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kal-el
02-08-2010, 06:31 AM
Hello

I have a gargantuan desire to spend the rest of my life just writing. There's nothing else I want to do.

My question is: if I prove myself worthy and become a published author, how many novels would I probably need to publish until I have a steady income? Just enough money to live off so I can give up my day job that pays around 30,000 per year and makes me unhappy?

Money doesn't mean anything to me, and if I was writing for a living, I would be content with an income of around 20,000 per year (obviously I wouldn't say no to much more), which would pay my bills and put food in my belly, allowing me to just do what I really want to do with my life.

Would a modest income like this be very possible for an aspiring novelist with a bit of talent? Does the average novelist usually need to publish several times before they can give up their day job?

Many thanks.

ChaosTitan
02-08-2010, 06:39 AM
Unfortunately, there is no good answer to this. There are authors who have published books in the double-digits who still have to maintain a day job.

You could sell your first book for a million dollar advance and start writing full-time; you could also sell your first book for $10,000 and never see another dime because it doesn't earn out. It's a numbers game with no clear answer.

kal-el
02-08-2010, 06:47 AM
Sure. I fully appreciate that. But generally, can most authors give up their day jobs after they publish a certain amount of novels? Say ... about 5 for example?

Isn't there any kind of statistics that show roughly how many times you usually have to publish in order to become a full-time writer? I mean (and excuse my ignorance here), surely most people who publish ten novels or more are able to write full-time? No?

Annayna
02-08-2010, 06:48 AM
I second what Chaos has said

Libbie
02-08-2010, 07:51 AM
Nope. There is no statistic. Some writers get very large advances for their debut novels, and are able to quit their day jobs right away. Others, as Chaos said, never are able to write full-time. Much depends on your book, and whether it falls into the right hands at the right time.

Ken
02-08-2010, 12:35 PM
... there is a statistic relating to this. Have only seen it in one place so it isn't much publicized, possibly because of how depressing it is. The source was an old Writer's Market book or maybe a book on the craft by John Gardner. Not certain of the source, but it was reputable. I don't recall the precise figure, so don't put altogether that much weight in this pieced-together quotation:

5% of all published writers earn between 5-10 thousand a year, probably double that by now. (The rest earn less.) And of those 5%, only 1/2% or less actually earn enough to live off their writing.

So do not quit your day job, or make plans to do so. For while getting published is in the hands of lots of writers with sufficient drive and dedication, earning a living as a writer is another matter. Very few manage it.

waylander
02-08-2010, 02:04 PM
I mean (and excuse my ignorance here), surely most people who publish ten novels or more are able to write full-time? No?

Probably not. The problem is that your income is lumpy depending on when your next book hits a milestone. You may make 20k one year if a new book comes out, but only 7k the next because you have nothing new coming out.
Most of the full-time writers I know of have: 1 - a supportive spouse and 2 - other ways of making money such as reviewing, writing non-fiction, teaching.

Damn few writers make a living on their fiction alone

justAnotherWriter
02-08-2010, 09:20 PM
The answers given here are correct, but don't think like this. This will not be you. Most published writers don't make much money because they are not good enough, their books don't sell well enough and they don't write enough.

If you go into this thinking you will be like this, you may very well end up like this.

You are going to make a killing because your books are going to be awesome and each one will make a ton of money, maybe not right away, but soon, once they catch on. You will be able to write for a living very early on because you have the talent, drive and ability to do what needs to be done.

As far as I'm concerned, that's the attitude to have.

Most people in the world fail and lead miserable lives. If we treat our life as a numbers game, it's terribly bleak, and yet, somehow, for most of us, it isn't.

suki
02-08-2010, 09:22 PM
A few authors have said that the test is when your royalties, not your advances, but your royalties, are enough to live on.

Now, since this is a risk assessment, that may be playing it too safe for some, but it was an interesting perspective for me.

~suki

Old Hack
02-08-2010, 09:36 PM
In 2000 the Society of Authors did some research into the average income of authors in the UK: I discussed their report here, on my blog (http://howpublishingreallyworks.blogspot.com/2008/06/what-writers-earn.html).

Five years later the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society carried out similar research. I discussed that report here, on my blog (http://howpublishingreallyworks.blogspot.com/2009/01/what-writers-earn-part-ii.html).

Here are a couple of quotes from my blog posts, to give you a flavour.


75% of authors earned under 20,000 in 1999. The average annual income was 16,000, while 5% (82) of authors polled earned more than 75,000. Only 3% (51) earned over 100,000.

Although the national average wage was 20,919 when the report was compiled, 61% of the writers polled earned under 10,000. 46% earned under 5,000, of whom 123 said that writing was their main source of income, while 14 had no other source of income at all.


If you want to earn a living wage you’d be better off working as an electrician: their average earnings (mean/median) were 23,985/23,251 compared to writers average earnings of 16,531/4,000 for the same period.

In the five years from 2000 to 2005, the average reported income for writers dropped from 16,600/6,333 to 16,531/4,000.

It's hard making a living as a writer. It can be done: but you have to be very good, very hard-working, and very lucky, to do it.

kal-el
02-08-2010, 10:58 PM
In 2000 the Society of Authors did some research into the average income of authors in the UK: I discussed their report here, on my blog (http://howpublishingreallyworks.blogspot.com/2008/06/what-writers-earn.html).

Five years later the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society carried out similar research. I discussed that report here, on my blog (http://howpublishingreallyworks.blogspot.com/2009/01/what-writers-earn-part-ii.html).

Here are a couple of quotes from my blog posts, to give you a flavour.





It's hard making a living as a writer. It can be done: but you have to be very good, very hard-working, and very lucky, to do it.


Has luck really got anything to do with it? I agree on your other points entirely though!

Bubastes
02-08-2010, 11:00 PM
Has luck really got anything to do with it?

Heck, yeah. The harder you work, the luckier you will be, but there are still plenty of factors that you can't control.

kal-el
02-08-2010, 11:01 PM
The answers given here are correct, but don't think like this. This will not be you. Most published writers don't make much money because they are not good enough, their books don't sell well enough and they don't write enough.

If you go into this thinking you will be like this, you may very well end up like this.

You are going to make a killing because your books are going to be awesome and each one will make a ton of money, maybe not right away, but soon, once they catch on. You will be able to write for a living very early on because you have the talent, drive and ability to do what needs to be done.

As far as I'm concerned, that's the attitude to have.

Most people in the world fail and lead miserable lives. If we treat our life as a numbers game, it's terribly bleak, and yet, somehow, for most of us, it isn't.


Great post! I totally agree!

kal-el
02-08-2010, 11:02 PM
The answers given here are correct, but don't think like this. This will not be you. Most published writers don't make much money because they are not good enough, their books don't sell well enough and they don't write enough.

If you go into this thinking you will be like this, you may very well end up like this.

You are going to make a killing because your books are going to be awesome and each one will make a ton of money, maybe not right away, but soon, once they catch on. You will be able to write for a living very early on because you have the talent, drive and ability to do what needs to be done.

As far as I'm concerned, that's the attitude to have.

Most people in the world fail and lead miserable lives. If we treat our life as a numbers game, it's terribly bleak, and yet, somehow, for most of us, it isn't.


Great post! I totally agree!

