It Ain't for the Money

It’s amusing when people think I’m sitting on a secret fortune after they find out I do a little writing on the side. Or they think someone like Brian Keene or Tom Piccirilli are making money hand over fist because they’ve got several novels available. The reality is most writers don’t make a lot of money. Sure, some luck into Hollywood cash or a mega-hit series like Twilight, but even bestsellers are far from guaranteed riches.

Now one writer has proven that by posting her royalty statements. She sold over 47,000 copies, which sounds exciting. However, for all that, she’s made a little over $30,000. Sounds like a lot, but if that was the only book she put out that year, she’s earning the equivalent of about $15.00 an hour (and she still needs to pay her own taxes on that $30k). Even worse, she hasn’t earned out her $50k advance at that point, which means she faces the possibility her publisher will dump her. It’s more like being fired than getting laid off, as the next publisher may look at her numbers and not want to take the risk on her.

The inevitable next question is “Then why do you do it?”

The easy answer is because we like it. Some writers like to tell you they have to, but I’m not going to get all metaphysical on you. The plain truth is I enjoy the process of writing, I enjoy the business of it, and call it ego, but I like the idea of people being entertained by something I’ve written. Yes, the financial realities make it impossible to go full time at the moment, but I’d love to be at that point sometime. I don’t need to get rich doing it, but I’d be content to do it as a job.

It sure beats solving others’ computer headaches all day every day.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

No comments

  1. noigeloverlord says:

    I’m glad you enjoy it cause I love to read your stuff can’t wait for Winter Kill!

  2. Gord Rollo says:

    I hear you load and clear, my friend. You have no idea how many people think I’m rolling in the bucks just because I have a few books out. Crazy really, but what can we do except keep plugging away. I’m trying to write full time too, but just can’t seem to make enough to pull it off yet.



  3. Byron Kleene says:


    I think you need to go back and read that article again. That author has earned back her advance for that publisher — and several times more. The book in question sold more than 67,000 copies (after returns) and it was the 7th book in a series, which means she has money coming in from the first six books in the series.

    She was saying that after paying her agent, paying for expenses AND paying for taxes she got to keep only $24k. However, what she failed to note is that EVERYONE who makes around $50k a year only brings home around $24k after taxes and expenses.

    Plus, she went on to say that she was already advanced a similar amount for the next book — the first book in a new series — and that book was outselling the previous book.

    In her case, she is in it for the money and the money is good.


  4. Mike says:

    Yes, she may have a series, but my point wasn’t necessarily she isn’t making squat, but what an individual book brings in.

    $30k is more than most people will see out of a book, and while that may be a living wage for a bachelor(ette), for someone with a family it’s not near enough. With two books performing at that level, I’d be about even with my current day job. Though my day job is probably ahead given I get a significant portion of my health insurance paid for by my employer.

    Even beyond that, though, most people tend to think just because you’ve published a book you’re making a mint. I’ve talked to a few people who seem mystified that Brian Keene isn’t just a few steps behind Stephen King on the money scale. And several folks I’ve talked to about my own writing are shocked I’m not already doing it full time.

  5. Brian Keene says:

    “Byron Kleene”? What a douche.