Episode 65

How Much Do Authors Actually Make?

We're kicking off Season 4 with one truth about publishing that serves as the best and worst part of being a writer. Plus, we're finding out who makes more: self-published authors or traditionally published authors.

Music licensed from Storyblocks:

"Little Duke" by Humans Win

"Rational" by Humans Win

“More Jam Please” by Raighes Factory

Rosemi Mederos:

If you have plot bunnies coming out of your plot holes, it’s time for a writing break.

Welcome to Season 4 of Writing Break. It is so good to be back with you. Hello to our newest subscribers. This season’s theme was suggested by a listener, with the caveat that the theme might require more time than our few minutes together would allow. Well, them there sound like fighting words to me. If there is anyone who can be succinct, it’s a seasoned editor. I’m up for the challenge, but we’ll talk more about that later.

First, we gotta do the news. Next week we will get back to visiting bookstores in lands where writing breakers reside and checking out independent authors, you know, the fun stuff.

This week, however, we have a lot of publishing news to cover, including a few new literary agents on the scene looking for books like the one you’re writing now. For our new listeners, links to everything we discuss can be found in the show notes of each episode.

The Writing Break cafe is open, so let’s grab a table and get into it.

In February, the payout was .:

Some good news for indie authors, the online self-publishing company IngramSpark, a personal favorite, just got better. They are no longer charging a book set up fee, and they are offering free revisions on new books within 60 days of the book’s first production date.

Those are some huge savings right there.

And some good news for poets, Scribner is launching a new poetry program. They will be publishing one contemporary poet per season, and in August, it will be open to submissions without an agent.

Good news, maybe, for Harry Potter fans. Max, formerly HBO Max, will be adapting the Harry Potter books into a decade-long TV series. This might not be good news for some fans. I know some fans who prefer the books over anything else, some who are over the constant cash grab, and even some who have qualms with the author as of late. But I guess Max is sure that enough people are going to be interested in handing over a portion of their lives for the next 10 years.

For those who have had their fill of the Wizarding World or were never big on it to begin with, the only words of consolation I have for you come from verse 36 of the Tao Te Ching, “If you want to shrink something, you must first allow it to expand.”

Strange news for ebook readers. If your ereader’s library contains an ebook of any of the books that were recently subjected to sensitivity reads, such as books by Agatha Christie, Ian Fleming, and those others we discussed last season, well, those ebooks will be updated to reflect the latest edits, like it or not.

Good news for authors seeking representation, I have a few new names to add to your query spreadsheet.

PS Literary has a new agent. Rose Ferrao is seeking commercial romance, sci-fi and fantasy, horror, upmarket thrillers, contemporary fiction, and select YA. She is also seeking non-fiction, primarily cookbooks and food writing, sports, pop culture, music, psychology, lifestyle, and wellness.

Martin Literary also has a new agent. Jen Newens is seeking picture books, middle grade, young adult, graphic novels, and adult food and drink.

Sci-fi and fantasy publisher Orbit is launching a new imprint called Orbit Works, which is open to agented and un-agented submissions. They will publish ebooks and audiobooks.

Military history publisher Casemate is also launching a new imprint. This one is called Brookline Books, and it will publish books on the history of southeast Pennsylvania and the greater Delaware Valley.

Links to all of these stories can be found in the show notes of this episode and on writingbreak.com. Let’s relocate to the Overthinking Couch to discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly in publishing.

This season, in addition to my usual writing tips, I will be discussing what to do after you’re done writing. Should you try traditional publishing or self-publishing? What are the steps for each? How necessary are beta readers? Where are all the literary agents hiding? Et cetera.

Can I cover all of publishing in one season? No, especially not since the rules for the publishing game are ever-changing. But I will share information that will give you a realistic understanding of what happens after you’ve typed The End.

I overthought about what to tell you first, and I settled on underscoring the best and the worst of publishing, which is this: odds are, you are not going to be able to quit your day job. If you are seeking fame and fortune, seek elsewhere.

According to a:

If that seems low to you, you do not want to hear how bad traditionally published authors have it. According to a 2018 survey, the average income for traditionally published authors was $6,080 in the United States, and $8,600 in the United Kingdom.

This means that many authors make less. Yes, this also means that many authors make more, and I hope with all of my might that you are one of them. I hope your book sales are so lucrative that you feel like you’re living life in one of those money tornado booths.

So, okay, the bad news is that, unless you live in a country where a dollar goes far, you might still have to supplement your income with another trade. The good news is, you won’t be the only one.

Writers tell the story of humanity as they see it. They are the recordkeepers, the visionaries, the capital C Creators. They write because they must.

When you connect with a fellow writer online or journey to a writing conference to meet with writers in person, there is no pretense. You are all there because you love what you do, and you are all doing whatever you have to do at work to be able to come home and write.

As a lifelong bibliophile, I cannot thank you enough. What I can do is be here whenever you need a writing break.

Next week I’ll discuss what you should be doing while you write to set yourself up for success once it’s time to publish. Until then, remember, you deserved this break.

If you would like us to visit your favorite independent bookstore, feature your favorite independent author (even if it’s you), or discuss something you’re overthinking about, please email me at podcast@writingbreak.com.

Thank you for making space in your mind for The Muse today.

Writing Break is hosted by America’s Editor and produced by Allon Media with technical direction by Gus Aviles. Visit us at writingbreak.com or contact us at podcast@writingbreak.com.

About the Podcast

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Rosemi Mederos


Rosemi is the founder of America's Editor, a book editing company.