IceCreamEmpress
02-09-2010, 12:51 AM
You are going to make a killing because your books are going to be awesome and each one will make a ton of money, maybe not right away, but soon, once they catch on. You will be able to write for a living very early on because you have the talent, drive and ability to do what needs to be done.

This is nonsense.

Confidence is helpful--delusion is unhelpful.

All one can know is whether or not one has the talent, drive, and ability to have a sustained, successful writing career IF one gets the requisite lucky breaks. Nobody can know whether or not they'll get the lucky breaks.

That's why creating a day-job structure and a system of personal finance that supports you in making the time for writing is key. Pretending that you're so awesome you won't have to do that is a recipe for failure.

Libbie
02-09-2010, 01:35 AM
Most published writers don't make much money because they are not good enough, their books don't sell well enough and they don't write enough.

I agree with the bolded part. In order to have a good shot at keeping a steady income stream from your writing, you need to produce. Aim for one new book to come out per year. More, if you can swing it. You can't control whether the publishers will like the one book you write each year, so you'd best have a few ready to go, and enough ideas developed that you can put together a synopsis and be ready to jump into that book and finish it by your deadline.

Writing is hard work. If you end up doing it full time, successfully enough to maintain yourself, you will work your ass off at it. It won't be a cushy job. It won't be all the bliss of creating. You will not have the luxury of giving into "writer's block" or anything else that takes you away from your work for more than a few days.

Yes, it is true that most people who publish don't make a living at it. In many cases, I suspect that's because they don't want to make a living at it. It may take away all the joy from writing, to produce several novels per year and to chain one's self to one's writing desk until the product is completed. It may take away all the joy just to think of your writing as a product, as something that must be refined until it will sell in the market. But if you're doing it full-time, writing is a business. Your book is your product. You'd better deliver fresh product frequently, and on time.

I will be happy to keep my current career, or to write full-time. Either one. But if I do end up writing full-time, I expect it to be grueling work, and I expect to turn out a consistently better and better product several times per year. That's what it takes to support one's self from fiction writing.



You are going to make a killing because your books are going to be awesome and each one will make a ton of money, maybe not right away, but soon, once they catch on. You will be able to write for a living very early on because you have the talent, drive and ability to do what needs to be done.

Do you? I'm not being facetious -- it's good for all writers considering a full-time career to ask themselves whether they have the skillset yet to come up with, draft, revise, and turn in multiple novels per year. I'm quite sure that anybody who really wants this career can develop that skill, but let's be realistic: Even with a great attitude, the odds are against your supporting yourself off of really high advances paid for relatively few novels. Much more likely you'll be coming out with one new book per year, and you'll have to keep a few in the wings, ready for development, at all times.

So...do you have the drive and the ability? How fast can you plot? How good are you at revising your own work? How attached are you to your own prose? Can you stand to hack out large swathes of it if it's not working out? Can you finish an entire novel, from first draft to polished and print-ready, in a few short months? You'll need to be able to do that. Start practicing those skills now, before your income depends on it.


As far as I'm concerned, that's the attitude to have.

I agree that you won't get there without positive thinking and the kind of confidence that motivates lots of hard work. Be realistic, but don't be a downer.

Libbie
02-09-2010, 01:40 AM
Heck, yeah. The harder you work, the luckier you will be, but there are still plenty of factors that you can't control.

I very much agree with this. Luck nearly always follows hard work. Not only hard work at writing, but at researching the market, choosing your allies, and hard work at understanding people well enough to make something that will appeal to a large number of readers.

There are a few uncontrollable factors, yes -- but those who "get lucky," say with earning advances in the millions of dollars -- usually get "lucky" because they worked hard enough at pitching their book that they caught the attention of a damn good agent who was savvy enough to arrange an auction between publishers who she knew would salivate all over themsleves for the book.

Hard work. Be smart and work hard.

BenPanced
02-09-2010, 01:46 AM
I know of an author who didn't quit her day job until she'd gotten her third three-book contract. Call it realistic, call it lack of confidence, call it what you will but everybody's circumstances are going to play out differently in the writing business.

Lest anybody forget it, let me say it loud and proud: WRITING IS A BUSINESS. As with any business, you need a business plan but that plan isn't going to foresee every single circumstance. As with any business, you're taking a huge gamble. If you don't have some sort of contingency plan, you're going to fall on your ass and fail hard.

kullervo
02-09-2010, 02:12 AM
It might take you one book, or you might not be able to do it with a thousand books. It's like asking how many lottery tickets you have to buy before you win.

IceCreamEmpress
02-09-2010, 02:13 AM
There are a few uncontrollable factors, yes -- but those who "get lucky," say with earning advances in the millions of dollars -- usually get "lucky" because they worked hard enough at pitching their book that they caught the attention of a damn good agent who was savvy enough to arrange an auction between publishers who she knew would salivate all over themsleves for the book.

Yes.

But for every one of those, there was someone who was just as smart and just as talented and worked just as hard and found an agent just as good--and whose book didn't get sold.

Or whose book got sold, but then got lost in the shuffle when the publisher was bought up by an international conglomerate. (This happened to me once.) Or whose book got sold, but then got lost in the shuffle when the editor died and was replaced by someone who took the line in a different direction. (I know two people to whom this happened, with two different publishers.) Or whose book got sold, with a release date of September 12, 2001 (I know someone to whom this happened.)

So what do you do when circumstances beyond your control sink your book? You work on your next book. Maybe you change to a pen name. You keep working. You get back in the game, and maybe this time the breaks will fall your way.

Libbie
02-09-2010, 02:37 AM
Heck, yeah. The harder you work, the luckier you will be, but there are still plenty of factors that you can't control.

I very much agree with this. Luck nearly always follows hard work. Not only hard work at writing, but at researching the market, choosing your allies, and hard work at understanding people well enough to make something that will appeal to a large number of readers.

There are a few uncontrollable factors, yes -- but those who "get lucky," say with earning advances in the millions of dollars -- usually get "lucky" because they worked hard enough at pitching their book that they caught the attention of a damn good agent who was savvy enough to arrange an auction between publishers who she knew would salivate all over themsleves for the book.

Hard work. Be smart and work hard.

justAnotherWriter
02-09-2010, 04:08 AM
This is nonsense.

Confidence is helpful--delusion is unhelpful.

All one can know is whether or not one has the talent, drive, and ability to have a sustained, successful writing career IF one gets the requisite lucky breaks. Nobody can know whether or not they'll get the lucky breaks.

That's why creating a day-job structure and a system of personal finance that supports you in making the time for writing is key. Pretending that you're so awesome you won't have to do that is a recipe for failure.

You're missing the point.

If you want to do something, you do it right. You aim high, you give it everything you've got and you don't let anything, especially doubt, stand in your way.

Believe you will succeed, and you will be giving yourself the best chance.

Doing is more important than believing, but motivation is very powerful.

Jamesaritchie
02-09-2010, 04:28 AM
The short answer is that one book can make you filthy rich, or fifty books can leave you living in poverty. There's a saying that it's easier to get rich off writing than it is to merely earn a living off writing. It's usually true.

But there's only one uncontrollable factor, and that's how much talent you were born with.

You can't control what happens with a given book, but you can control how many books you write, and how many different publishers have your books at any gven time. You can control how many books you write per year, whether it's one or five or eight.

