Writing? Show me the money!

February 10, 2007

Writers write for a large variety of reasons: a compelling drive to do so, the desire to document an experience, the challenge of putting to words something that previously only existed in the imagination.

And then there are those who write with the dream of FAME, of getting published, of making millions…of going on book tours, signing copies, all the cache that comes with celebrity.

How many copies do you think you’d need to sell in order to have a bestseller? According to some sources, the answer is much less than you might imagine. In fact, in 1996, only 11 titles total sold over a million copies in the whole year! That was over ten years ago…granted, but according to a 2006 article in Publishers Weekly, there are about 200,000 titles published every year, of which less than 1% make it to the “Bestseller Lists.”

And what is a bestseller, anyway? Well, it’s relative, depending on what list it is, in which country, etc. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestseller for more on this.

Another great resource on the topic (pertaining directly to Canada, but applicable in the U.S. as well) is http://www.writersunion.ca/industry.pdf — which demonstrates how an author who sells over 10,000 copies of a book would probably make somewhere in the neighborhood of $13,750 dollars.

Bottom line? You’ve got to love writing, and be doing it for the right reasons. True, some get rich, but the odds are not playing in your favor. Love your writing, your characters, your topics…enjoy them…cherish the whole experience: it’s likely the highest pay you’re gonna get.

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