So How Much Money Will You Make From Writing a Book?

by Mack Collier

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I’ve always tried to be brutally honest with y’all when it come to money in this space because:

1 – It helps you trust the content I create here

2 – Being transparent is more comfortable for me than being vague

3 – Too many people in this space have wild misconceptions about how much money is or is not being made here, which leads to gossip and bitterness that’s a complete waste of time

Since I first mentioned last year that I was writing a book and then more so when it was published, people have been curious about the process.  How long did it take?  How do they get started?  And yes, how much money can they make?

I wanted to address the money part here, because again, I believe there are some big misconceptions.  There are three ways that an author makes money directly from their book:

1 – The advance

2 – Royalties off book sales

3 – Reselling the book themselves (typically you can buy your book for at least half off cover price, and sell it anywhere your publisher isn’t.  Such as on your website, but not on Amazon)

The Advance  

In most cases, if you are writing your first business book, you can expect to get an advance of $4,000 to $10,000.  The key thing to remember about that advance is that it’s an advance, so you have to pay that money back.  And remember that if it’s your first book, you are largely an unproven commodity to publishers, so they are less likely to give you a bigger advance.

Royalties off books sales

In most cases, publishers will offer you a contract where you get 10-15% royalties off each sale.  Now there is a big qualification to this number.  Some publishers will offer you that rate off list price (Gross royalties), and some will offer you that rate off the amount of profit they make off the book (net royalties).  The net amount is typically 50% of the book’s price.

So for example, if a book as a list price of $25.00, that means that if your contract says you get 10% royalties off list, then you will get $2.50 per book.  If you are getting 10% of net profits, then you’d get around $1.25 per book.  From my experience talking to other authors and receiving multiple contract offers for TLARS, it seems that most publishers in this space prefer to offer net royalties.

Additionally, you will likely get a higher royalty rate for ebooks, plus you may be offered a higher royalty rate as your sales of the book increase.  You should ask the publisher for both.

So let’s do some quick math here:  Let’s say you get a $5,000 advance for your book and you get 10% royalties net profit, and the book’s list price is $25.00.  That means you are making $1.25 per book, and that you will need to sell 4,000 copies of your book just to break even.  Thus the averages say that you will never make a penny from royalties off sales of your book (earn out).  The average US non-fiction book sells about 250 copies a year and around 3,000 copies over its lifetime.

Scared yet?  We haven’t even covered the time commitment involved.

So how long does it take to write a book?

Publishers vary in how long they will give you to write a book.  Wiley and Que/Pearson seem to want most authors to spend 3-4 months on the actual writing process, then move to editing, etc (UPDATE:  Make sure you check the comments as QUE’s Katherine Bull chimes in with more information on how the writing process works for them).  One of the reasons I decided to go with McGraw-Hill was because they were willing to give me a bit more time to write TLARS, I actually ended up getting about 6 months to work on the writing until we moved to the editing process.  All told, the editing and writing of Think Like a Rock Star took nine months.

Here’s the big problem: The amount of your advance will not come close to covering the amount of time it will take you to write the book.  Let’s assume that you spend just 10 hours a week on writing your book, and that it takes you a total of 8 months to finish it.  That’s 320 hours you have invested in writing this book.  Assuming you get a $5,000 advance, that means your hourly rate for writing the book was $15.63.  For reference, I spent around 25 hours a week on TLARS, for 9 months.

So this brings up the obvious question: When are you going to find time to write this book?  If you already have a full-time job, then your nights and weekends are probably going to disappear for a few months.  If you work for yourself as I do, then you may have to make the tough decision to turn down some work in order to work on your book.  Which is what I decided to do.

Now another option is to bring on a co-author.  This halves the work for you, but of course it also halves the amount of the advance you get, and the amount you make from any royalties in the future.

But wait, what about marketing and promoting the book?

Yep, after the writing and editing is done (really it starts months before that), you then have to start marketing and promoting the book.  One thing I wanted to touch on is the quest to hit the bestseller lists that a lot of authors get excited about when writing a book.

The idea is this:  If you can sell enough copies of the book in one week (typically launch week is your best bet), then the book may qualify for bestseller lists.  How many copies you need to sell is a very vague and floating number, and can depend on several factors such as what other books are coming out during the same week.  In general it seems that at least 2,000-3,000 copies sold during one week is needed.   Since we’ve already established that the average non-fiction book doesn’t sell 3,000 copies over it’s lifetime, then you can work out the odds of your book hitting the bestsellers list.  IOW, if you don’t have 100,000 people on your mailing list, good luck.