You can also control what you write, as well. If you want to support yourself by writing, you can control whether you only write novels, or whether you write anything and everything that pays a buck, from noevls, to nonfiction books, to short stories, to articles, to screneplays, etc.

You can control your work ethic and your dedication. You can control how much time you spend writing, how much time you spend learning about the business, and how much time you spend playing games, surfing the internet, or visiting fourms, for that matter.

You can control whether you follow all five of Heinlein's Rules For Writing, which are sound, solid business rules. The single biggest reason for failure is not following one or more of Heinlein's Rules.

Dreaming is fine, but goals are better, and only hard work can turn a goal into reality.

Writing is a business, and not many succeed without treating it like a business.

But it does all come back to talent first, hard work second. Though smart work is what it really takes. Hard work alone is like trying to learn teh piano by simply banging randomly on the keys for eight hours per day. Smart work is practicing the scales, learning music theory, trying to lay actual music, etc.

You simply can't control how much or how little talent you have, and you can't control whether you'll be teh one to receive the next ten million dollar advance, but you can control everything else, and that's more than enough, if you do have the talent.

Libbie
02-09-2010, 04:32 AM
Great post, James!

IceCreamEmpress
02-09-2010, 04:51 AM
You're missing the point.

No, I get the point you are trying to make. I just think your point is not valid.

Overconfidence does not lead to success. A combination of careful planning, hard work, clear-headed risk assessment (http://www.mun.ca/erm/risk/process.php), intelligent strategizing, and luck are necessary for success.

Overconfidence is generally a symptom of Dunning-Kruger syndrome (http://gagne.homedns.org/%7Etgagne/contrib/unskilled.html), and/or what sociologists call "optimism bias." Which can doom your enterprise and even kill you (http://weblogs.marylandweather.com/2009/03/optimism_bias_could_kill_you_i.html).

To quote Carl Sagan, "...the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown."

A blind belief in one's own competence, and an unrealistic optimism about the outcomes of one's work, aren't actually helpful.


Also, what James said upthread is absolutely true:


Dreaming is fine, but goals are better, and only hard work can turn a goal into reality.

Writing is a business, and not many succeed without treating it like a business.

But it does all come back to talent first, hard work second. Though smart work is what it really takes. Hard work alone is like trying to learn the piano by simply banging randomly on the keys for eight hours per day. Smart work is practicing the scales, learning music theory, trying to lay actual music, etc.

And part of working smart is attaining realistic self-confidence. Self-confidence is good. Overconfidence is deadly.

CAWriter
02-09-2010, 05:08 AM
The writers I know who make their living from writing books are typically putting out 3-5 a year. It's not a matter of past production as much as what is in the pipeline. Even successful writers typically just about break even or 'earn out' and not substantially more (in part due to the trend of taking books out of print so quickly; backlist royalties don't account for a huge part of income for many much-published authors).

I agree with the posters who've said it's largely about hard work. The talent may get the door open, but to pay the bills you need to be a writing machine.

Ken
02-09-2010, 05:23 AM
A combination of careful planning, hard work, clear-headed risk assessment (http://www.mun.ca/erm/risk/process.php), intelligent strategizing, and luck are necessary for success.

... very true. I'm only good at the second, myself, similar to a draft horse. Will have to work on the others. Have always sensed I'm lacking in those departments. If I had the loot I'd higher someone to do the planning and strategizing for me. :o

ps You've all raised some good points. Combined together they really cover all the bases.

kal-el
02-09-2010, 06:03 AM
I agree with the bolded part. In order to have a good shot at keeping a steady income stream from your writing, you need to produce. Aim for one new book to come out per year. More, if you can swing it. You can't control whether the publishers will like the one book you write each year, so you'd best have a few ready to go, and enough ideas developed that you can put together a synopsis and be ready to jump into that book and finish it by your deadline.

Writing is hard work. If you end up doing it full time, successfully enough to maintain yourself, you will work your ass off at it. It won't be a cushy job. It won't be all the bliss of creating. You will not have the luxury of giving into "writer's block" or anything else that takes you away from your work for more than a few days.

Yes, it is true that most people who publish don't make a living at it. In many cases, I suspect that's because they don't want to make a living at it. It may take away all the joy from writing, to produce several novels per year and to chain one's self to one's writing desk until the product is completed. It may take away all the joy just to think of your writing as a product, as something that must be refined until it will sell in the market. But if you're doing it full-time, writing is a business. Your book is your product. You'd better deliver fresh product frequently, and on time.

I will be happy to keep my current career, or to write full-time. Either one. But if I do end up writing full-time, I expect it to be grueling work, and I expect to turn out a consistently better and better product several times per year. That's what it takes to support one's self from fiction writing.



Do you? I'm not being facetious -- it's good for all writers considering a full-time career to ask themselves whether they have the skillset yet to come up with, draft, revise, and turn in multiple novels per year. I'm quite sure that anybody who really wants this career can develop that skill, but let's be realistic: Even with a great attitude, the odds are against your supporting yourself off of really high advances paid for relatively few novels. Much more likely you'll be coming out with one new book per year, and you'll have to keep a few in the wings, ready for development, at all times.

So...do you have the drive and the ability? How fast can you plot? How good are you at revising your own work? How attached are you to your own prose? Can you stand to hack out large swathes of it if it's not working out? Can you finish an entire novel, from first draft to polished and print-ready, in a few short months? You'll need to be able to do that. Start practicing those skills now, before your income depends on it.



I agree that you won't get there without positive thinking and the kind of confidence that motivates lots of hard work. Be realistic, but don't be a downer.


Really? But say if you are really talented and your first book does very well, however you can't write fast enough for the satisfaction of your publisher? Wouldn't they just wait for you if they knew how good you are?

Is time really that essential for a great writer?

Bubastes
02-09-2010, 06:17 AM
Really? But say if you are really talented and your first book does very well, however you can't write fast enough for the satisfaction of your publisher? Wouldn't they just wait for you if they knew how good you are?

Is time really that essential for a great writer?

It's quite simple if you want to write full-time: no writing = no money.

If you don't write (and sell), you don't eat.

kal-el
02-09-2010, 06:20 AM
It's quite simple if you want to write full-time: no writing = no money.

If you don't write, you don't eat.


I figured that, and it makes perfect sense. But would a publisher drop you because you were taking too long? Even if they have published your work before and done very well out of it?

CAWriter
02-09-2010, 07:16 AM
I figured that, and it makes perfect sense. But would a publisher drop you because you were taking too long? Even if they have published your work before and done very well out of it?

In a word, yes.

Very few writers are so "good" that a publisher can wait and wait for their next "good" book. Contracts can easily be cancelled when the author doesn't meet their obligations.

Libbie
02-09-2010, 07:32 AM
Really? But say if you are really talented and your first book does very well, however you can't write fast enough for the satisfaction of your publisher? Wouldn't they just wait for you if they knew how good you are?

Is time really that essential for a great writer?

Why should they wait for you when there are writers who are just as good at writing -- or better -- and who will produce several books per year? Publishing is a business, and the bean-counters know which option is apt to earn more money for everybody involved in the endeavor. Publishing is also a business with limited capital to risk. They are much more likely to give money to those who can be consistent and predictable than to those who are good, but flakey. One is a sound business move. The other is not. Again: PUBLISHING IS A BUSINESS. It is not a charity case. And it is only somewhat about finding and promoting great art. "Somewhat" means "to a very, very tiny degree." First, foremost, hanging over your head, crashing through your walls like the Kool-Aid man, PUBLISHING IS A BUSINESS. Those who fail to think of it as such will not succeed.

