Thanks for sharing – it’s very interesting! I’ll be happy to post it on my blog either this month or in December – with a link back, of course .

  102. The Writing Runner
     · November 10th, 2009 at 4:49 pm · Link

    I think it’s terrific that you’re being so open with this information. If more authors were willing to share this sort of thing, I think it would be a great deal of help to every aspiring and even established author out there!

    — TWR

  103. Anonymous
     · November 11th, 2009 at 9:45 am · Link

    I would love to get your insights about which factors constitute a “bad first contract.” Information about what’s “bad” is really tough to come by – because people tend not to share this information, either.

  104. Tori
     · November 11th, 2009 at 6:44 pm · Link

    As others have said…thank you so much for sharing this information with us and I am sorry that you’ve gotten heat for doing so. I don’t understand why people would do that when you are such an awesome person Lynn!

    These numbers help me understand what I am up against and why so many writers have to write 3-4 books a year just to keep their heads above water. Thankfully I love to write and this doesn’t stop me from wanting it.

    I hope you know how much of an inspiration you are for me Lynn. I have kept writing and not given up- because of your advice and everything you say on your blog. It’s very uplifting. Maybe someday I’ll be able to be published and have fans that love me as much as yours love you!

    Please continue writing because I will continue to buy your books. One of my favorites so far is Evermore, although that might change when I read Shadowlight!

  105. April L. Hamiton
     · November 12th, 2009 at 10:18 am · Link

    Lynn –
    Thanks *very* much for sharing both this, and the previous post on Reality of a Times Bestseller. I’ve reprinted this post on (with credit to you, link back to this post & Genreality home page, link back to this page for comments).

    This is some pretty shocking stuff, since most aspiring authors assume anyone with a book on the NYT Bestseller list is getting rich. If getting a mainstream publishing contract to begin with is the brass ring, seeing your book on that list is Valhalla. But it seems the truth is, no one but the rock stars of the fiction world (e.g., Rowling, Dan Brown, Stephen King—in other words, those who’ve become cultural phenomena the world over) is actually making a living at writing, even if they’ve had multiple NYT bestsellers.

    I’m a big advocate of self-pub, which is often maligned by aspiring writers on the basis that one can never make a living off a self-published book (the way one presumably *can* with a mainstream book). I’ve always maintained that only about 5% of all mainstream fiction authors earn enough to support themselves and their families (and that the 5% is comprised entirely of household names), and your posts support that assertion.

    Your brave candor reinforces the belief I’ve held all along: if you’re going to write fiction and try to get published (or self-publish), it has to be about your passion for the work first and foremost. If you’re doing it in hopes of getting rich, or even just in hopes of supporting yourself and your family, you’re almost certainly doomed to fail.

    But there’s also something comforting in knowing that *most* authors, NYT bestselling or not, must keep a day job or depend upon a spouse/partner’s income or health benefits. It reminds me that we’re all of us in this together, and not so very different from one another.

  106. Susan P
     · November 12th, 2009 at 2:15 pm · Link


    Thank you for posting all this. I just published my first novel with a small regional press, and people ask me about royalties and advance and I just have to giggle. Small presses don’t pay advances. And whatever royalties I’ve accrued actually went to pay the registration fee at a regional trade show where I signed books. About the only thing I envy is that your contract with a big house allows you to reach far more readers. And finding readers is fun.

    Keep fighting the good fight. We’re all behind you.

  107. Mike Dennis
     · November 12th, 2009 at 5:45 pm · Link

    Great post, Lynn. Your candor is refreshing, to say nothing of admirable!

    But are you saying that, in the TV show “Sex And The City”, when Carrie Bradshaw received an advance of $25,000 for the rights to her book in France, and when the publisher’s launch party for her book was held in a trendy midtown Manhattan spot (rented for the night) with about 400 in attendance, flowing liquor, and life-sized cutouts of her and the book cover–are you saying that…that…it was all IMPROBABLE? Good God! Lynn! Say it ain’t so!