This is where I really screwed up.  Now I started planning out my marketing for TLARS as soon as I started working on it a year ago.  And early on I realized that this book likely wasn’t going to make any bestseller lists.  Again, I just don’t have a big enough platform to drive the needed sales in a concentrated period.  But, what I thought I would do is sell as many pre-orders as possible in the year leading up to the book’s launch.  Based on my research, I realized that Amazon will count all the pre-orders as ‘new sales’ during the launch week (or when they officially begin offering the book for sale).  So what I started doing last year was speaking and working in exchange for pre-orders!  For example, I might waive my speaking fee for this event, if they agree to pre-order 100 copies of TLARS.

My thinking was this:  Let’s say I sell 500 pre-orders of TLARS, and when the book launches in April, those 500 pre-orders will count as ‘new’ sales of the book, and push TLARS way up the sales rankings.  Unfortunately, it turns out I as dead wrong about how Amazon calculates sales.  The research on all of this seemed to be unclear about a few things, and one of them was how Amazon handles bulk sales.  So after months of accepting pre-orders instead of $$$, I finally found out that Amazon counts bulk orders as one sale.  For example, if you pre-order 100 copies of my book, Amazon will view it as if you only pre-ordered ONE copy, since the order is being placed on ONE credit card.

Which essentially meant in Amazon’s eyes I sold several hundred fewer copies than I actually did.  For reference, the book’s sales rank peaked at 20,600 on April 1st.  If the per-orders had each been counted as individual sales, the sales rank for the book would have likely been around 500 or less on launch.  Which would have driven many additional sales because it would have been featured far more prominently on the site, on the hot new releases lists, etc etc.  But live and learn.  The main reason I wanted to talk about trying to make the bestseller list is that it is really hard to do on your first book unless you have a huge promotional platform.

So then why in the world would anyone want to write a book?    

In my mind you don’t write a book to make money, you write a book to start a conversation.  You write a book because you have an idea that you are passionate about, that you want to share with the world.  If others find value in that idea, then you can make money indirectly off your book.

But in reality, I think the best way to approach writing a book is that you want to create something of value for others that will enable them to do something positive.  A book that will be a tool for them to help them reach their goals and have greater accomplishments.

If you can do all that, then the money will take care of itself.

UPDATE:  Getting some comments from others pointing out how a book gives you credibility and builds your awareness and how THAT leads to money for you.  All of this is completely correct BUT how you position your book is crucial.  If you are writing your book and at the same time thinking about how it will lead to bigger speaking fees and higher consulting rates for you, then it can easily impact your writing.  As Kathy was telling me when I was working on TLARS, ‘most of the things that authors add to their books to make them sound smart, makes the reader feel stupid’.  The point is if you are writing your book consciously as a tool to make more money, it’s probably going to make the book less valuable to the reader because it won’t be as focused on what’s best and valuable for the reader.  So write the book that helps the reader kick-ass at whatever they are doing, and the money will take care of itself!

James Dabbagian May 23, 2013 at 12:27 pm

I want to write a book, but mainly a technical How-To manual for how to building a presence online on the cheap, for when I start offering seminars.

Mack Collier May 23, 2013 at 12:49 pm

James if I were you, I would consider doing that as an ebook, you will get more of the money, plus I think publishers will be hesitant to jump on a book like that unless you have a VERY unique hook. IOW, that topic has been covered before, which is why you need a hook.

If you aren’t already, start following Jim Kukral, he has a ton of information on self-publishing, and is a big proponent of it versus going with a publisher.

Daria Steigman May 23, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Hi Mack,

One of the things I really appreciate about you is your honesty on the business front. I love how you broke down the “advance” cost by hours of work. I’ve done that on a couple of projects where I joked I ended up pretty much working for minimum wage. Fortunately I don’t usually make the same mistake twice.

Obviously, having a book opens doors (and hopefully shakes loose new dollars). But at the end of the day, if it’s not a kick-ass book that provides real value then the “bump” will always be only temporary. I love that TLARS is focused on making your readers smarter and not in dropping in fancy words to show off how erudite you can be. (See how I worked the word “erudite” into my comment.)

I was giving a talk on entrepreneurship the other day, and during the Q&A a couple of people referred to how smart I was. The point I kept making: I’m smart now because I screwed up all this stuff and learned from my mistakes–and want to share them so you don’t do the same.

Mack Collier May 23, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Thank you Daria, and kudos on using erudite in your comment ;)

The book definitely helps with exposure and awareness. For example, as soon as my book went on sale, traffic here went up about 10-15%. I can’t really tell why other than it seems to be more people ‘knew’ about me because of the book. And it did immediately get me more interest in speaking, I’ll be speaking more in my home state over the next 5 months than I have over the last 5 years.

And I love your point about being smart because you learned from your mistakes. I can already see how writing and marketing my next book will be SO much easier because of the things I have already learned from this experience.

Connie Reece May 23, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Great post, Mack. I can verify everything you said about the way publishing works — advance, royalties, marketing, etc. The only thing I didn’t know (and an expensive lesson for you) was how Amazon counted those bulk sales. I would have thought exactly the same, that they would have counted the number of copies pre-ordered, not the number of pre-orders. You just helped some new authors with great advice. And it sounds like you were getting some valuable advice from Kathy all along. She was one of my original “rock stars” in this space. And you too!

