September 23rd, 2009


publish your book and get rich quick (not)

Over at the BookEnds blog, Jessica has a post about planning your future income -- on how much an author might reasonably expect for an advance. In comments, someone mentions how easy it is to look at the Stephen Kings and Stephanie Meyers of the world and feel they, too, can write a book and make a million dollars and be set for life.

Some don't seem to realize that bestselling authors represent only a small percentage of working writers. (Though, as an aside, I do wonder what Stephen King's first advance was....) Based on some of the first-timer queries I get, it also seems there are a number of people who don't realize how competitive the field is for becoming published in the first place, and how much more likely it is to get a $5,000-$10,000 advance for a debut than a six-figure deal. One should also note that not every book published gets made into a blockbuster movie.

It's too bad this perception can set up unrealistic expectations for getting started and building a career in writing. But it seems prevalent from a number of different perspectives. So many writers who have garnered that first contract offer mention that they were immediately asked by family and/or friends -- or even people they were only marginally acquainted with -- how much they made (is it rude to ask?) and when they'd be sharing the wealth. Like they've won the lottery or something.

My favorite was a recent email I received from a real estate agent. I have no idea where they found my email address or what possessed them to contact me. They were asking me to let my clients know about a property they had for sale - a mountaintop retreat that would permit my client to work in peace and solitude. How much was this gem listed for? 2 1/4 million dollars.

Go figure.