Saturday, January 9, 2016

How much do you make in royalties?

This is one of those taboo topics for authors. Rarely do you hear one author ask another how much they've made on their books. It's just not often done. And that's fine. I'm not comfortable asking people to share information they're not interested in giving me.

But when it comes to my personal experience, I don't mind telling you that it hasn't been a lot. But it also hasn't been nothing.

Unfortunately I don't keep meticulous records nor do I have a separate bank account for my royalties, though those both seem like good ideas, which means that I can't give you an exact number. But I can tell you that on average it's typically been around $600–$1200 per book, depending on the royalty percentage in my contract and how well the books sell. Total that up for 9 books now and you get to $5400–$10,800.

To some people that will seem like a lot of money, and it is if you think about how this is just a hobby, not a job, and how great it is to get paid for something that you think is so fun you'd do it anyway.

But other people will be dropping their jaws going, really, that's it???? Yep. That's it. That's all there is. And except for the more recent royalty checks I've gotten, which have gone straight to my tiny house fund, that money is pretty much all gone now.

I'm too math-averse to work out the number of hours I spend writing and try to give you an average per-hour rate for my career as an author, but I can tell you that it wouldn't look pretty. A couple of my books have taken less than a week to write, but that's definitely the exception, not the norm. Fiction takes WAY longer than that. And then if you tally in the hours I've spent at events promoting and signing my books, the per-hour take-home pay would go down even more.

Granted, there are things I could do to increase my earnings. I could do a better job of marketing my books in so many ways, and I'm sure that would make my publisher a lot happier with me. But the fact of the matter is that I do as much as I can, and I also understand that there are limits to how much a publisher can contribute. I've been on both sides of this equation, which means that I sometimes have inner arguments between my author self and my publishing self. It would be more entertaining if it weren't so annoying.

In case you're a new reader or you've lost track (it happens) and you're wondering what those nine books are, it all started with this journal, What Do You Believe? which I rarely talk about because I think it's pretty hard to find these days and my name's not technically on the cover or anything. But it's basically a question and answer journal for teens, asking them to write about their testimonies. I wrote all the questions and my friend Angela designed it. You can click on the link if you're curious.

Then there were five books in the Tiny Talks series, including this one.

I still love this cover!

That puts our total at six. Then in 2015, my first novel came out in May: Liam Darcy, I Loathe You.

In August, my first board book came out: 1, 2, 3 with Nephi and Me! That makes eight.

And the ninth one is Time to Share, which just came out in November.

Anyway, I wanted to address this question because I've had a few people ask lately. For the record, I don't mind talking about this stuff. I'll even show you my royalty statements if you really want to know about the nitty-gritty details.

While it would be nice if I made a little bit more, I really don't do it for the money or the prestige—what little there is of both. I do it because it's my way of connecting with the world. I love writing. I love my books. This is what I do, and I want to keep doing it.

You can get all caught up in the numbers. You can obsess about how many copies you've sold and how popular you are on Amazon and how many people liked your last post—and believe me, I do all that sometimes. But I think I'm better off as an author and a person when I can just be grateful for what I have: a collection of words I wrote that I hope are making a small difference in a big world.

If this post has crushed your dreams of becoming a successful author and making a fortune off your writing, I'm sorry about the reality check. If it helps, I know some authors who make a lot more than I do. But I also know authors who make a lot less. And I know plenty of authors who make right around the same amount.

I don't think you need to measure your success based on how much you make or how many people read your books. I think a successful author is one who keeps writing, keeps improving, and never gives up on herself (or himself).

And with that, I think I'll get back to writing! I hope you do too!

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