ASK EM — what do authors REALLY make?

Keyboard with Tips and Tricks Button.

I’ve been asked this twice recently:



I’m going to express myself as calmly as possible, because my opinions on this topic are strong. I’m going to try to prove to the new authors/small authors/ frustrated authors that not everyone is making zillions of dollars and selling movie rights.

This is a myth. Just like most people believe I’m a size 2 and several inches taller, they think 6 figures a year pass into my bank account. I’m only telling you the truth because I know how much it sucks to believe you’re the only one working hard for such a long time before you see results.


FACT: Most authors earn less than $400 a month.

They don’t call writers starving artists for nothing. Only the top 9% of all authors actually make 5 figures a year. Did you know that? The industry is a hard one to earn in, but if you’re doing it for the right reasons, you’ll make a go of it eventually. What are the right reasons?


You love writing. You can’t stop, and you’re driven to share your stories with the world, even if it’s 5 book sales a month.


Authors have heard a shit-ton of overnight success stories. We’re raised on them, sucking on them in our infancy of publication. We want those things to happen to us. But frankly, the chances are slim. Just like these chances:


Some singers never have given a public performance then go on The Voice and win the whole competition.

Some people who played Powerball only one time hit millions.

Some authors write a book in two weeks, throw it up on Amazon unedited, and sell 10k copies in a weekend (seen this)


I know authors who have made 5 figures on a book they’ve never spent a single day promoting. I’ve also seen a lot of authors finally get there through massive promotional efforts. Blood, sweat and tears, baby! I’m here to tell you that hard work will pay off eventually.


So my opinion is sometimes you hit the lottery with the very first ticket. Sometimes you buy ticket after ticket, writing more and better books. Over time, you might win $10 here, $25 there. You might win big too, and become one of those success stories.


The important thing is DO WHAT YOU LOVE and keep trying. Eventually the money will come. But if you stop buying tickets, you’ll never win.


Thanks for reading!



11 comments on “ASK EM — what do authors REALLY make?

  1. If I had a dollar for every time my mother in law asked me if I was working on the next NYT best seller, I’d be rich…Maybe I should start asking her to give me a dollar every time the words come out of her mouth?

  2. Great post, Em. Inspirational. I agree totally.

  3. Great post, and very true. Got to write because we love it, because we certainly might not earn from it 😀

  4. Wonderful post Em. We all do it for the love (addiction) to writing. Yeah getting the money does help even if it’s only a time piece of the pie

  5. LOL….I had once had a friend tell me to let him know when I got a $10K advance and THEN he’d tell people he knew a ‘real’ author. But five years later and 13 books published, he admitted ‘maybe’ he was wrong, and took me out for dinner.

  6. Great post! When it’s all said and done, I try to focus on how much pleasure I got from writing. I’ll never regret those hours.

  7. Excellent Blog!

  8. Well said.! 🙂 ❤ You!

  9. Good post, Em. Where did you get your figures out of curiosity??

    • Hi Maddie. These figures were from articles I’ve read in the last 6 months, but when I went to cite them in my blog, I couldn’t find the links anyway. I’m sorry about that. Thanks for stopping by!

  10. Thanks for the dose of reality, Em. CNN had a feature a few months ago about people writing dinosaur/human erotica (?) . Apparently some woman made $30,000 in a month selling her books on line. There are some things money just can’t tempt me to do and one of them is penning a book with Barney’s ancestor as my Alpha male hero!

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