Mack Collier May 23, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Thanks Connie! A lot of the information was conflicting, it seems some people were saying that B&N counted bulk orders individually, some said no.

But really I think the best marketing for a book is your fans. Someone should write a book about that ;)

Jeffrey Eisenberg May 23, 2013 at 1:23 pm

This is an excellent post Mack, with great advice. Bryan and I have decided that we probably will never work with a traditional publisher again. This despite that fact that the two books that had traditional publishers made the NY Times, Businessweek, USA Today and WSJ best seller lists. There are many publishing models that allow for greater control, higher profits and best of all reader intimacy.

Mack Collier May 23, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Jeffrey that’s an interesting take on the publishing world. As I told Daria I have learned a LOT about this process from the first book and there are several things I will definitely change for next time.

Katherine Bull May 23, 2013 at 1:35 pm

Mack, this is a great round-up covering many of the pros/cons of writing a book.

One small correction: Que/Pearson generally allows for 6 months of writing time for biz-tech authors. Add the 90 days for production and printing and it is nine months. We work super hard upfront with authors to make sure they will be successful by giving them a reasonable amount of writing time. So, I always ask: What big events are coming up in the next six months? Are you getting married? Are you having a baby? Do you have a humungo project deadline at work? Are you going to Tahiti for a month?

Balanced with that is the time to market aspect. If an author can’t get a book written in a year, it may be too late due to market conditions. It is a tricky business with writing time and deadlines with many factors to consider for both the publisher and the author.

Now, where the writing time DOES get compressed is on consumer books, such as gadgets. First to have the device and first to publish is critical in the publishing world. That makes sense, right?

Anyway, just wanted to give a bit of detail from inside a publishing house.

Katherine

Mack Collier May 23, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Hey Katherine! And thanks for the insights, I’ll edit the post to point people here to read your take.

Katherine Bull May 23, 2013 at 1:49 pm

No problem! Getting a book out the door to meet market and author needs is an art not a science. Sometimes you get it right and other times you don’t. And, don’t get me started on being too early to market! :-)

Danny Brown May 23, 2013 at 1:57 pm

And this is why it was such a pleasure working with you, Katherine. As a first-time print author, the support and advice from Que and your team was awesome and much appreciated. :)

Katherine Bull May 23, 2013 at 10:04 pm

Thanks, Danny!

Spike Jones May 23, 2013 at 3:31 pm

Nice write-up, Mack.

The only thing that I’d add is to WHY write a book. You’re right, I always tell people that you’ll never make money off of the actual selling of the book. But what the book does is establish your credibility (if it’s based on what you’ve done or learned through what you’ve done) and put your thought leadership out there in the world.

You’re right, how you make the money is the business that comes from people reading or talking about the book (you knew I’d work WOM in here somehow, eh?). And then, of course, there’s the speaking fees. Before the book, it was harder to get paid to speak. Now? Not so much.

Mack Collier May 23, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Hey Spike. You’re totally right in that the book can absolutely raise your profile make it easier to get speaking, charge more for work, etc etc etc. All that stuff can absolutely be a happy byproduct of writing a good and valuable book.

But….

I think if you write the book with all of that in mind, then you’re going to actually hurt your chances of having the book be successful. If someone is considering writing a book, I don’t want them to read this post and think ‘well hell these guys seem to be saying that you won’t make money off the book, you’ll make money BECAUSE of the book!’ Because if you focus too much on how the book CAN make you money, it can easily affect how you actually write the book. You (meaning any author) may subconsciously focus on trying to establish themselves as ‘the expert’ and talk to the reader in a 201-level voice, when they need 101-level teaching.

‘Most of the things that authors add to their books to make them sound smart, makes the reader feel stupid’.

I honestly think if you are writing a book that as a writer you (especially DURING the writing process) need to complete divorce yourself from the possible benefits to YOU (as the writer) and only focus on writing a kick-ass book for the reader. It’s tough to do, but I think it ultimately makes the book much more valuable for the reader.

And to clarify, you know this, but I want to make sure the gal that’s reading this that wants to write a book knows this.

Megan November 8, 2013 at 1:35 pm

Hey um…I was wondering how I will know if i’m able to trust the people i work with when publishing my book. I also want to know how much money I should save up in order to start looking for a publisher because i heard that they give you a money advance so you can get your story out there. So with advertising and everything else plus unseen or unknown expenses how much will all of this cost me? please email me at: meganvamp96@yahoo.com with any information you have regarding this. Thank you.

John J. Wall May 24, 2013 at 6:29 am

Great post Mack, a business book is the best resume you can write but it’s no get rich quick scheme.

Mack Collier May 24, 2013 at 8:50 am

Thanks John, I think that’s a great way of putting it!

