How much does writing a New York Times bestseller really pay?

I wrote a post this week on my personal blog about working as a writer. I quoted a New York Times bestselling author who publishes royalty statements online. It was kinda depressing.


I wanted to highlight a comment BlogHer CE Mir Kamin made about writers:


Okay, well, here's what her article doesn't address:

1) Most authors don't just write books. Once you have a bestseller, the chances you will be invited to teach at workshops, speak at events, etc., is increased. You get paid for those gigs. There's also magazine articles and such.

2) She gives the numbers on her bestselling book. What that doesn't address is the long tail; each time an author makes good on book sales, there is (generally) a spike in sales on previous books as well. You read Jane Doe's latest and it's the first time you've encountered her? You go out and buy her previous books.

3) Royalties vary by country and media. Your modestly bestselling novel here in the U.S. ends up being a German sensation? You make royalties on that, too. Sony buys the film rights? That's money. You do the audio recording? More royalties.

I'm not saying the author doesn't make excellent points -- and it's true that every novelist I know says, emphatically, don't do this to get rich because chances are it's not going to happen -- but it's a very narrow view. As with almost anything else, it's not just the straight-up fee from the ONE thing (the novel), but it's marketing, it's capitalizing on the opportunities that follow, it's building momentum for the next project.


Mir's right, of course -- how do you make money from your writing? Have you quit your day job, or made it about writing?


Rita Arens writes at Surrender Dorothy and BlogHer and is the editor of Sleep is for the Weak. She is BlogHer's assignment and syndication editor.


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