Sunday 11 September 2022

Money! How much are authors paid?

I've already done a blog post and a youtube on advances. So I won't go into what they are here, except to say that the figures presented here represent the minimum that the authors involved were paid.

It's my understanding that most (possibly the large majority of) advances are not "earned out" - which means that the advance will in fact be the author's only income from the book. 

But some authors do earn out their advances - all my trilogies save for the most recent have earned out (and since financial data lags quite a way behind sales, it's possible that one has too, and I just don't know it yet), so I do get additional royalties from them based on annual sales.

The scatter plot below is from authors who have volunteered their information to me. All but one asked not to be identified, so I'll keep them all anonymous. Most of these authors I've heard of, and if you read a lot of fantasy, you will know them too.

As well as satisfying the idle curiosity of readers, I hope that the information below will prove useful to writers. It's much easier to negotiate a good deal if you know what other people are getting. 

Hopefully it will also encourage other authors to add their data to the graphic (just email me at and let me know (i) the advance per book (ii) how many books it was for (iii) the year (iv) if you would like to be kept anonymous.

(click image to enlarge)
While you look at these numbers, consider that these authors' annual writing income is (in general) the advance you see, less 15% for their agents. If they don't manage to write a book a year then reduce the figures some more.

For comparison:
Here are some average salaries against different professions in New York (many will come with job security and medical insurance).
DENTIST $120,809
NURSE $73,742
TEACHER $50,516
CHEF $48,827
CASHIER $25,790
WAITER $24,652

Note, this is only for rights in English (US + UK + other English speaking countries). Some books only sell in the US (& Canada) or just in the UK (and Australia and New Zealand). Some books - it tends to be more successful ones (also ones that attract a big advance for the rights in English) - also get published in countries like Germany, France (two of the biggest markets) and others. My books have come out in 25 languages. Typically these deals are much smaller than the US/UK ones, but on occasion they can (in Germany particularly) reach comparable levels.

Currently, there's insufficient data to draw conclusions. It's certainly worth noting that a lot of these advances are in the $5,000 to $10,000 range. And sure, $10,000 is a nice sum to have fall in your lap. But books often take a year to write, and you're not going to eat well on $10K a year. Which is why most authors have a day job.

One observation of immediate interest to me, and perhaps worth the effort behind the exercise all by itself, concerns the green dots.

The green dots are for audiobooks. Now, traditional publishing, certainly the big few publishers who dominate the industry, has linked arms and essentially refused to sign a contract with any author, big or small, that does not include the audio rights. So, all of those non-green dots will probably include the audio rights.

However, some authors do sell the audio rights separately. I suspect these authors can then not find a publisher for the paper and ebook versions of their novels, and end up self publishing those. HOWEVER, if you can strike a deal for ~$70K or $100K per book as we see here, and for multiple books, then it may well make sense to sell the audio to a traditional publisher (and here we're probably talking about Audible itself) and self publish the other formats.

If those audio advances are in any way representative then I could see a lot of traditionally published authors investigating that route in future.

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1 comment:

  1. This was a question I was literally just asking, so thanks for sharing this.