"They" will only wait for you if you develop the kind of fan following that will all but guarantee a very large number of readers most definitely will spend money on your book. Dan Brown and George R. R. Martin can get away with shirking deadlines because they've already made astronomical amounts of cash for their publishers. Robert Jordan didn't get called on dicking around for seven books because he made astronomical amounts of money for his publiher. You are not likely to make astronomical amounts -- at least, not for quite some time. Nearly every writer needs time, marketing, and lots of hard work to establish the kind of eager, frothy fan base that allows him to disregard deadlines.

Yes, time plays a huge role. Huge. As in, you don't have a lot of it to waste, so you'd better learn how to use it wisely, and produce as many great books as you can in as little of it as you can.

Libbie
02-09-2010, 07:33 AM
I figured that, and it makes perfect sense. But would a publisher drop you because you were taking too long? Even if they have published your work before and done very well out of it?

They might. It's in many contracts. And it has happened to writers before.

If the idea of writing for ten hours a day or more and producing to deadlines doesn't sound appealing to you, then writing professionally is not the right career for you.

Writing is a business. The Kool-Aid man is on the verge of punching through your sliding glass door right now, and he's going to yell OH YEAH in your face. Business. Job. Nine-to-fiver, except more hours, like any other. Nobody is interested in how brilliant you are. Yet. They might be after you've shown them how well you can sell.

ChaosTitan
02-09-2010, 08:01 AM
They might. It's in many contracts. And it has happened to writers before.

Yep. Most, if not all, contracts have clauses in them about deadlines and what happens if the author cannot produce a book within the specified time period. And they will exercise that clause.

The notion of the author with "writer's block" who "can't produce" and spends hours and hours banging out crap is a very romanticized, Hollywood thing. The vast majority of working writers do not operate like that. Few editors have the budget or patience for high-maintenance writers.

If you sign a contract that says you owe Publisher X a book in twelve months, you'd better turn it in in eleven months and thirty days or less.

Libbie
02-09-2010, 08:12 AM
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2801/4342064535_59276b2360_o.jpg

That's how it's done, my friend! It's hard work. Lots and lots of hard/smart work.

bettielee
02-09-2010, 08:20 AM
No, how many does it take to get a little house in Savannah, Georgia? And two dogs.

And just let me tell you, it can be a bitch getting something to press. I work for a catalog company, and woe is me if I miss a deadline. The printer is not gonna have his monster, building size press sit idle, your ass goes to the back of the line, and you'll get your catalog when you get your catalog. I am sure it is the same with book printing.

mscelina
02-09-2010, 08:28 AM
There are no magic answers in writing. What works for someone like Stephen King won't work for me. What worked for me won't work for you. There are too many factors, too many variables to even try to come up with a reasonable answer for this question.

In the end, why fixate on it? Just write. For every hour you waste posing questions that don't have answers, you could be adding words to your WIP. Write the story FIRST. Then rewrite it. Then rewrite it again. Then get it betaed. Then rewrite it again. Then query it to agents. While you're querying, start on your new project. Wash, rinse repeat until you reach your goal. All the rest of this is nothing but a colossal waste of time until you've sold that first manuscript and have some realistic basis to build upon.

Libbie
02-09-2010, 08:30 AM
Okay, really, facetious motivational Kool-Aid man in correct manuscript format aside:

kal-el, in your various posts in this thread and others, you seem to be desperately searching for some kind of assurance that it's likely that you can be an instant hit -- the kind of writer who scores big on his first book and can write for pleasure ever after, while earning a ton of money at the same time. Or even enough money to keep yourself in Spaghetti-Os and shoe leather for the rest of your life. You seem to be almost insisting that somebody validate your impression that you have a chance at being the exception to the rule.

Maybe you do. That is possible. It's also possible to win at roulette in Vegas. But if you're a smart gambler, you always play the odds, and you never bet against the house. The numbers are not on the side of your fantasy. That's what we're all trying to tell you. The overwhelming majority of really successful writers got there by working smart and by treating it not as a fantasy but as a business. Maybe some day you'll be able to blow off deadlines and rest on your laurels. That day is not likely to come until you've put in a good decade of nose to the grindstone.

And that's all she wrote.

fractal
02-09-2010, 09:06 AM
Man I'm glad I read this entire thread. Thanks to you all for the inside track.

mscelina
02-09-2010, 09:09 AM
There's no inside track to "Just write." :) Unfortunately, working in this business is, in a lot of ways, just like working in any other. You have to WORK, a lot, and produce ever more as you continue through your career.

justAnotherWriter
02-09-2010, 10:46 AM
No, I get the point you are trying to make.

Not really.

Writing is a very, very hard business. All your plans and hard work--years and years of hard work--can be lost in an instant of doubt.

It's easy to write a novel, or two, or three, or four. Any writer can do it. What's hard is to go on, after your first rejection, after your hundredth. After your first novel doesn't sell enough and you find yourself hunting a new agent, a new publisher. After your second novel bombs, and your third is a victim of downsizing before it ever sees print.

That's the hard part of being a professional writer. Not the writing, or the planning, or the risk assesment, or the strategizing. All that is child's play.

kaitie
02-09-2010, 01:17 PM
Writers doubt themselves all the time. I'd guess even really good authors. I imagine you can have twenty books published and a really harsh review could still make you wonder. I'm sure there are some people who are self-confident, and there is certainly evidence of some writers thinking they're God, but I think most people wonder and at least occasionally doubt.

An instant of doubt isn't going to make a bestselling author not a bestselling author. It might make him/her decide to write a different book instead, or might mean they spend a day or a week or a month doubting themselves and then get over it and nothing changes. It might mean that they work extra hard on the manuscript and turn out something even better than anything else they've done so far.

Did you know that nerves/confidence works on a bell curve with performance? People who are exceedingly nervous/lack any confidence whatsoever don't perform well because they're so caught up in nerves/doubt they don't get anything done. People on the opposite extreme also don't perform as well because they're so confident they don't actually try as hard as they should. In terms of writing, this would be the person (I've known a few) who is convinced that their first draft is brilliance, that every agent should want to pick it up, and that they'll be an instant bestseller/Nobel prize winner (this is not an exaggeration, I've known people who say things like this). The ones who perform best are those in the middle, those with a bit of doubt/nerves, but not so much that it's disabling. This is basic psychology.

Yes, writers have to be persistent in the face of doubt, but a writer also has to be able to look at those hundreds of rejections and recognize that maybe there's a reason for it. Maybe they were rejected hundreds of times because their writing just wasn't good enough yet. Overconfidence can be just as debilitating in this case as lack of confidence is for a person who gets those hundred rejections and gives up. The overconfident person will not be willing to recognize that maybe they are, in fact, part of the problem.

Also, I think it depends on who you are. Rejections don't really bug me. I just got a full rejection and even that didn't bug me. I sent out another query. Does that mean it won't sting when I have to trunk this book with my favorite character ever? Nope, but I imagine I'll get over it pretty quick. What was a lot harder was writing the book itself (took a very, very long time), and then the months of doing nothing but editing, cutting, and getting critiques from beta readers trying to improve to make it good enough to send out. Going through lists of hundreds of agents and trying to find the best fits, and making my chart, and all the time I spent on that was even harder for me than getting rejected.

