Novel Writing · Writing

Five Author Myths: Debunked

5 Authors make a salary.
That’s just funny. Some of us, if we have a large publisher, get something called an advance on royalties. I got a nice big one ($2,000 per book divided into three installments) when I worked with Jackfruit Press, writing a couple books on Canada’s Prime Ministers. It’s a wonderful recognition of your hard work to get these installments after you’ve signed your contract, sent in a draft, and delivered your final manuscript, but I don’t know many independent publishers who offer this. It’s too much of a risk for a publisher to do this. So, authors might work for 1-2 or even more years on a book, and not see any payment until their first royalty cheque. This is just the way it is.

4 Once you’re a published author, you’ll have your own agent & assistant!

Nope. Authors with big publishing firms, and ‘names,’ have these. I have tried to find an agent for years. It would help me and my books get more visibility. It’s a Catch 22 because you can’t find an agent unless you grab their attention. I sent 22 queries to agents and some publishers *accepting* queries when I finished Strangely, Incredibly Good, hoping one would represent me. Many agents and publishers don’t accept unsolicited requests – they want someone to refer you. ONE of those accepting queries responded in the 3 month time span they’d said they’d take to reply to me. ONE. No one else ever even sent me a “Decline” type note. I heard nothing. The one who did write back, thankfully, wrote to me that my manuscript wasn’t what they were looking to publish but they didn’t doubt that another agency would ‘jump on it’ (none did).
That one response gave me some motivation to keep on searching for an agent or small publisher, and I soon heard from the small Canadian publisher, Morning Rain Publishing.

3 You must be wealthy if you’re on/have appeared on an Amazon & Kobo Bestseller List!

Hardly. You need to realize these best seller lists are meant to help authors sell more books, but they don’t necessarily mean an author who made that list is rolling in it. Remember, Amazon and Kobo take a percentage of your royalties. If you have a publisher, that’s one more middle-man. So, we’re talking about a royalty between .40 cents and $3.99 per book, depending on what you’ve set your book at – but with many books going for .99 to $2.99 these days, an author’s royalty is probably on the lower end of that scale. Royalties for print books also vary, but I’ve never earned more than $4 per book, and though I’ve worked hard at selling these books, I haven’t yet sold more than 300 print copies (that is my sell-count for Where the Butterflies Go, my oldest poetry collection, so it’s had more time to sell. Carry On Dancing is at about the 250 mark, and my latest novel, now out one month, is at about 40 digital copies and 50 print copies sold. The silver lining here is that the publisher didn’t even intend to print the book until six months after the ebook release, but decided to print it early. It’s now available through special order or at events.

Don’t forget I had expenses to promote these books – book cover art, promotional ads, travel – so the $1,000 I may have earned for sales of WTBG was not my net profit. My first royalty cheque for Carry On Dancing amounted to a nice dinner with wine with my husband. After that, three months later, I got one that was around $30, and then because it was no longer new, sales petered out. Now my four poetry collections provide what I call “coffee money” every few months.

I was really pleased with that first royalty cheque from COD and I’ll never be ungrateful for the money I have managed to make as a published author, but you need to understand that royalties on books do not make authors rich, unless they have a viral best-seller, which is rare. Speaking engagements can provide some good income, but unless you’re John Grisham, you’ll be earning $100-$300 per speech, not the $50,000-$100,000 he earns for speaking.

2 Traditional publishers have tons of pull & power to help you sell your book.
It depends on their size. There are five publishers, ‘The Big 5’, that have some pull in the world. They compete with Amazon. Then there are the independent publishers, like mine. Mine is a small independent Canadian publisher that’s less than a year old. They do their best to give their authors a fighting chance, but my publisher can’t compete with the big publishers with big budgets (at least, not yet).

Chapters will allow independent authors (including those published by independent publishers like mine) to sell books on consignment. The author sets the “list” price, and the store takes up to 45% of that price as payment for shelf space. Yes you read that right: they take up to 45 percent. Sometimes, I’ve lost money just to appear at Chapters. It’s a decision I stand by today, since I ended up gaining lots of new readers because of those appearances. However, those were not money-making appearances. They were great for publicity.

1 You’re always smiling and excited about your latest achievement. Your books must be selling like crazy!

Yea, I don’t want to be a mopey bitch of an author now, do I? (actually maybe that would get headlines and sell more books! I’m kidding. )
I am so grateful that I get to do what I love – write books – that they’ve actually been published, and that I have a lot of support from family, friends and a few loyal fans. However, when you work two years or more on a book that is your heart and soul, and it only sells 75 print copies, while How To Properly Pull Nosehairs has sold 750,000, that can be quite discouraging. I keep on smiling and keep on writing* though, because the alternative isn’t my style.

*(After I’ve obsessively checked my Amazon rankings and screamed out loud a few dozen times)

I love laughing and making others laugh! And now that I've debunked these author myths I can keep on writing & laughing :)
I love laughing and making others laugh! Here I am, celebrating the release of Strangely, Incredibly Good with (L) Author JM Lavallée and (R) author Nancy Beattie.
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I have a lot of fun with my job, and try hard (not always easy) to focus on what I have already accomplished, not what I’ve failed to do.

7 thoughts on “Five Author Myths: Debunked

  1. Hiya heather, iam hopefully going to publish my first book by the end of the year, at the moment I only write for fun on my blog site andrewdavidblog.wordpress.com it is going well with views in about 18 different countries. I do hope my ebook does well, but whatever happens I will always write for fun x

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  2. You are not alone Heath in these concerns. I know one Poet who has made substantial (what we would call substantial) sums of money from Poetry, and this is all thru Prizes in big national competitions – but the guy also teaches Creative Writing at a University to pay the bills. My life’s work up to age 43 was published in the same year by 2 half-decent publishers – this book in its various incarnations I’m told has shifted approx 5000 copies, which is good for a Poetry book, and yes I have made good Cash sums on it, some of which I have donated to good causes, because it really does help the karma of a work apart from anything else. But I still have to work for a living, u bet. Radio work is more lucrative, and work as an ‘Official Poet’ for a Newspaper is more lucrative still – but these Gigs don’t last forever. My conclusion after 30 years in the Poetry Business: have as many Income Streams as u can without spreading urself too thinly as a result.

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    1. Oh boy, did this come off as mopey? I wrote it and had my editor read it for anything that sounded like whining, ’cause I’m not! I’m so blessed to be able to work from home and write books. I just felt like a lot of people were misinformed about the whole process and industry.

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      1. Oh, heavens no. You’re far from mopey. You look fabulously happy. I was just commenting on the first sentence of your last point and connecting it to my station as mope-a-dope poet guy around here. 😉

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