Writing Books/paradise


I notice that many novelists seem to be living the good life,just how lucrative is it to be a novelist.How much do you get paid if you write a best selling book,or just a reasonably good selling novel?
I've heard also that it's real hard to get published in the first place...got any tips(yes I've got aspirations to become a novelist in the scifi/fantasy/horror mold myself. I'll be looking for response everyday-several times a day.Thanks.


When you consider how many published novelists there are, the number who are living the good life is pathetically small.  Most authors who are published by a major publisher fall into the category known as "midlist" authors.  Meaning that they've never had a bestseller, essentially.  You MIGHT recognize the names of some of them, but not many.  These authors may or may not still have to hold down a day job.  Those who don't are far from living the good life.  

As to how much you get paid for a bestseller, well, it's mostly percentages.  The more books you sell, the more that royalty racks up.  If you sell 100,000 copies of a $20 book, and you get 10%... that's two hundred grand.  Not enough to live like a Hilton, but enough to survive long enough to finish the next book!  This is ignoring, of course, the income from celebrity.  Certainly, J.K. Rowling has made much of her vast fortune on the commercialization of the Harry Potter "brand," not just on book sales alone.  

The average midlist novelist, by comparison, will be lucky to receive an advance against royalties.  And it won't be a huge one.  It might be enough to live on for a year, but doubtful more than that.  And in all likelihood, the book will never sell enough copies for him/her to receive anything more than that initial advance.

Yes, it's difficult to get published conventionally.  It gets harder every year, for a few reasons.  One is that more and more people are writing books.  Another is that the publishing industry has stopped caring (generally) about good books and only cares about marketable books.  The two are not always (or even often) synonymous.  Thus, you have fantastic novels being ignored because the publisher doesn't think it can compete with the latest formula thriller from any of the hack writers whose names often appear on bestseller lists.  It's sad, really.

So more and more authors turn to alternatives to conventional publishing.  Self-publishing, or subsidy publishing through the immensely popular POD companies out there.  But you almost certainly won't see any of those books on the bestseller lists.  Ever.

I can only dream of being on those lists, myself.  I don't honestly expect it.  But writing, for me (and many), is more of an affliction than a vocation.  I don't know if I'll ever make enough money from my books so that I don't have to hold a day job.  I'd sure like to.  And it might happen.  But even if it doesn't, I'll keep writing, and putting my books out into the world.  I don't have a choice.  It's my curse.  :)

Writing Books

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Vincent M. Wales


I am a speculative fiction novelist (fantasy, science fiction, and so on). While I may be able to answer questions on non-fiction, my specialty is fiction. Please keep that in mind when asking questions.


For four years, I taught a series of fiction writing classes in Sacramento, CA.

BA in fiction writing.

Awards and Honors
My 2004 novel, ONE NATION UNDER GOD, won BEST FICTION in Fresh Voices 2006, BEST FICTION and BEST YA FICTION in the NCPA Book Awards, and placed as a finalist in BEST BOOKS 2005. In 2002, my novel WISH YOU WERE HERE won awards for Best Fantasy and Best Fiction/Drama in the 8th Annual SPA Awards. My latest work is a trilogy titled THE MANY DEATHS OF DYNAMISTRESS (a superhero memoir). The first book, RECKONING, was released in 2013 and won the SF category in the 2014 San Francisco Book Festival, took second place in the 2013 Royal Dragonfly Book Awards for the SF/Fantasy/Paranormal category, second place in the SF category of the 2013 Reader Views Reviewers Choice Awards, and was finalist in Foreword's 2013 Book of the Year Awards, Fantasy category. The second book, REDEMPTION, will be released in early 2015 and the final book, RENAISSANCE, is scheduled for release in late 2016.

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.