Diana Loera May 24, 2013 at 11:49 am

Hi Mack!
I enjoyed reading your article. The info about counting bulk orders as one sale made me go eeeeeeek!
I self publish and make a decent and growing stream of income. As a long time direct marketer, I found that utilizing all that I have learned with direct marketing and applying it to book selling was a winning plan.
I also agree with you – the book has to be written to help the reader (not because an author wants to make money).
Several of my books reveal my strategies for success and how I made money (selling at a flea market, placing TV advertising without paying for it upfront and now, most recently, how I generate Kindle book sales). A reader can utilize my plan and not have to go through all the trial and error that I did. I think if a person “pays it forward” it pays off so I work hard to over deliver and I can see that you do too. :)
Thanks for reading my post. I’ll look forward to receiving more of your emails!
Best Regards,
Diana Loera

Dustin Staiger May 26, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Mack, I agree with the other comments that this is great information. I’m curious, did you find that the process of writing a book helped you codify your ideas? I know that my ideas crystallize when I have to put them to paper or create a blog post. I’m curious if book writing fleshes it out even further for you.

Mack Collier May 26, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Dustin! Good to see you again, it’s been a while!

The writing process absolutely strengthened the ideas in the book. In fact, the first 6 chapters were each directly inspired by one or more posts here.

But the problem is, you have to find a way to take an idea in a 500-750 word blog post, and expand it out into a 5,000-7,500 word chapter. So that pretty much forces you to either strengthen your idea as you expand it, or you quickly realize it’s crap and that you can’t flesh it out further.

I was extremely lucky that Kathy Sierra was effectively my technical editor for the book. So by the time she saw it, I had about 50% of the manuscript written. She then gave me a ton of great feedback on what to change, what to add, and how to rearrange the information in order to better facilitate learning.

Overall, the book’s structure and chapters went through about 3 major revisions. Luckily for me, I was working with some amazing people and each of those revisions made the book stronger.

Dustin Staiger May 27, 2013 at 10:20 pm

Mack, it has been a while. Glad to see you’re still pumping out great ideas. It’s also wonderful to see Kathy helped you with the book writing process. The world is a better place when she has a hand in the development of thought provocation.

Your comments on fleshing out blog post ideas or realizing they’re crap helps me view blog posts in a different light. I don’t know how many drafts sit in my WordPress blog because I just don’t think they’re good enough. But perhaps a tweet becomes a post, becomes a chapter, becomes a book. Seems like there is an evolutionary process to ideas in there.

The fact that writing a book helps you discover what your next book idea makes total sense. It seems like good authors have that kind of continuity in their book releases.

Mack Collier May 31, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Dustin it’s funny you mention the evolutionary process. Check out this Q&A with David Meerman Scott, he riffs on a similar angle – http://www.copyblogger.com/writer-files-david-meerman-scott/

“If a tweet resonates (it gets a bunch of RTs and @ replies) then I consider it good blog post fodder. If a blog post resonates, I’ll explore it with a riff in a speech and maybe another blog post or two. If a series of posts on the same topic resonates, that’s my next book.”

Dustin Staiger June 1, 2013 at 11:02 am

Well, David is a brilliant guy so it’s encouraging to have stumbled upon the same insight (though he put it much more eloquently). Thanks for pointing me to that article Mack! Lots of great thoughts in there and I’ll be going back to that well for inspiration in the future.

Marsha Collier May 26, 2013 at 8:01 pm

Mack,
This sounds like a discussion you and I had three (or four) years ago. I’m glad you got the book out and learned so much. If you enjoy writing, there are always updates to do. Writing books – for my readers – is my passion. It has afforded a nice lifestyle over the years. Like you say, caring about the content is what makes a good book. Readers appreciate it. I look forwrd to seeing what’s up your sleeve next.

Mack Collier May 26, 2013 at 8:06 pm

Thank you, this is old hat to you, but all new to me ;) And something else that writing this book did (Dustin this was another benefit), but it helped me realize what topic I’d want to talk about in my next book. Just need to flesh out the idea a bit more!

Angela May 27, 2013 at 10:15 am

I agree with you. I’ve written several books and articles over the years and have come to the conclusion that I will not invest the time or the energy into an assignment without first knowing I have something to say that will help the reader. Some of my writer friends think I’m crazy for turning down paid assignments, but I don’t feel right offering nothing of value to the reader just so I can pay my bills. Being a writer is first a service to the reader. Any other type of writing is best left in your locked journal at home.

Susan Emerick May 31, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Mack, you’re a Rock Star for being HONEST! Having just finished the writing aspect of a book I’ve co-authored with Chris Boudreaux “The Most Powerful Brand on Earth – How to Transform Teams, Empower Employees, Integrate Partners and Mobilize Customers to Beat the Competition in Digital and Social Media”, I couldn’t agree more – It’s not about the money (you’d be lucky to break even, after you count up the time and energy you put into it) but rather it’s about the PASSION you have about your topic and the true spirit of sharing that passion with others in hopes of helping them benefit from imparting your knowledge and expertise so they (the reader) can benefit! If you focus on that, you reap more returns than money could ever provide!

