You want to get rich? Write a series of books about a kid with magical powers. Let’s get serious about rich authors. There are rare instances of wealthy authors. For instance, there was the “Harry Potter” series and then there was the English housewife who made a fortune with her “Shades of Gray” pornography—and because of anomalies like that the public think that all writers are wealthy. (Women were the large purchasers of “Gray Shades.” Who knew that women enjoyed pornography?) Those are the writers you read about. It’s similar to sports. You hear about the quarterback or pitcher or basketball star who signs a multi-million dollar contract. But for each one of those, there are dozens of equally good minor leaguers who are making $20,000 a year and stay in the game just because they love the sport.
My royalties off of books sales average $25 to $30 a month; about enough for a few cups of coffee at Starbucks. When you consider that it takes a year to write a 250-300 page novel, I don’t make as much per hour as the nice guy who picks up your garbage. And I sell as many books as any minor-league writer. My books have fans in England, Germany, and Australia. The only “normal” writers who sell more than I do are Romance authors, and I can’t write formula books like that.
So, let’s talk about the “big time writers.” (Nelson Demille, Steven King, David Baldacci, Harlan Coben, Lee Child, John Grisham, etc.). Yes, they sell thousands of books—and they have to, because their profit is 6% to 8% of the hard cover price. When you buy a Grisham book for $30, he doesn’t get $30 – he gets about $1.80 and out of that he has to pay his agent 10 to 15%. He also gets an “advance” from the publisher of maybe five or ten thousand dollars and he doesn’t get a penny in royalties until the publisher has made that much money back. Any books that don’t sell are called “remainders” and you see them on the bargain table at Barnes & Noble for a dollar. If an author’s book is bought up for a movie, he or she may make a couple of hundred thousand from that, but selling movie rights is also very rare compared to the number of books an author may write.
I’m not whining about not making a lot of money from selling books. I write because I’ve always been a writer, you just didn’t know it. And there is a satisfaction out of producing first-rate and entertaining reading material for people who appreciate a decent story written well. I have a helluva time trying to find a good book to read myself so, by comparison, I don’t have a single thing that I have written that I am not proud of. My novels are well done with interesting characters that readers can identify with, and plots that have enough twists and turns to hold a reader’s interest.
So, obviously I don’t do it for the money. But as the quote from Josh Billings says on my book web page http://johnbeckmanbooks.com “The only reason for being a professional writer, is that you can’t help it.” And, because of that, I have two more that I am working on right now.