  108. Jan
     · November 13th, 2009 at 8:44 am · Link

    Greetings! My partner owns and runs a Small Press. Thankfully he has a good day job to fund his “noble pursuit.” Design, printing, and promotion costs aren’t cheap. Thankfully he does his own editing and layout. His authors get a little better than the industry standard; this is one hundred percent more than he gets. Book people are a wonderful lot – readers, writers and, yes, publishers. BEST!/ jan

  109. Matt Forbeck
     · November 13th, 2009 at 10:04 am · Link

    Thanks for this excellent post, Lynn. I’ve had a dozen novels published with three more on the way, and I’ve cut all my own deals, so I just love seeing details like this.

  110. Kay Cassidy
     · November 14th, 2009 at 2:00 pm · Link

    Lovely post, Lynn. I think it’s wonderful when authors are willing to share information. Knowledge is power, especially in this ever-changing industry, so it’s good to be able to put things in perspective. (And congrats on Shadowlight’s debut at #17!)

  111. suzanne
     · November 16th, 2009 at 5:56 pm · Link

    Thank you for enlightening me! My husbands debut nove has justbeen accepted by the first agent he aproached and she is now forwarding it to two big publishers- I stupidly thought we would be financially fine if it gets published. How foolish was I!!!!

  112. Ictus75
     · November 17th, 2009 at 11:33 am · Link

    Thanks for sharing this. As a writer, I still don’t understand why we receive such a small pay check when the publisher reaps big profits. Yes, they take the chance, put up the money, and promote the book, but they would have nothing to sell if we didn’t write the book. Because of that, I’m self publishing my next book. I figure that I only need to sell 10% of what I would through a publisher to make more money than I would receive from them. With the internet and a modest fan base I think this is possible.

  113. Lisa Wojna
     · November 17th, 2009 at 1:44 pm · Link

    Thank you so much for your very enlightening post.

  114. RB
     · November 18th, 2009 at 5:28 pm · Link

    Thanks for this excellent post, it is very enlightening. Can you shed some light on why you prefer working with an established publisher, rather than self-publishing? For some of us amateurs that could be very helpful information.

  115. Data
     · November 18th, 2009 at 10:54 pm · Link

    Her assessment of what the publisher makes is grossly inaccurate.

    On this book the P+L would look something like this:

    Gross sales at RRP: $450k

    Margin to retailer at 60% discount: $270k

    Author advance: $50k

    Print costs at 50c per book: $30k

    Distribution and sales at 10% of net rcpt: $27k

    In house overhead at 15% appx: $40k

    Returns at 20% of net receipts $36k

    Total ($3k)

    Not unusual.

    One in ten books makes a profit.

  116. Janice Carlson
     · November 19th, 2009 at 10:27 am · Link

    Thanks SO MUCH for your honesty! I came to these same conclusions 10 years ago when I left the book world, after having had 15 novels published under my penname Ashland Price. (My last book sold over 120,000 copies – but, of course, I saw precious little of the earnings on that!) Since then I’ve made much better money at 9-to-5 and working part-time as a psychic medium. I’m definitely happier and more appreciated now.

  117. Ilana
     · November 20th, 2009 at 9:03 pm · Link

    Thanks for this great post.

    I had a nonfiction book published by a division of Penguin several years ago and even as a Published Author, I never really understood how royalties, returns etc. work. That book never earned back its advance so I never got a royalty statement — it’s nice to see what one looks like ! :-)

    It is terrific and very helpful that you’re willing to share this.

  118. Dale Sherman
     · November 20th, 2009 at 11:40 pm · Link

    Very good article, Lynn, and I’ve linked to it from my Facebook and My Space pages for others to read as well. I’m a published author with eight books and the most common question I get from people is “Why are you still working 9-to-5?” I usually reply “Because I like to eat on a regular basis.”

    Most writers I know work at least part-time just to make ends meet, yet people get this idea that it’s a way to end up with the mansion and sitting in a deck-chair out on the beach ten months out of the year. Little do they realize that most of us aren’t so much in it for the money, but because we have a need to tell stories.