Mack Collier May 31, 2013 at 12:34 pm

Susan I can’t wait to read that book, thanks for the reminder!

Kevin Hillstrom June 3, 2013 at 6:26 pm

Traditional publishers won’t publish my books, because my “platform” only included 4,500 Twitter followers and 3,000 blog subscribers. They told me I need 10,000 blog subscribers before they will consider my proposals.

So I self-publish my own booklets … each booklet is 40ish pages, and takes a deep dive on a specific topic. I do this through CreateSpace (Amazon), and create an e-book version (Kindle).

Each booklet sells about 200 copies. Each booklet sells about 2 consulting projects per year … and that more than pays for the mortgage.

Success today doesn’t require being a NYTimes Best Selling author. Your readers already have the skills to make a difference, even if only 200 people read their book and no incremental revenue comes from publishing a book / booklet.

Devane Young June 13, 2013 at 2:56 am

im interested in writing a true story about faith determination will power strength romance and how bad siduations dont have to alter your life… you create the path your life goes…but im kinda scared to go public with my story

daniel June 23, 2013 at 7:04 pm

Hi, I was reading your explanation about book x profit end I have a questions. How do you explain the success of brazilian writer Paulo Coelho?

Prajit July 8, 2013 at 9:50 pm

The idea behind the article was somewhat negative and not encouraging for youth who aspire to be a writer. Having said that it’s an eye opener: gives logical justification. I liked the way the writer concluded.

Queenie Huang July 11, 2013 at 1:45 pm

Hey Mack,
I have always loved reading and writing, and I want to become an author. So basically if your book is really good, you can make a lot of money from it, but if it is bad, then you will lose money? Is writing enough to make a living out of it?

Jeff Brown July 18, 2013 at 9:30 am

Hi Mack,
Great Article, and down to Earth realistics especially about the what to expect in making money as in other livelihoods. Eg, readers finding value in the author’s message, thus ultimately earning the rewards indirectly for the writer because the reader also benefited. Very sincere. My only other question, Mack, why is an “advance” (loan) necessary. I’ve never wrote a book to publish but strongly considering a nonfiction currently. Why can’t I just wait until I start receiving income(royalties), if it makes any, instead of having to reimburse the publisher for those royalties against the advancement? Can I choose not to receive any advancement? If I think its what its for, to cover the interim costs, are the costs so high up to the point that its circulated? I think I can handle writing in the interim to support myself without an “advancement”. Thanks Jeff

Mack Collier July 18, 2013 at 9:33 am

Hey Jeff! Good question and you’re right, you don’t have to take the advance if you don’t want it. You can simply write the book without an advance, then as soon as it is published you will start earning and collecting royalties. In fact, taking this approach would likely make it easier for you to find a publisher, especially if this is your first book. I may consider this approach for my second book.

Good luck!

Swapnil Patil July 25, 2013 at 9:52 am

hey mack!
My English is not good, so please forgive me if any grammar mistake..!
I am an Indian. My job is very boring and irritate. i have write some fiction stories in Marathi language. i am not register them. many story ideas come in my mind every day. I want your suggestion. Can i leave my job and make many on my writing skill. Can i do my future good on writing only.

jolievoila August 6, 2013 at 6:31 pm

Hi I need help ASAP.

How much do you get for writing an autobiography? Say like, a person doesn’t have money to pay up front, but is will to give a higher royalty percentage?

I feel silly writing this here, but I don’t have anyone else to advise me.

Your help (or anyone’s help) would be much appreciated.

J

Mark September 2, 2013 at 4:20 am

I have a lot of books that I want to write on different topics from Sci-Fi to Romance to problem solving but I’m not sure which one to publish first.

I’m not looking at making any money off the first book but if I could get one or two good sellers, I would expect to make money on the following one.

I wanted to do a tester first before getting into the major problem solving but after reading this, I’m not sure that’s the way to go.

Any suggestions?

Thanks.

Mark,

san rogers September 8, 2013 at 1:06 pm

i have a book for around 100 pages which i would like to get printed out. how much is the cost to print and have the book binded and how much its going to cost to print around 200 books. is there a way we can ask the publisher to print it or i will have to pay for it…..can there be a deal made with amazon etc tht they do the printing and i get the commsions. its my first time so want to get your feedback on this. thanks

Henal Chokshi September 22, 2013 at 4:00 am

I am an Indian author and writing my first fiction novel in the love-romance / young adult / erotic genre. It would make about 30000-35000 words. Can you please tell me how much a new author would make in fictional books considering the Indian market. Thanks.

