Where Professionals Publish

Publishing Reality: Most NY Times Best Selling Authors Have Day Jobs

I talk to so many aspiring authors and it concerns me that some think that their book will be the key Publishing Reality: Most NY Times Best Selling Authors Have Day Jobsto retirement or a ticket to financial freedom. I hate to deliver bad news, but the fact is that a very small percentage of authors actually make a living from a single book.

Consider the financials involved. If you go with a traditional publisher, you’ll be lucky to earn $1.25 per book sold (yep, really!). If you sell 10,000 books in a year (which is a very high number and not a likely reality for most new authors), you’d earn $12,500. Not bad, but not exactly enough to live on. You also have to deduct any book advance that you received so if the publisher paid you $7,500, your net at the end of the year would be $5,000.

The numbers are better with self-publishing. Let’s say you earn $4 per book sold and sell 10,000 books. You’d earn $40,000, which ain’t bad. Of course you have to deduct your expenses for book production and promotion. Let’s say you spent $10,000, which means your net would be $30,000. Still not enough to retire on.

And I must repeat: the odds of a new author selling 10k copies in a year are pretty darn low. Sadly, the statistics for self-published authors are dim at less than 200 copies sold, total. (It takes a heck of a lot of marketing to sell books.)

The moral of the story: Very few people earn a living from books. Of course there are authors who hit the Big Time: Stephen King, James Patterson, John Grisham, Nora Roberts, Nicholas Sparks. And recently we’ve heard buzz from some self-published authors who have kicked some indie butt: John Locke, Amanda Hocking, and JA Konrath. But there aren’t many success stories like this. Only a lucky few hit the literary lotto.

What does that mean to your publishing future? It shouldn’t change a thing if you’re passionate about what you’re doing.

And there’s another benefit here that many people miss. Your book is a ticket to bigger and better opportunities. It can open doors to help you land speaking engagements. Readers will want to invest in your consulting services or coaching programs. A book can get you media attention, impress prospects, build an audience for your services, and can lead to opportunities you haven’t even imagined for yourself!

Just don’t count on it for your retirement portfolio and instead use it to build your empire. The rewards can still be tremendous.