Hmm. Writers make money, some make tons, most need day jobs to pay a streetcar fare to deposit their royalty checks.
Below is everything you ever wanted to know about the wallet of your favorite author. I am using data from 2004 because that was the year of my debut novel's publication.
1,200,000 titles were published in 2004:
- 10 titles sold 1,000,000 + copies each
- 22 titles sold 500,000-999,999 copies each
- 64 titles sold 250,000-499,999 copies each
- 324 titles sold 100,000-249,999 copies each
- 767 titles sold 50,000-99,999 copies ("my" category)
- 23,047 titles sold 5,000-49,999 copies each
- 67,008 titles sold 1,000-4,999 copies each
- 202,938 titles sold 100-999 copies each
- 948,005 titles sold 99 or less copies each
I should add that most sales occur within the first few weeks/months following publication.
What does this mean in terms of dollars? First you need to understand how this works. A writer does not sell a soul, or an arm and a leg, but nonetheless one should know that it is important for her, and every other writer out there to be paid adequately. Publishers offer an advance and royalties. Advance is always paid against royalties, in other words: royalties will be paid only when the publisher recoups the advance from sales. Advances range from as little as $1,000, most hover around or below $5,000, some pay $10,000 and few pay more. Royalties range from 4-12%. Realistically one can hope for 8%, and should fight to the death to receive it. Anything below is scandalous.
Now that you have these figures you can see clearly that the vast majority, 98% of writers, cannot possibly make a living off of writing - unless they are Joan Collins and receive millions in advances for books that never get published...