Henal Chokshi September 22, 2013 at 4:30 am

Mack let me tell you your article gave me a lot of idea on how this thing basically works. But just like I said in my earlier post that I am an amateur Indian author and do not know the minute details such as what publisher do I approach, how to sell a book as an e-book and so on and so forth. But I do have absolute confidene in my writing and content. I just do not want to lose out because I do not know how to market or publish my book. In the optimum situation I do not want to get into the hassle of finding a publisher etc. Is there any way where I can just present my work and the next process of publishing / e-book sales be looked after by someone else? I will eagerly wait for your comment. Thanks a lot and thanks again:-)

William October 26, 2013 at 3:14 pm

I’m a ghostwriter. I’ve been doing this for about seven years now full-time. It doesn’t take that long to write a book. I can complete a 120,000 word business book in about a week. I’ve never spent three months writing a book, that’s crazy.

Mack Collier October 26, 2013 at 3:17 pm

There’s a big difference between writing 120K words and writing a 120K word book.

Rajiv October 29, 2013 at 1:47 am

what do publishers pay for empowerment books? Can someone throw light on it? Thanks

Tony November 11, 2013 at 8:00 pm

If you are not willing to market your book, you are better off giving your book away. Becoming a successful and paid writer, means being politically savvy, and a bit of a snob, particularly if you are writing non-fiction.

I intend to continue writing, but I’ve had my fill of non-fiction.

Nicola Yeeles November 12, 2013 at 4:24 am

Thanks for your honesty here Mack. As a journalist, I’ve also been fortunate enough to create some spin-off articles to sell to magazines/ websites etc as a result of research for my book The Urban Farmer. Now all I need do is find a publisher ;-)

Sarah December 25, 2013 at 8:27 pm

I wonna write. a book

Amir Makarevich January 9, 2014 at 3:16 pm

Okay, so my life plan (I’m 16) is to move to New York and write diary books or romance books as a hooby, and for my actual job I would like to work as a columnist, never get married and just buy clothes, can my work plan cover my economical expenses? I’d never buy a car, but would like to have a nice little flat with a kitchen, one bedroom, and possibly a bathroom, with all the preety clothes! Could I live that way?

Rickwmc1982 January 10, 2014 at 8:30 pm

My name is Rick and I wrote a book BASEBALL TEAM NAMES which was published last year by McFARLAND. The book has received six good reviews and is listed #37 on the Best 100 Sports Books of 2013. It is on 60 websites – inclduing 30 foreign websites. I’ve only earned a few hundred bucks but I am undaunted. I’m going to write Team Names books on football, basketball, soccer, and ice hockey. With all the jobs on this planet targeted for automation, each person in the world is faced with this dilemma: HOW DO I EARN MONEY? Remember, the more books you write – the better chance you have of earning money for your writing efforts.

Shawanda Gause January 13, 2014 at 11:47 am

hi Mark I was thinking about writing a book of my own about my lifestyle and how I was molested by my moms husband in our first things I think it would be a good book I just need hands up on everything if by my whole life story into a true story I think it would be a good movie too I got a lot to say and I know alot and goes back from when I was 5 years old I can’t remember every freaking thing thank you!!!

Michael Tetrick January 21, 2014 at 5:34 am

Hello, Just wanted to say thanks primarily! I have a few things I have written and I published through lulu.com. Which is an online free publisher on demand and it really hasn’t done a whole lot for me itself, but the tools it allows you to use free is sure worth utilizing. I actually ordered some books (mine) through them after loaded up files and designed cover and they do a great job. FREE well of course you pay wholesale cost on your project. I use the site to tell folks if they wanna buy online other than that I have a local printer who is about the same price to print off whatever quantity I ask for.
I’ve been very successful, well at least in my mind, when it comes to the stuff I have written. The reason is I have is because I have no upfront advance to pay back. Also I use the free networks like Facebook and Myspace to promote through feeds.
There are some really good ways to make money for writing your life’s inspirations. If your ok with baby steps, who knows where they will lead?

Lastly, As you can tell my punctuation and grammar are terrible.
I would like to know ho when you are at the level of having book support how the editing process is done. Obviously they would not want me to edit.

With sincere thanks again for your information. Michael Tetrick
http://www.takethedirtroad.com

Mack Collier January 21, 2014 at 10:07 am

Hey Michael, if you work with a traditional publisher, you will have editors that will go over your writing and correct any punctuation and misspellings, they will also ask you to ‘clean up’ your sentence structure if they aren’t sure what you are trying to say in a particular passage, etc. You’ll have multiple editing rounds, then when they are done you’ll get the manuscript for one final read to see if you catch any errors, etc. Don’t worry, you will have plenty of extra eyes looking over your work!

Saks Afridi January 27, 2014 at 4:17 pm

Hi,
I have a publisher interested in my illustrated humor book.
Question: What is the average royalty percentage in the impulse-buy humor/illustrated book genre? The retail price would be between $12-15.
I think I’m being offered something quite low. But they are very keen on publishing it in their fall 2014 press run.

