So…This Is Awkward… aka The Financial Realities of Authordom

Ally Writing 6 Comments

Over on my blog this week, I talked about my own personal definition of success. (Hint: It doesn’t involve money.)

The idea for this post came from a question I saw in an “author” Facebook group. “What does success look like to you?”

The typical answers centered around authors being able to quit their full-time jobs or support their families. Five years ago, when independent publishing was just taking off, that may have been possible. Today, however, I don’t believe it’s attainable for the vast majority of authors.

Before I go any further, let me assure you that there are still some breakout stars in both indie and traditional publishing. Back to the point at hand, though. Can you really expect to support your family on your author earnings?

Probably not.

I know, that’s not what you wanted to hear. According to The Guardian, half the writers polled in a survey by Digital Book World made less than $3000 per year on their writing. A full third made less than $500 per year.

Surprised? I admit, I was and I wasn’t. You see, publishing isn’t cheap. You can write a book with nothing more than pen and paper (or a basic laptop, or even a typewriter). In order to publish, however, you need more. You need a professional editor, a cover designer, and finally, an experienced formatter. Then there’s the marketing costs. Whether you’re planning on querying traditional publishers or self-publishing, there are certain expenses you can’t escape and others you’ll either pay for out of pocket or with a percentage of your royalties.

But wait, do I have to spend money to publish?

Independent publishing is free. Sort of. Creating an account on the various book retailer sites doesn’t cost you a cent. Beyond needing an internet connection and access to a computer, you can technically produce a book without spending a dime. Querying a traditional publisher is free as well. Finish your novel, write a query letter, and send it off with no out-of-pocket expense. However, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should

At the minimum, if you’re going to query a traditional publisher, you should pay for a professional editor to help you put your best foot forward. If you’re planning on self-publishing, you’ll need an editor, proofreader, cover designer, and possibly a formatter. Regardless of how you publish, you’ll also need to spend money on marketing.

Isn’t that going to cost a lot?

Get ready. I’m going to rip off the Band-Aid.


Quality services cost money. When you start to think about your publishing path, you should also start to plan for the various expenses you’ll incur along the way.

Over the next few weeks, I hope you’ll join us for a detailed look at the financial realities of being an author. We’ll talk about when to spend money and when to save, how you can tell whether you’re getting the best bang for your buck, and we’ll offer some suggestions to give your books an edge. While we can’t guarantee financial success, we can definitely help you put together a book you can be proud of.

Do you have a question about the realities of authordom? Leave us a comment!


Comments 6

  1. Good to surface those financial realities early on, Ally. I hate raining on anyone’s parade, but it’s best to know it is tough to make a living from writing early on to set realistic expectations…,do-able but difficult.

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