I'm hopeful. That's the difference here. Do I think my current work on submission will get very far? Nope, not really. What I do think is that my next one probably will, and if not that one the next, and then I can revisit my favorite. I'm hopeful that I will be good enough, and it's hope that carries me on. But it's also realistic hope. Would I love to one day be a bestseller that might be able to do this for a living? Goodness yes. Am I going to work toward that? Yup. But my hope is that I'm going to one day be published, and that my hard work and talent will be enough to get me through sticky times (and you know, the inevitable collapse of society :tongue).

Overconfidence is dangerous. Hope is not.

Terie
02-09-2010, 02:00 PM
As others have said, there is absolutely and utterly no way whatsoever to know if you'll ever be able to quit your day job to write full-time. If that's your long-term goal, then you need to start doing things now that will position you to be able to do it, should your writing ever sell enough.

#1: Buy a house or flat and pay it off by making large extra payments. Chances are that housing is your largest monthly payment. Lose it, and you can reduce your income needs dramatically. This also gives you real-life practice in living on less money.

#2: After paying off your house, sock the money you were using to make the extra payments away into savings to built your nest egg.

#3: Once your outgoings are reduced to the bare minimum to support your desired lifestyle and you have at least a year's expenses in saving, preferably two years', go part-time.

During all this, write. Lots. Rewrite. Even more. Get your work circulating, and hope you get lucky enough to land a manuscript on an agent's or editor's desk right when they were looking for exactly that thing. (This is one of the numerous variables you can't control.)

Finally, plan the rest of your life as if you'll never sell a single piece. Hope, dream, and work hard for it, but don't plan on it, for therein lies the way to madness. Hell, if you can get yourself in a position to be able to support yourself happily while working part-time, you'll be the envy of most of your friends without even taking writing into consideration.

There are only so many pieces of the 'quitting my day job to write full-time' plan that you can actually control. So control those. But don't make life-plans based on factors over which you have no control.

BTW, I have five books out, four YA novels and a co-ghostwritten memoir. I don't make anything like enough money to quit, but having done steps 1-3 above, I'm getting ready to go part-time in a few more months. Woo hoo!

kaitie
02-09-2010, 02:02 PM
As others have said, there is absolutely and utterly no way whatsoever to know if you'll ever be able to quit your day job to write full-time. If that's your long-term goal, then you need to start doing things now that will position you to be able to do it, should your writing ever sell enough.

#1: Buy a house or flat and pay it off by making large extra payments. Chances are that housing is your largest monthly payment. Lose it, and you can reduce your income needs dramatically. This also gives you real-life practice in living on less money.

#2: After paying off your house, sock the money you were using to make the extra payments away into savings to built your nest egg.

#3: Once your outgoings are reduced to the bare minimum to support your desired lifestyle and you have at least a year's expenses in saving, preferably two years', go part-time.

During all this, write. Lots. Rewrite. Even more. Get your work circulating, and hope you get lucky enough to land a manuscript on an agent's or editor's desk right when they were looking for exactly that thing. (This is one of the numerous variables you can't control.)

Finally, plan the rest of your life as if you'll never sell a single piece. Hope, dream, and work hard for it, but don't plan on it, for therein lies the way to madness. Hell, if you can get yourself in a position to be able to support yourself happily while working part-time, you'll be the envy of most of your friends without even taking writing into consideration.

There are only so many pieces of the 'quitting my day job to write full-time' plan that you can actually control. So control those. But don't make life-plans based on factors over which you have no control.

BTW, I have five books out, four YA novels and a co-ghostwritten memoir. I don't make anything like enough money to quit, but having done steps 1-3 above, I'm getting ready to go part-time in a few more months. Woo hoo!

Great advice!

shaldna
02-09-2010, 05:11 PM
Most books sell less then 6000 copies, and at 12% of a standard pb cover price of 6.99 a writer would need to be selling ALL copies of FIVE books a year to earn 20k.

Think about it.

kellion92
02-09-2010, 05:30 PM
There is one thing missing in this discussion. Quitting your day job isn't irreversible. Probably a lot of people who haven't checked off everything on Terie's list could afford to quit their jobs and live off a decent advance for a year, trying to get another book under contract before the money runs out. And when the money is gone, there's no law against going back into the full-time or part-time job market.

Obviously, there is risk in this. Some careers are easier to re-enter than others, and I wouldn't try it without at least one contract. It sounds a lot different to go into a job interview and say you took off a year to get your book published than to say you did it to work on your unpublished novel.

CaroGirl
02-09-2010, 05:50 PM
Writing is not just a business, it's also a job. I have a job writing to deadlines right now. I'm very good at what I do. Would I get fired if I consistently missed major deadlines? You bet I would. In a heartbeat. Would a novelist get dropped for missing deadlines? You bet he would. In a heartbeat.

shaldna
02-09-2010, 06:29 PM
There is one thing missing in this discussion. Quitting your day job isn't irreversible. Probably a lot of people who haven't checked off everything on Terie's list could afford to quit their jobs and live off a decent advance for a year, trying to get another book under contract before the money runs out. And when the money is gone, there's no law against going back into the full-time or part-time job market.

Obviously, there is risk in this. Some careers are easier to re-enter than others, and I wouldn't try it without at least one contract. It sounds a lot different to go into a job interview and say you took off a year to get your book published than to say you did it to work on your unpublished novel.


In Ireland public employees are entitled to take career breaks of a period up to 5 years with a guarantee that they will have a job when they return.

willietheshakes
02-09-2010, 06:40 PM
Would a novelist get dropped for missing deadlines? You bet he would. In a heartbeat.

I would say "could", not "would".

But that might just be my blown-deadlines-in-the-double-digits talking.

Axler
02-09-2010, 07:11 PM
It certainly depends on the track record of the novelist and whether it was an isolated incident.

I know a writer who blew a deadline for a trilogy, kept the advance money and still gets work. Not from that particular publisher, but still...

CaroGirl
02-09-2010, 08:08 PM
I would say "could", not "would".

But that might just be my blown-deadlines-in-the-double-digits talking.
Yeah, all right. I'll give you that one. I've blown deadlines in my job too, but it was always someone else's fault. I swear.

Toothpaste
02-09-2010, 08:13 PM
It also matters by how much you've blown the deadline.

But I'd further mention something that hasn't really been asked here, but implied. The idea that if you sell one book to a publisher, you'll sell another. There is no such guarantee. Some people get two book deals, three book deals. But many authors sell one book and then must prove again to the publisher that they should buy another. I have a friend who has a three book series that is doing extremely well at the moment and that publisher rejected her new series.

Being published is no guarantee you will be published again.

Libbie
02-09-2010, 08:37 PM
Good point, Toothpaste. That is extremely true.

kal-el
02-09-2010, 08:40 PM
Okay, really, facetious motivational Kool-Aid man in correct manuscript format aside:

kal-el, in your various posts in this thread and others, you seem to be desperately searching for some kind of assurance that it's likely that you can be an instant hit -- the kind of writer who scores big on his first book and can write for pleasure ever after, while earning a ton of money at the same time. Or even enough money to keep yourself in Spaghetti-Os and shoe leather for the rest of your life. You seem to be almost insisting that somebody validate your impression that you have a chance at being the exception to the rule.