Can anyone here help please?

MSMalone February 4, 2014 at 3:15 am

Professional writer here and writing professor. Here’s what I teach my students:

1. Only write what you are passionate about. Given that most books are a 6-9 month process, working on a book you don’t care about is a nightmare.

2. You can’t be a professional writer if you can’t write fast. I average 1,000 – 1,500 words per day, every day. That’s a half-million paid words per year.

3. Get the biggest advance you can — in 20 books, I’ve only seen real royalties on two books.

4. Get a good agent. They are worth every penny. As your career progresses trade up in agents.

5. Start selling your next book before you finish your current one. I have a 200K word book coming out in the Spring, co-authoring another that will come out this autumn and co-authoring a third that will come out early 2015. I also have a novel coming out in a few months, another in autumn and currently writing a third. That’s how you earn a living as an author.

6. The best books you can pitch are the ones at the intersection of your passion and the market’s interests. If it’s only the former, keep your day job; if the latter, you risk becoming a hack.

7. You make your money on books from advances, speaking fees, and side contracts. Write a good stump speech based on your book and hit the road — your topic has about a six month lifespan. Get a speaking firm to represent you if you can and get out there and do as many speeches as you can (get your check before you fly home).

Can you turn writing into a full-time career? Yes. My first advance (1984) was $10K. The big book coming out this spring was $150K. For a known author, speaking fees run about $10K/speech. Do the numbers — it’s possible, but it isn’t easy.

Mack Collier February 4, 2014 at 9:35 am

Hi Michael fabulous feedback, thanks for sharing your experiences. I think your 6th point on writing a book based on the intersection of your passion and the market’s interests is key.

Salvatore Giampapa February 5, 2014 at 10:54 pm

Hi Mack, i wanna go about being a author an writing and etc. how should i go about this?

Martinique Campbell February 7, 2014 at 11:35 am

Hi Mack!

Just wanted to say thanks for the information and others who left comments. Very beneficial! I have never considered myself to be a writer but I want to venture out this year and write a book. And you are absolutely right about not chasing the money it will always work out. I personally just want to plant seeds of my life lessons that could possibly help or encourage someone on their journey. That’s pretty much it. As cliche as it sounds if I never make a penny at least I made a difference. May God bless you in all that you do.
Peace
Martinique

chantelle February 17, 2014 at 12:15 pm

I was just wandering I’m 16 and I want to write my own book about my personal life I’ve never done any thing like this before but I thought it would be a change I was just wandering how hard is it to make a book because I think of where to start but I just don’t no wandering if u could help?

Alex Klein March 12, 2014 at 7:09 pm

I’m writing a book and personally don’t care how much money I make as long as I break even, here’s a quick vision of the book –

Two kids are brothers, there was a fire in their manor one night while they were sleeping. One of the brothers, the eldest one, woke up to a man that looked rather scary and was bloody helping him up and the place was ablaze around them. The man who helped him was a vampire hunter he goes on to teach the kid how to be a hunter. The other, the youngest brother, woke up to the sound of his bed breaking and coughing up some blood, when he woke up he saw a scary looking man in his room drenched in blood and looking slightly pale with red eyes, the youngest boy is a vampire and has to avoid hunters and drink the blood of humans in order to survive in the world.

It is a fantasy setting, fiction, and my first book that is about 8% written I’d say, maybe/probably less.

Nick March 22, 2014 at 2:46 am

I consider myself to be a good writer. On the other hand I’m sure garth Brooks considers himself an amazing artist and singer, even tho his music assuredly does not appeal to everyone. But I have had valuable input from people I respect, they provided positive and critical feedback a out some pieces I’ve written, all encourage me to pursue it. I believe I have a great many fictitious stories to tell, and I am equally sure I will feel as passionate about writing these stories as people will to Read them. However I would like to make money by doing so. How likely is it that a writer of the quality of Clive Cussler, Brandon Sanderson or Dean Koontz will be overlooked by a publisher because of how new they are and how unproven they may be?

Neil Love March 29, 2014 at 7:17 am

Hi Matt! Your posts are really informative! Thanks for the “brutally honest” revelations.

I have written a book about my unique experiences working at one of the big three auto Mobile Manufacturers. My questions are more of a legal nature. Do I need the permission of everyone whose name I might mention in my book? Is there a person or place I can refer to for legal advice?

Your article has really been helpful! Keep up the good work.

Mack Collier March 29, 2014 at 9:33 am

Hi Neil! It depends. My understanding is that if you are including an original quote from a person, that you need their permission. If you want to include a quote or reference something they have already said to another source (for example an interview given to a trade publication) then it might be enough to simply reference the interview source.

