After all this talk about book advances lately, here’s something about the other side of the coin: royalties. Author Lynn Viehl posted on the GenReality blog, in which she’s a member, detailing her first royalty statement after getting on the New York Times bestseller list. This isn’t Viehl’s first book, but it’s her first to reach the NY Times bestseller list.
Viehl is very open about the revenue she received from the book so far. Her advance was $50,000, and her first royalty statement was for a little over $27,700, which is subtracted from her advance. She has to reach earnings over $50K before she’ll start receiving an actual royalty check.
This is a modest advance compared to the $4.8 million Audrey Niffenegger received for her second book, but it’s probably much more realistic for the average writer. As Viehl points out, not all NY Times bestseller authors are making buckets of money.
But, of course, they are doing something they love, which is wonderful. Sure, the money is great, and wouldn’t we all love to be getting paid for writing, but if we’re writing because we want to make millions of dollars, we’re wasting our time. Writing a novel, then editing it, then editing it some more, then polishing it, then researching agents, then submitting to agents, then revising the novel some more, etc., all while we’re working at a different job so we can pay our bills, takes a lot of time and hard work, and there’s no guarantee of millions of dollars at the end of that road. To do this, you have to love it.
The other interesting thing Viehl points out in her post is that she didn’t do a whole lot to market this book. She has done more to market her previous books, and this is the sixth in a series. So, why did it make it to the NY Times bestseller list? Viehl says it’s her readers. Basically, after six books in the series, she has managed to build an audience over time.
This makes me think of something else that’s so important in this industry, whether you’re published or unpublished: persistence. I think it’s important in everything you do, but especially in publishing. You need to be persistent to write your novel and finish your novel. You need to be persistent in revising it until it’s the best that it can be. You need to be persistent until you have signed with a good agent (and I don’t mean persistent as in stalking agents, just persistently researching and submitting, writing the best query letter, etc.). Then, once you have a book deal, you need to be persistent with the rest of your career, including marketing yourself — within your means, as Viehl points out — and your work.
Most of all, be persistent in enjoying your writing, because if you don’t enjoy it, it’s not worth it.