Sunday, 29 April 2012

The Truth About Writers' Earnings

Because I've been asked a lot of questions lately about the workings of the literary world, and it seems that there is a lot of misinformation out there, I thought some statistics might put things into perspective!

Info gleaned on the publishing industry from my agent Luigi Bonomi of LBA includes the following:

  • The number of novels received to his agency in one year is around 5,000
  • The number of writers taken on is less than 10 
So there is - roughly - only a one in five hundred chance of a book being taken on by an agent. Once this hurdle is passed though, there are the following statistics to look forward to:
  • Out of 200,000 titles published annually, 190,000 of these sell less than 3,000 copies
  • Of 85,000 d├ębut titles, 60,000 sell an average of only 18 copies
  • It is generally reckoned that 20,000 copies need to sell for a publisher to recoup their costs
So it is clear that, with only 5% of titles selling more than 3,000 copies, almost none of the books released by a publisher make enough to cover their costs - a frightening thought!

This helps to explain the low advances generally paid to authors - the average is apparently just a few hundred pounds. 

This is also why authors actually receive very little per copy, despite what people often think!

Royalties are normally between 7.5 to 12.5% of the book's price, so on an average £6.99 paperback, the author would earn between 52p to 87p per copy. 

To earn a minimum wage of £12,000 per year, an author would have to sell 14,000 to 23,000 copies. And if the books are bought discounted, they may get even less, and if it's second hand, they earn nothing!

Please consider this the next time you are buying a book!

On a positive note though, the flip side to these statistics is that the small percentage of books that do sell well, make enough to support the entire industry, and make everything else writers do possible!

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