Maybe you do. That is possible. It's also possible to win at roulette in Vegas. But if you're a smart gambler, you always play the odds, and you never bet against the house. The numbers are not on the side of your fantasy. That's what we're all trying to tell you. The overwhelming majority of really successful writers got there by working smart and by treating it not as a fantasy but as a business. Maybe some day you'll be able to blow off deadlines and rest on your laurels. That day is not likely to come until you've put in a good decade of nose to the grindstone.

And that's all she wrote.


Sure Libbie, I fully appreciate that. I also value your opinion more than most others.

Trust me, I'm really not that naive. I have only asked such questions because they are questions that I'm often asked when I tell people I'm a novelist (all be it an unpublished one) and I never know what to really tell them. But now I'm learning!

This thread has been awesome, thanks to you and everyone else here!

PS: I just love looking at your gorgeous smiley face before and after I read your posts! I just sit there and smile back at you. It's lovely.


:)

shaldna
02-09-2010, 08:48 PM
Really? But say if you are really talented and your first book does very well, however you can't write fast enough for the satisfaction of your publisher? Wouldn't they just wait for you if they knew how good you are?

Is time really that essential for a great writer?


yes. time is key.

A publisher is not going to wait indefinately for you to write a book. and it doesn't matter how talented you are, that doesn't mean you are going to sell alot of books.

Truth is, there's no real way to tell what will sell well. You could strike it lucky and have a massive multi-million seller as your first book, in which case you can take as long as you like to write the next one I guess. but in all probability you won't.

willietheshakes
02-09-2010, 08:52 PM
It also matters by how much you've blown the deadline.



(checks calendar)

Just over four years... :)

shaldna
02-09-2010, 08:59 PM
(checks calendar)

Just over four years... :)


lol. brilliant.

But to be honest, if that was a writer on their second book, or, heaven forbid, editing their first book, they would probably be dropped.

Libbie
02-09-2010, 09:00 PM
Sure Libbie, I fully appreciate that. I also value your opinion more than most others.

It's because of the Kool-Aid man, isn't it?




PS: I just love looking at your gorgeous smiley face before and after I read your posts! I just sit there and smile back at you. It's lovely.
:)

Oh, that's why. I'm flattered, but there is only one man for me (http://www.austinkleon.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/08/magic.jpg).

kal-el
02-09-2010, 09:20 PM
It's because of the Kool-Aid man, isn't it?




Oh, that's why. I'm flattered, but there is only one man for me (http://www.austinkleon.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/08/magic.jpg).


No, I don't value your opinon because I love your smiley face. I value your opinon because, not only do you always talk sense, you always explain why you are talking sense, and you explain things in a way that's easy for others to understand you're talking sense (whether you know it or not).

As for Kool-Aid man?????? You've lost me.

Whose the magic man then?

willietheshakes
02-09-2010, 10:20 PM
lol. brilliant.

But to be honest, if that was a writer on their second book, or, heaven forbid, editing their first book, they would probably be dropped.

It IS my second book!!!

Well, second real book...

Jamesaritchie
02-09-2010, 11:30 PM
Most books sell less then 6000 copies, and at 12% of a standard pb cover price of 6.99 a writer would need to be selling ALL copies of FIVE books a year to earn 20k.

Think about it.

Really, numbers like that are meaningless. Most books is not a number, and averages don't tell you anything. Trust me on this, if you write five books that sell only 6,000 copies, you probably won't get a chance to write book number six. You will, in fact, orbably be dropped by book three.

Jamesaritchie
02-09-2010, 11:36 PM
The one thing I'd disagree with is that it's difficult to know what will sell well. It's easy as anything knowing what will sell well. This is really first grade level easy. What's tough is actually writing that something.

It may sound like an insignificant difference, but it isn't. Having no clue what will sell well throws the whole matter into luck, and far too many writers, even widely published ones, jump all over luck as an excuse for why their books don't sell well.

It isn't luck unless you want it to be. It's a lack of execution, or a lack or determining what sells well, or, most often, both.

You can't do anything about luck. You can, if you have the talent, do something about execution, and if you have a good mind, you can certainly figure out what kind of stories sell very well, year in and year out.

Jamesaritchie
02-09-2010, 11:39 PM
I would also add that until and unless you sell a first novel, everything is just a pie in the sky dream. Once you do sell that first novel to a good publisher, however, I think it's all up to you.

Toothpaste
02-10-2010, 12:06 AM
James - you are a little mistaken, but only a little :) .

For example. If you sell that first book and it doesn't do as well as expected, you can find it even harder to sell a second book than when you were a first time author. Publishers look at numbers these days. And if they don't, then the booksellers do. I have another friend who wrote an MG novel that didn't sell too well. She sold her YA novel, but none of the big chains in the States wanted to distribute it because of her poor MG numbers. And that was two totally different genres. There are outside influences that affect one's publishing career.

Of course in the end, perseverance is everything. You just keep writing, even through the rough patches, and in the end chances are you'll pull yourself back out on top. But it's a lot of work, and saying that once you've sold your first book the hard part's over, well that simply ain't true.

kaitie
02-10-2010, 03:51 AM
I just wanted to mention that sometimes even those awesome breakout first novels aren't followed by successful second novels, and that can hurt. Was it the lady who wrote the Time Traveler's Wife who just recently bombed ridiculously on her second book and put her publisher out of a huge advance? I might be wrong on that. Thing is, even if someone is ridiculously successful on a first book, that kind of ups the pressure, don't you think, that the second be just as huge? I've always found it interesting.

Of course, at some point they'll keep printing you no matter how bad what you're sending is on name value alone (I figure you can tell you've hit that point because your book cover is 50% your name written in huge letters across the top :tongue), but there are so many factors involved!

kal-el
02-10-2010, 05:38 AM
What's a YA novel?

:(

ChaosTitan
02-10-2010, 06:11 AM
What's a YA novel?

:(

YA = Young adult.

Toothpaste
02-10-2010, 10:04 AM
What's a YA novel?

:(


And an MG novel is Middle Grade - ages 8 -12. Think the first couple Harry Potters.

shaldna
02-10-2010, 01:10 PM
Really, numbers like that are meaningless. Most books is not a number, and averages don't tell you anything. Trust me on this, if you write five books that sell only 6,000 copies, you probably won't get a chance to write book number six. You will, in fact, orbably be dropped by book three.


I should stress that this is Uk and Ireland figures where 6000 copies is considered to be doing well. I thought it was relevant as the OP is from London.

shaldna
02-10-2010, 01:18 PM
What's a YA novel?

:(


A YA means a 'young adult' novel, typically aimed at 12-18 year olds.

A MG means a 'middle grade' novel, typically aimed at the 8-14 age range. bear in mind that there is some cross over, and also in the Uk these are often just refered to as childrens books.

A CB means a 'chapter book' and is sometimes called a 'first reader'.

A PB means a picture book.

shaldna
02-10-2010, 05:27 PM
Okay, here is Shaldna's guide to how many books sell.

According to a Publishers weekly article from 2006


950,000 titles out of the 1.2 million tracked by Nielsen Bookscan sold fewer than 99 copies. Another 200,000 sold fewer than 1,000 copies. Only 25,000 books sold more than 5,000 copies.
-- Publisher’s Weekly, July 17, 2006

Now, I appreciate that many of these books are going to be Selfpubs etc, which accounts for the first part of that statement. But the fact that only 25,000 books are selling more than 5000 copies is a bit sobering.