If you are simply mentioning a person’s name as statement of fact, such as Beth was part of GM’s marketing department from 1995-1999, then that is probably fine. As for everything I’ve said here, I would validate with a publisher who can probably tell you what the rules are.

Neil Love March 29, 2014 at 11:40 am

Thanks for the prompt response Mack! So sorry I misspelled your name in the previous post. That’s the problem with using software that you can dictate to.

Kenneth Neighbors March 29, 2014 at 2:43 pm

Mack,

I have written a fictional thriller. Does it work the same as a non-fiction book? I have a publisher and my work will be out in a couple of weeks. So how can I advertise before my launch date? I know my publisher told me they will help with the adverting, but can I do something now, or should I wait til my book is available? I thought about sending out postcards in the mail. Is that a good idea? Or should I do something else? This is my first time doing something like this, so I want to do all I can in getting the word out about my book. I read your article and it was really informative. My book will also be available as an e-book as well. I would appreciate any thoughts about how I can improve my sells.

Henry Lynn April 3, 2014 at 4:11 pm

Mack,

I find everything you have said in this post to be so beneficial, and especially the feedback to those that commented on your post. So, thanks so much!

I believe I have a book in me that would hopefully impact many lives, beginning with those in high school, but certainly applicable to all adults, too. The book would tackle a broad technical subject that is very relevant today to all. I have a master’s degree in nuclear engineering, but I wondered if I needed to get my PhD to make my book have a stronger pedigree. Any thoughts?

James Flynn April 9, 2014 at 4:27 am

Hi Mark

Great expose on writing and the money connection. In oct 2013 I published my first book (The Fox and The Thistle – a crime fiction story) which, for me, was a real surprise. I never knew I had it in me and only did it to see if I could. I was able to write a 65K fiction book in a couple of months by just chipping away at it in the evenings a few fours here and there while the wife watched the soaps and sitcoms (I was in another room, glass of wine in hand). I loved the whole experience and would never have finished it if I didn’t enjoy it so there has to be enough passion to get over the line with your project.

Book sales did better than I expected and it yields a steady $100-$150 per month on kindle and I have now started the next in the series. So if that continues it will average about $1200 to $1800 per year. Given that I invest nothing in marketing, I just let Amazon do its thing, it makes sense that I concentrate in writing follow ups and build my audience. By writing 2 or 3 of these a year in my ‘down time’ I should be able to build a full time income in approx 3-5 years. They way I look at this is that the first book may do $1200 a year but I built an audience out of that one that will add to the audience bully by subsequent books. Therefore audience and income should snowball if you are a decent writer.

I therefore believe that the biggest mistake most authors (particularly kindle / ebook authors) make is that they give up after the disappointment in sales of their first book. It’s important to keep writing good quality content that people demand and build your audience off the back of that. Just imagine how much exposure you get if you have say ten quality books out there instead of just one. At some point one of them will fly and the others will follow because every new customer may buy multiple, or even all of your books (esp. if the topics are related or complimentary or in a series). This is definitely my strategy at least and I believe serious writers need to think this way. I see you already do this in bucket loads Mark.

My point being whatever you do strategy plus passion plus quality are key for success to follow. This means becoming immersed in the world of your books and understanding the links between them and consistently delivering high value, quality content to build a hungry audience.

Do this and the money will follow.

Denise April 9, 2014 at 3:21 pm

My children’s book has been accepted (deemed enjoyable, good fit and marketable) but they want mony up front. 1/2 now the rest in payments due at the completion of production. Is this customary? If they are giving me royalties, wouldn’t they make their money back?

tiffany mccarter April 22, 2014 at 2:33 pm

Hi my name is tiffany mccarter and i wonder once i get finsh with my book how long do it takes for your book to be known

Garrett Williams April 25, 2014 at 5:13 pm

Hi Mack,
my name is Garrett and me and one of my good friends want to write a book ,and wanted to know how much money we would make from the first book and if made it into a series. We are trying to see if it is a good idea to write the book if we can make enough for both of us ,and for our time spent on the book
Thank You,
Garrett Williams

Jackie Surber May 4, 2014 at 10:23 am

Hi Mack! Thanks for all of your post about writing. I am on fire to write a self help, how to book about alternative treatments for dealing with Trichotillomania, a hair pulling disorder for which there is no known cure. I have personal experience dealing with and mastering this disorder and know i can help others. I don’t know if i will ever write another book, but from reading your posts, I know my heart is in the right place. Thanks for being there to give us who know nothing about the process of writing a little know how.

Jozef May 14, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Hi Mack!

I’ve never ever wrote a book in my life, but there is a German author who wrote a book while traveling and meeting with the natives of my people in the 1800’s. He written down hundreds of myths that’s been told by my ancestors. I wanted to buy and read the book but unfortunately the book is only written in German.

Since the myths and even our native language are a dying breed these days I want to translate the book. Any thoughts about that financially?

Thank you for the insights given above!

Jozef

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