It’s the big question for writers, right? Once you’ve finished writing your book in your own blood, what then? In today’s publishing world there are more answers than ever, but which is right for you?
Traditional Big 5 publishers give an advance against royalties to first time novelists averaging $10,000 (the range can be $4k to $15k, but those are simply estimates). Think of this as an interest free loan from the publisher to the author. Every time a book sells, a royalty is earned. If the writer has an agent, part of any money they earn goes to the agent, usually 15%. So $10,000 is actually a net $8500 to the writer.
With me so far?
Best guesses for how many writers fail to pay back their advance range from 70% to 85%, but that includes advances below $10k. If we use $10k as the baseline, the best calculation I’ve seen indicates only 6% of Big 5 authors earn more than $10k in a given year.
Some authors earn millions, it’s true, but 94% are believed to earn less than $10k per year.
Indie and self-published authors get no advance. Every expense comes out of their pocket. All marketing is done by them, all editing, covers, illustrations, layout, etc., is either done and paid for by the author, or the indie press that signs them. Regardless, if the author is serious about selling a lot of books, they will probably spend more time marketing their work than writing new ones.
So why choose the latter route? Because 11% of indie and self-published authors make in excess of $10k per year, nearly double the rate of Big 5 authors.
Writing is a business. View your publishing options like the business person you must be.