Monday, September 30, 2013

Picture Book Workshop #33: INCOME

When I was at a recent library presentation (for adults,) I was asked, "Is writing lucrative?"

The short answer is No.  No it's not.  

This surprises people (and kids) because most people think being a published author is like the top panel...

...but it's really like the bottom panel.

It's like anything really.  There are levels.  In acting, you have your movie stars (George Clooney), you lesser known TV actors (Lamorne Morris, who plays Winston on FOX's New Girl), and your buddy Fred who does local car commercials and recently got a role in your community theater's Fiddler on the Roof production.

George Clooney is making BIG MONEY.
Lamorne Morris, (I'm sure) is doing fine, but probably doesn't have a house in Europe.
Fred works full time as a manager at Staples and does his acting as a fun hobby which he sometimes gets paid for.  Sweet!

Most writers are in the Fred category.  Most writers need some other source of income.
One of the writers in my critique group is also a literary agent and another is a full-time school librarian.
I am extremely fortunate to be married to a man who pulls a good income which supports the family. (Thanks, honey!) Anything I make is extra.  I sell a book, we can afford a new roof - that kind of thing.

I once read a fact that an author has to have at least six books in print and be doing school visits to actually make a living as an author.  I don't know if that holds true today, but it seems about right.  And that's not a George Clooney living.  That's a supporting-actor-in-a-cable-show living.

See, an author makes money three ways: book advances (the money the publisher gives you when you sell a book to them,) royalties (the money the publisher pays you when you've sold enough books to cover your advance and you get a small percentage of each book sold after that,) and appearances (money paid to an author by schools or libraries for doing a presentation.)

If you figure an author sells a book a year (which is GREAT) to a big publishing house (which is AWESOME), they might get an advance of say $10,000 - $16,000.

For the sake of math, let's say the advance is $15,000.00

Now let's take 15% off for your agent.  We're down to $12,750.00.

But hey - you just got a royalty check for $1200.00.

And you booked 5 school visits at $500.00 a pop this year.  That's $2500.00.

You're up to: $16,450.00.  Not too shabby.  But that's for a year.  It's not a big income for a year.  I think my starting income as a receptionist when I was 22 was $17,000.00.  And I was single, in a small apartment, with no kids.

There's an excellent article by author Barbara Kanninen here which is much more detailed than mine, but the basic idea is this: if you're looking for a way to get rich, kid's books ain't it.

But if you want to be a writer, write.  There are great rewards - most of which are not monetary.  Just don't quit your day job yet.

Or marry George Clooney.  :)


Maureen said...

LOL. Great breakdown, especially of the George Clooneys vs. Freds of the writing world. Also loved the illustration of the "Money Delivering Guy" saying, "Make it last." How true it is!

Lucia Sasaki said...

Hi Julie, thanks for your post.
Nowadays I wait for them, specially your writer's workshop.
Your ilustrations are clever and funny, they make smile always.
Thanks for George Clooney comparison, it is very elucidative.
It is always a pleasure reading your writer's workshop.
Great week!!


Mirka Breen said...

The juxtaposition of the word "writing" with "lucrative" is funny for most of us who do it and actually sell anything.Even funnier when it comes to PBs.

But to be fair, it is for a handful(or two) of PB authors.

Thanks for an excellent post.

Julie_c said...

Hi Maureen - thanks so much for your comment!

Lucia - it's always so nice to hear from you!

Hi Mirka - hopefully the day will come when we both find writing to be lucrative. (Fingers crossed!)

Thanks for stopping in!

Leandra Wallace said...

Fun, informative post. Thanks!