How Much Do Authors Make? – Rarely Enough to Live on


Is being an author worth it?

How much do authors make?

I’m pretty sure this is one of the most common search questions by aspiring authors. It was certainly one of the things I searched for first.

It was totally the wrong question to be asking.

What I was really trying to figure out was, ‘Will writing a book be worth it?’ and that is a completely different question – for me the answer to this question is a resounding YES. But it won’t be for everyone, and that’s OK.

Let’s first address the issue of how much do authors make. There are some pretty doom and gloom statistics out there: in summary, most authors will not make enough to live on. So, if that’s what you’re hoping to hang your hat on, then it might not be the vocation for you.

But if we flip back to the real heart of the question: will it be worth it? This is a much trickier one to answer, and far more important in my book.

I’ll confess that when I initially starting dreaming about Becoming an Author my daydreams revolved around selling a few books for megabucks and then being able to sit back and enjoy a life of leisure living off royalties. It’s still a nice dream, and one I’ll happily embrace if it comes my way.

But having done the research I realise it’s probably not going to happen.
Most authors who vie for the traditional publishing route will struggle to get a foot in the door, and when they do their royalties will likely be eaten up by agent fees and publishing charges.

With self-publishing you get to keep more of the cash you make, but the market is so crowded these days that rising to the top, where you’ve got chances of making reasonable money, can be a challenge.

By the way, this is certainly not me saying that your shouldn’t attempt to get published either via traditional publisher or self-publishing. I’m simply stating the facts as they currently stand – I truly believe that you should absolutely go for it, you could be one of the success stories, and I really hope you are!

One day I totally plan to try and get published, so I’d be a bit of a hypocrite to suggest you don’t. (And my hope is to share my learnings with you, which could well include how to make money from Becoming an Author – but I’m not quite there yet).

My point is that money shouldn’t be the sole reason for writing your book. Wanting to write a book is the best reason to write a book.

This is where the question of worth comes up again. Money aside, is it worth your time and energy to write a book? As I say, not an easy one to answer. But here are a few things I’ve grappled with in my quest to find an answer:

  • Do you just feel compelled, as if by a force outside yourself, to write a book?
  • Is your story idea something you love?
  • Would you still be proud of your story even if no one else ever got to read it?
  • Do you get a giddy feeling when you finally sit down to write, or when you write a really good sentence?
  • Would other people get something from your book? (could apply to fiction or nonfiction)

If you answered yes to at least one of those, then I’d argue that yes, writing a book is worth it for you.

Book in shape of heart
For me, becoming an author is all about the love of writing.

Like me, you might need to do a bit of internal work to really push aside the dreams of riches as being your primary focus (honestly they still crop up). But it is worth it, because you get really clear on why you want to write a book, it does actually become a smidgen easier to actually do it.

It also takes a huge amount of pressure off of you. If, for example, I knew that my book was guaranteed to make me money I’d have rushed it out months ago. I wouldn’t have tinkered with it, and toiled over it the way I have.

In some ways this is a good and bad thing – if I’d have been guaranteed an income I’d have got it done quicker, which is a plus. But it wouldn’t have been the same quality – which is definitely a bad thing. And I think if I’m really honest, it would have taken some of the joy out of it.

I’m a writer by trade, and even when I’m writing about a topic that really interests me, I know that I don’t get the same joy from it if it’s for work, as I would just doing it for me.

This blog, for example, is infinitely more enjoyable to write, than even the most ‘fun’ topics in my day job. That’s because I know I’m doing it for me, for a purpose that I care deeply about.

Add in a salary, deadlines, and countless expectations, and I’m sure the enjoyment would drop drastically.

It’s the same with writing a book: doing it just for me gives me the freedom and excitement that I’m seeking. There are no expectations or strict rules (not yet anyway), and I love it. So for me, writing is so worth it because it’s just for me.

Yes, I do want to publish one day, and I do hope to make some money from it, but at least for now I don’t have to worry about anyone else, and for me that’s very freeing.

But that’s just me. What about you? Do you write because you love it? Because you feel like you just have to get your story out? Or are you hoping to generate your main income from it? (which is absolutely fine too – as I’ve said, writing is all about what’s right for you!).

Maybe you’ve already reached that point? If so, share your story too – we’d all love to know how it happened for you.

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