Each year, there are 172,000 new books published in the United States.
Of the 172,000, only 1,000 books sell more than 50,000 copies in retail channels.93% of books published (160,000) sell less than 1,000 copies.

Again, this figure does include selfpubs and pod, but only 55% books in print are selfpub and pod. this still means that around half of books published by traditional publishing houses sell less than 1000 copies.

I read another article last year (i think it was in the bookseller, but i'm not entirely sure) which said only 11 books sold more than a million copies in 2008.

Some very useful places to get stats for publishing are:
http://www.parapublishing.com/sites/para/resources/statistics.cfm and
www.bookstatistics.com

Cathy C
02-10-2010, 05:52 PM
Going back to the original question of "How many novels does it take to give up your day job?" I'll say that it takes enough books to bring in a minimum of $50K in advances. Whether that's one book or a 4-book deal doesn't much matter. Here's why I say that. If you have a good agent, you're likely to receive a third up front. Out of that money (which is BEFORE taxes) you'll need to pay said taxes, pay ahead the mortgage, build up a credit balance with the heating and lighting companies, and pay a full year of auto insurance and/or homeowner's insurance and health insurance. Fill the pantry with inexpensive food too. You'll need it. Now, it will take just about every dime of the first check to do that. But it's critical that you do because the NEXT check won't be coming for many, many months (no matter how many books you have pubbed.) Sure, it might be in the thousands, but the problem with monthly expenses is that they're more expensive to feed when there's money in the bank. Fixing the sink by REPLACING the sink, for example, because there are thousands in there. Buying steak instead of burger, or salmon instead of cod.

It's easy (oh HOW easy!) to get caught up in the "it'll never run out" mentality of a heady advance check. But when it's gone, it's gone for 6-9 months. The power company has no sense of humor about late bills and I'm fond of electricity for my computer. I can eat canned beans and mac-and-cheese for quite a while, but can't convince the banker to extend my loan when I've skipped a single month.

I've now been doing this for eight years. In that eight years, I and my co-author have produced 15 novels. Our advances have increased over time so that it's a comfortable living---with planning. We sell through our advances and have hit bestseller lists.

And yet I still work a full-time job. I tried writing full-time. Did it for four years. But too many thinks sucked away my day. I really COULD bathe the dogs, or fix that fence, or do the laundry. But it didn't write any extra books. You can literally only type so many words a day. I couldn't seem to produce any more words, no matter how much time I had. Also, having a monthly income guarantees that I can pay the bills when DUE, not when the checks arrive. Now the checks are padding. I can pay down the mortgage or build up the savings for lean times.

Fingers crossed the advances will continue to go up, but for now, I still don't have enough novels to quit my day job again.

Just one writer's opinion, of course. :)

Jamesaritchie
02-10-2010, 06:39 PM
Okay, here is Shaldna's guide to how many books sell.

According to a Publishers weekly article from 2006



Now, I appreciate that many of these books are going to be Selfpubs etc, which accounts for the first part of that statement. But the fact that only 25,000 books are selling more than 5000 copies is a bit sobering.

Each year, there are 172,000 new books published in the United States.
Of the 172,000, only 1,000 books sell more than 50,000 copies in retail channels.93% of books published (160,000) sell less than 1,000 copies.

Again, this figure does include selfpubs and pod, but only 55% books in print are selfpub and pod. this still means that around half of books published by traditional publishing houses sell less than 1000 copies.

I read another article last year (i think it was in the bookseller, but i'm not entirely sure) which said only 11 books sold more than a million copies in 2008.

Some very useful places to get stats for publishing are:
http://www.parapublishing.com/sites/para/resources/statistics.cfm and
www.bookstatistics.com (http://www.bookstatistics.com)

Publishers Weekly should know better, and they probably do. Like too many others, they publish a bunch of sensational articles they know aren't accurate.

Nielsen Bookscan can't be used this way, and was never intended to be used this way. Nielsen Bookscan numbers are complately meaningless when taken raw, and only reflect a small part of the picture when broken down book by book.

I can't remember all the outlets Nielson doesn't even count, but I do know they don't count sales from airports, from Wal*Mart, from newsstands, etc. Sales from this outlets are significant, and continually growing.

Nielsen Bookscan is a tool that allows a publisher to look at a specific book, take the numbers from that book, and guesstimate all the sales from the many outlets Nielson doesn't cover, and get a reasonably accurate idea of how well a particvular book is doing.

That's all it is. I love many things about Publishers Weekly, but it's difficult to take anything they say seriously when they publish articles that use raw Nielson numbers.

Jamesaritchie
02-10-2010, 06:59 PM
Going back to the original question of "How many novels does it take to give up your day job?" I'll say that it takes enough books to bring in a minimum of $50K in advances. Whether that's one book or a 4-book deal doesn't much matter. Here's why I say that. If you have a good agent, you're likely to receive a third up front. Out of that money (which is BEFORE taxes) you'll need to pay said taxes, pay ahead the mortgage, build up a credit balance with the heating and lighting companies, and pay a full year of auto insurance and/or homeowner's insurance and health insurance. Fill the pantry with inexpensive food too. You'll need it. Now, it will take just about every dime of the first check to do that. But it's critical that you do because the NEXT check won't be coming for many, many months (no matter how many books you have pubbed.) Sure, it might be in the thousands, but the problem with monthly expenses is that they're more expensive to feed when there's money in the bank. Fixing the sink by REPLACING the sink, for example, because there are thousands in there. Buying steak instead of burger, or salmon instead of cod.

It's easy (oh HOW easy!) to get caught up in the "it'll never run out" mentality of a heady advance check. But when it's gone, it's gone for 6-9 months. The power company has no sense of humor about late bills and I'm fond of electricity for my computer. I can eat canned beans and mac-and-cheese for quite a while, but can't convince the banker to extend my loan when I've skipped a single month.

I've now been doing this for eight years. In that eight years, I and my co-author have produced 15 novels. Our advances have increased over time so that it's a comfortable living---with planning. We sell through our advances and have hit bestseller lists.

And yet I still work a full-time job. I tried writing full-time. Did it for four years. But too many thinks sucked away my day. I really COULD bathe the dogs, or fix that fence, or do the laundry. But it didn't write any extra books. You can literally only type so many words a day. I couldn't seem to produce any more words, no matter how much time I had. Also, having a monthly income guarantees that I can pay the bills when DUE, not when the checks arrive. Now the checks are padding. I can pay down the mortgage or build up the savings for lean times.

Fingers crossed the advances will continue to go up, but for now, I still don't have enough novels to quit my day job again.

Just one writer's opinion, of course. :)

I usually receive advances in two parts, rather than the more usual three, but everything you say is accurate.

After teh agent takes her cut, Uncle Sam take shis cut, which also means paying both halves of SSI, and after paying helath insurance, which I think is a must, I find I need to gross just over double what I actually need to live on.

After all this come out, I break checks up into weekly pieces, and I do not touch next weeks oiece of the pie until next week arrives.