    Of course, I certainly wouldn’t turn up my nose to a bigger payout the next time I send in a manuscript!

  119. Hellen
     · November 21st, 2009 at 4:23 pm · Link

    Congradulations !!thanks very much for sharing all this information. For me it is sad after working so hard writing the book, I’m getting nothing maybe it is better when you have an agent? I can not afford to have the second one published.

  120. Elise Logan
     · November 21st, 2009 at 8:33 pm · Link

    I think it’s brave and awesome of you to put this out there. I appreciate you sharing the info with us.

  121. Ellen Hopkins
     · November 21st, 2009 at 8:41 pm · Link

    I think the term many are missing here is “mass market”. (And the 6-8% royalties on a $7.99 book.) I write young adult fiction, one book per year. I have published six novels now, and all have gone to Top Ten NY Times bestsellers, including my latest, which debuted at #1. I am agented, publish with Simon & Schuster, and I am now living much more comfortably than I was when the first novel published five years ago. I write novels for a living, my husband just retired (at age 50), and we are eating well. Would I still be writing if this weren’t the case? Absolutely. But that is the case, and I’m very happy publishing with a major house, taking my 10-12% royalties (my books, even in paper, have a higher cover price, too). The dream isn’t dead.

  122. Kimberly Pauley
     · November 21st, 2009 at 10:14 pm · Link

    I’ve made a challenge to my fellow authors: If 4 more will post figures for one of their book, I’ll post mine as well, in keeping with the spirit of this post. Please feel free to pass it on.

    For the record, I’m a YA author and my debut novel came out in August 2008

  123. virginia willis
     · November 21st, 2009 at 11:59 pm · Link

    THANK YOU. I am a cookbook author of Bon Appétit, Y’all: Recipes and Stories from Three Generations of Southern Cooking. I’ve sold about 40K and still find it to be a very confusing black hold. I find your openness completely refreshing and most welcome. I try to share what I can with other potential cookbook authors and thank you so much for your perspective, as well. Best VA

  124. Heather
     · November 22nd, 2009 at 11:41 am · Link

    Bravo to you for putting it out there! Aspiring authors like myself need to know what to really expect. Everyone sees how great Twilight is doing and thinks maybe they should write a novel. The reality is not everyone makes millions off their books, or even hundreds of thousands. I’m at the stage where my agent just started sending my manuscript out and people keep asking me if I’m a millionaire yet. It’s hard to explain to them that advances aren’t that big unless your Stephen King, and you have to earn it back! Thank you for helping ground people.

  125. Kimberly Pauley
     · November 22nd, 2009 at 4:40 pm · Link

    Hey, I’ve posted up mine as well (basically the first year + one month) of my debut novel. Saundra Mitchell, another YA author, has done the same.

  126. Launa McNeilly
     · November 23rd, 2009 at 1:31 am · Link

    I am a first time published author that went the joint publishing route. Not sure that was wise but what did I know? I have sold some books since it came out in August ’09 but not nearly as many I fear as I would have if I had dealt with a traditional publisher. My book is POD and the only ones who see it are those that either type in the title of the book or someone who typed in the wrong title and saw it by mistake. Not good odds for making any money. I’m listed online everywhere but like I said, if you aren’t looking for it then you probably aren’t going to see it. I did get the book into one Barnes and Noble store by asking them. It is stocked with a few but I’m thrilled with that. I have a second book that is in my agent’s hands and she is supposed to be contacting the big boys because there is no money for another joint contract.

    I was optimistic when I first started but have since landed quite firmly on solid ground. It won’t stop me from trying and it won’t stifle the hope I have but it has thickened my skin and lowered my expectations. Which isn’t a bad thing. I write because I love it and I have so many stories to tell. Someday, I hope to add that it provides a decent living but for now it is enough to keep me at my keyboard. Best of luck to you all. Launa McNeilly, Lies, In a Season of Tribulation.

  127. Ann
     · December 6th, 2009 at 12:08 pm · Link

    Thank you for the candid information. I have not been impressed with the traditional publishing industry and went with a POD publisher this year and my book “A Graceful Death” was published last month. It seems to me that the only way an author can make a substantial sum is by selling movie rights. By the time everyone has taken their cut from book sales the author is left with a pittance.

