Books sold: 1 ebook (Amazon)
Money earned: $0 (no, I don’t know why Amazon told me I didn’t earn any royalties this week)
Money spent: $0
Books sold: 357 ebooks, 147 paperbacks
Money earned (book sales): $1,435.07
Money earned (Patreon): $6,909
Money spent: $4,855.71
I have some exciting news that I can’t tell you about yet, so in the meantime let’s look at this New Statesman article about how much literary fiction novelists can expect to earn over their careers (hat tip to the Seattle Review of Books for sharing the piece).
In today’s market, selling 3,000 copies of your novel is not unrespectable – but factor in the average hardback price of £10.12 and the retailer’s 50 per cent cut, and just £15,000 remains to share between publisher, agent and author. No wonder that the percentage of authors earning a full-time living solely from writing dropped from 40 per cent in 2005 to 11.5 per cent in 2013.
I’ve currently sold 504 copies of The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 1, and — as you can see above — have earned $1,435.07 in royalties and $6,909 from the Patreon “advance.” Subtract expenses and I’m at $3,488.36 in profit; pull out 30 percent for taxes and I get to keep $2,441.85.
The New Statesman doesn’t clarify how much of the £15,000 goes to the author, or whether that author has yet earned out their advance; there are a lot of apples and oranges involved here, since I don’t know the types of taxes British authors pay, etc.
But is it possible to look at these numbers and think “okay, as a self-publisher I’ve earned roughly as much from my 504 sales as a traditionally published author might earn from 3,000?”
That feels a little presumptuous on my part, but here’s another quote from the article:
Nicola Solomon, chief executive of the Society of Authors, tells me of a writer who had an advance of £60,000 for her last book and is being offered £6,000 for her new one – a not unrepresentative slump.
That isn’t too far off from the $6,909 I earned through Patreon.
The flip side, of course, is that I haven’t sold 3,000 books. What I’ve gained in revenue I’ve lost in reach; it’s a lot harder to get people (and industry reviewers) to pay attention to a self-published book, especially when — as with Volume 1 — I did all of the outreach myself. (That is going to CHANGE, and SOON.)
Plus, once you’re a midlist author you might get other paying gigs — teaching, speaking — that I am not currently eligible for.
However, the fact that I was able to turn a profit on my debut novel will make it easier for me to publish the second one and invest a little more money into it. Which in turn might lead to more sales and more profits. Maybe. We’ll see what happens. ❤️