But advances, unless they're truly huge, are a poor way of earning a living as a writer. You need a backlist of books that stay in print and continue to sell year in and year out, or you need other outlets for your writing. Royalties pave the way to a good living, not advances, and any money writing generates outside of novels is bonus money that makes everythng work smoother.

And, of course, you have to know whether you are the kind of writer who will produce much more writing when going full-time, or whether your output will stay the same. I don't allow anything to suck away my day. I treat writing like a job, and nothing pulls me away from writing that wouldn't pull me away from a nine to five day job.

Many can't work this way, and actually get more done by writing part-time and keeping a nine to five job.

I've even known writers who made incredibly good money, far more than enough to support themselves, but who went back to a nine to five job because they couldn't stand the isolation.

shaldna
02-10-2010, 08:26 PM
.

Nielsen Bookscan is a tool that allows a publisher to look at a specific book, take the numbers from that book, and guesstimate all the sales from the many outlets Nielson doesn't cover, and get a reasonably accurate idea of how well a particvular book is doing.
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So, in terms of bestsellers lists, who collects that info? Are the figures somewhat guessed in this way? Supplied by publishers? Or by an external source?

Cathy C
02-10-2010, 09:10 PM
The owner of the list generally does. The USA Today bestseller list is what's known as a "point of sale" list. They list actual cash register rings. I believe the Publisher's Weekly list list is likewise point of sale. It's quite possible USAT and PW use the Nielsen lists. However, they might have their own sources of information that they consider reliable.

The NYT Bestseller list, however, is NOT a point of sale list. It's a survey of the "most talked about" books at selected bookstores. The list of stores is a closely guarded secret. The stores receive a list of "tracked" books that are by well-known authors or exciting newcomers. The representative in the store lists the titles most heard about, asked about or otherwise mentioned and report back. This is why you can have a book that is still in galleys and unavailable for pre-order hit the NYT list.

Does that help?

IceCreamEmpress
02-10-2010, 10:21 PM
This article (http://www.midwestbookreview.com/bookbiz/advice/bestlist.htm) talks about how different best-seller lists in the US are assembled.

Jamesaritchie
02-10-2010, 10:51 PM
So, in terms of bestsellers lists, who collects that info? Are the figures somewhat guessed in this way? Supplied by publishers? Or by an external source?


The top bestsellers lists are listed in several ways. Even the NYT list is done using three methods, one of which number of actual sales over a given time period from selected outlets, but other sales numbers also plays a part, as does pre-pub sales numbers. You more someone knows about how the NYT list is really done, the less they'll tell you. But it's actually the most accurate list out there.

Generally speaking, a book high up on any of the big lists sells a LOT of copies, and the numbers are pretty darned accurate.

But like Nielson, the lists do not track more than a fraction of actual sales, and a guesstimate is made based on certain sales from certain locations or sources. They often, in fact, use actual Nielson numbers at some point, though not, of course, the raw numbers. This is anothe reason publishers think Nielson is worth the large subscription cost.

At any rate, when actual sales numbers from all sources are tallied at year's end, it's amazing how close those numbers almost always are to what the big lists, expecially the NYT list, say they should be.

shaldna
02-11-2010, 01:16 PM
I'd be interested to know how much influence the NYT list has over the other bestseller lists. I mean, if the NYT list is about hype rather than sales, and a book is driven up it's list, then it's fair to assume that it creates further hype and interest which drives up actual sales and so pushes the book up other bestseller lists?

Or have I misunderstood?

I find this really interesting to be honest. I didn't know that was how the lists worked. I very rarely buy bestsellers in anycase, on principle.

Cathy C
02-11-2010, 06:11 PM
The NYT list has an influence on the other bestseller lists, but not often right away. It's frequently the NEXT book by that author that benefits because the "New York Times Bestselling Author" appears on the cover. Now, if the book that hits the NYT list just happens to also be a great book, then word of mouth will take over---notwithstanding the appearance on the list, which shoots it up the other lists.

It's frequently a combination of hype, "platform" and content. Look at the Sarah Palin Going Rogue release. Little known state governor writes book. Would anyone have waited in long lines BEFORE she was the V-P nominee? Possible, but doubtful. The platform created hype and poof! It's now on the NYT list before release. It stays there because the bookstores can pronounce it in their stores and banners and announcements of a signing tour.

It all feeds on each other.

Now, take the opposite approach---the Stephenie Meyer release Twilight. This is a little known author with a whole different kind of book. It wasn't Harry Potter, it wasn't adult. No chance. Right?

Wrong.

The book struck a cord with teens and young adults. It had that "it" that publishers and authors alike dream of. It FIRST hits USA Today and then NYT by sheer volume of sales. It's the sales themselves that are the talking point in the selected stores. People use words like "unprecedented" and "amazing". Little known author is catapaulted to the top and remains there. Book #2 in series hits NYT before it's barely complete.

Etc.


I very rarely buy bestsellers in anycase, on principle.

I find this comment interesting, shaldna. Which principle? It quite often is that the bestsellers are there for a reason. They're freaking amazing books. A lot of good friends of mine got there through sweat and experience and years toiling in the mid-list before writing that breakout book. While it's true that some authors remain on the list even when the next book doesn't live up to the name, often the books are of the same quality time after time. Give them a try. Those here at AW who have reached that level and worked for it would appreciate it. :)

the_Unknown
02-17-2010, 05:24 PM
Hi, I'd just like to thank everyone for their participation in this thread (even though the OP was banned and the original question wasn't well thought out). It's been a nice read.

Personally, I think the only factor you can really control outside of hype and ability is genre. And what exactly is 'genre'? For me it's the established consumer bases.

I think YA does well because most of the purchasers do not actually read the books. And by that I'm not saying the books themselves are not good. YA is able to transcend bookdom to be thought as something like a healthy treat or learning aid for kids (a lot like The Bible).

Terie
02-17-2010, 06:28 PM
I think YA does well because most of the purchasers do not actually read the books. And by that I'm not saying the books themselves are not good. YA is able to transcend bookdom to be thought as something like a healthy treat or learning aid for kids (a lot like The Bible).

Do you have any idea how insulting that comment is to YA writers? I'm quite sure you didn't mean it that way, but jeez. I have a feeling you are remarkably out of touch with YA, or you wouldn't say such a thing.

I wrote what I intended to be and hope is a compelling story. That anyone would think of my books as a 'healthy treat' or -- even worse -- a 'learning aid for kids (a lot like The Bible)' is little short of horrifying to me.

May I suggest that you make tracks to your library and check out some current YA...oh, yeah, and read it, too? :)

Libbie
02-17-2010, 06:43 PM
If you mean the "purchasers" as in PARENTS don't actually read the books, you might have a small point. Kids most definitely ARE reading the books, though, and in any case, it doesn't matter whether a book is purchased as a gift or by the person who intends to read it. The authors still get their royalties. Just because you didn't like to read as a kid, or don't know any kids who love to read, doesn't mean much. The world is full of kids who are bonkers for books.

Any small point you had, though, is moot -- YA is an insanely popular genre that continues to expand in scope and in sales. In large part, this is due to the fact that adults read at least as much YA fiction as the intended market reads.

YA is huge. Almost as huge as romance. It's a big industry all to itself. I wish I had a few good ideas for YA -- I'm sure it would be easier to sell than my adult historical fiction, and it would probably make me a lot more money, too.

By the way, not all of us would consider the Bible to be a "healthy treat" for our children.