  128. L. Jagi Lamplighter
     · December 9th, 2009 at 1:41 pm · Link

    Keep in mind that most publishers are struggling now. That means that a great deal of that supposedly huge amount of money is being sucked up by overhead of one kind or another. Some of that overhead is the adverntising and distribution that big houses do for their books.

    As a rule, the friends who I have who are with big houses are making more money than those who are with small publishers.

  129. L. Jagi Lamplighter
     · December 9th, 2009 at 1:42 pm · Link


  130. L. Jagi Lamplighter
     · December 9th, 2009 at 1:43 pm · Link

    Thanks so much for this info. It’s so helpful to new writers…or even established writers to have some idea of what the business side of things are. You are doing a great service!

  131. L. Jagi Lamplighter
     · December 9th, 2009 at 1:44 pm · Link

    Writers are always being asked questions by people. The funniest one I heard was a woman who used to write a humorous collumn on the author biz who said she had been asked, “Well, why don’t you write a best seller?”

    I suppose on could always answer: “Why don’t you win the lottery next time you buy a ticket?” 😉

  132. L. Jagi Lamplighter
     · December 9th, 2009 at 1:45 pm · Link

    What wonderful news! Bless you and thank you for letting us know!

  133. denise
     · December 9th, 2009 at 9:57 pm · Link

    I read a lot – an average of 4 or 5 books a week – and I pretty much only buy e-books because a) I have a limited amount of bookshelf space, and it’s, well… full; b) I love the sheer convenience of being able to carry 100+ books on my phone, which I already have with me anyways; and c) ebooks are generally cheaper than their hard-copy counter-parts, which means I can buy MOAR BOOKS!

    ummm. yes. I’m totally in favour of more authors self-publishing ebooks.

  134. Meghan Ward
     · January 5th, 2010 at 10:51 pm · Link

    Thanks for the great post! Now I have some dumb questions:
    The returns (10,812) are books that booksellers returned to the publisher? Were they counted as sales on the first statement? What does it meant to release credits (of 21,140 copies) from reserves held against returns? And what are reserved credits against 13,790 copies? Sorry to be so clueless!

  135. L. Jagi Lamplighter
     · January 6th, 2010 at 10:49 am · Link

    I’m sure the author can give a better reply but…

    Returns are books credited as sales and then withdrawn from sales.

    Released credits from money held against returns means that they held a certain amount, say 30,000 against returns. Some returns came in, they deducted them from the amount held aside, then they released the rest of the money to the author.

    Reserved credits against returns is money from sales that is still being held in case some of those “sales” turn into returns during the next statement period.

    Then, on her next royalty statement, that money held against returns will be divided into any lost to real returns and released credits against returns, as shown on this statement.

    Does that make sense?

  136. Angela Verdenius
     · January 12th, 2010 at 8:33 am · Link

    I write for Wings ePress, a great little publisher of ebooks and trade paperbacks. It was great to see what a Times bestseller makes. Like you, people wonder why I don’t make heaps of money (I work as a night nurse)…someone has to pay the vet bills somehow! LOL Thanks Lynn! I feel a lot more positive now!

  137. Mary Jean Kelso
     · January 12th, 2010 at 10:59 am · Link

    Thank you so much for sharing! Those of us who are on the lower end of the royalty food chain appreciate seeingi how the big authors on the NYT list fare! Although I have 14 books out right now, my royalty checks are a pittance compared to this report. And advances are non-existant. However, I am currently with much smaller publishers. But, hey, I am, like a lot of other writers, living out my dream!!

    Thanks for your honesty and information.

    Mary Jean Kelso
    Guardian Angel Publishing
    Wings Press
    Whiskey Creek Press

  138. Sue
     · January 17th, 2010 at 3:50 am · Link

    I really don’t believe that the returns are so little on a book, or movie such as Twilight. Is this for real? I don’t think so. Geeish!


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