Tag s | Gossip

Your Money is Your Business or Keep a Lid on How Much Money You Make

I think it is a huge mistake to reveal how much money you make as an author. The details of your royalty advance on your latest deal should not be shared with other authors. It is similar to finding out the salary of the co-worker in the office cubicle next to yours. When I was a retail store manager we had major problems when salaries were discovered…I had to stop a near fist-fight between two people who had been friends.

Money Can be a Measure of Worth

Money is viewed by many as a measure of worth; i.e. a measure of the worthiness of your work. Consequently if you contract for a $5,000 advance with AlphaGammaDelta publisher and a month later, your best writing friend, who is at the same stage in her career as you are, contracts for a $8,000 advance with the same publisher for a similar project…what is your reaction? Sure, at first, it is excitement and joy for your friend. But later, in private, you will naturally begin to wonder about your publisher’s commitment to you. You think, “They must like Sally better than me!” Jealousy and bitterness can set in.

I’m not saying that this will happen to you, but I caution you with every ounce of my being, be very careful about ever revealing monetary details of a book contract with anyone. It can become a form of gossip that does no one any good. I know of an e-mail trail among authors that was very free with this kind of information and consequently there was tension towards a particular publisher for not paying everyone the same. This is unreasonable and unfair…and doesn’t help anyone.

Over the years I’ve seen a few thousand book contracts. Those deals have landed all over the board. The timing of a publisher’s economic situation and certain management directives can change quarterly (even weekly!). The relationship the author has with the publisher, the relationship the agent has with the publisher, the perception of value that the publisher has of a project… They all influence each situation uniquely.

But we tend to compare contracts as if all contracts are equal. Trust me, they are not.

Also be aware that some contracts have a non-disclosure clause in them for this very reason.

A Major Blunder in Etiquette

Years ago I was sharing the stage with a number of faculty at a writers conference for a panel Q&A. One author took the microphone and, without thinking, blurted out the amount of money they were paid on their last contract. There was an uncomfortable silence in the room since no one really knew how to react.

Afterwards an editor turned to me and said, “I never want to work with that author. There’s no filter nor is there any common sense.”

I Just Want to Help Others Know 

As far as sharing your successes as an Indie author? Again, be careful. You may want to help others succeed like you have. That is admirable. But at least limit your information to things other than your income.  Sharing what you spent on editorial, production, cover design, and marketing can be helpful for comparison. But declaring that you made a million dollars last month might not be the right message for your audience.

How Am I Supposed to Know What’s Normal?

One cannot analyze or compare their own income, contract, advances, or royalties with absolute accuracy. Recently I was asked, “What does the average author make in a year?” Instead of answering I asked in return, “What do you think?” They responded, “$45,000 per year?” I had to blink a few times and said, “That might be an average if you include a number of bestselling authors in the formula. But that also means there are a lot of others who would have to drop a zero from that number (down to $4,500) to create an average of $45,000.” I then told the story of a writer who had a day job unrelated to writing but wrote 10 published books by getting up at 5am every morning to write for two hours…and then helped the kids get ready for school and then went to work. For that writer, the books were a supplement to his income, not the primary source.

One author may get a one time deal for $15,000, but never write another book. Another author may write one book every two years, with each getting a $5,000 advance, but also publishes 30 paid articles a year. A third author may write a novel once every five years and nothing in-between, but their advance for their novel is $100,000. A fourth author may be prolific and publish eight novels a year, four with a traditional publisher and four as an Indie author…with an annual combined income of $60,000. Which one is normal?

You see the problem? There isn’t a straight answer to the question of what is normal when it comes to a writer’s income. Your agent is the best source of information. The agent knows what is typical in a situation and whether your deal is a good one or not.

Meanwhile, the Bottom Line is to keep your bottom line to yourself and be content with it being normal for you.



Leave a Comment

Rumor Control

I was talking with an editor this week who asked me, “How are things going? I hear that your agency is barely making ends meet and that you’ve had to take on other type of work to survive.”

I must admit that I was so startled by this rumor that words nearly failed me.

“Where did you hear that?” I exclaimed.

“Oh it was at a recent writers conference and folks were talking, and your name came up.”

At the risk of sounding defensive, let me set the record straight.

Read More

Tell Us All the Gossip!

Sometimes writers hear wild, wild gossip about the industry. Sometimes that gossip is true. Sometimes it is not. Sometimes it is halfway true. As your agent, I want to hear it! You might say, “Wait a minute! Aren’t you a Christian agent? Doesn’t the Bible say not to gossip?” Yes. …

Read More

Barriers to Effective Communication

By Steve Laube

It has been said that ninety percent of all problems in the universe are failures in communication. And the other ten percent are failures to understand the failure in communication. In the publishing business, or any business for that matter, this is so true. There are a couple common barriers to effective communication, assumption and expectation.

But I Assumed

Often one party assumes knowledge that the other person does not know. Or someone without knowledge fails to admit their lack and try to fake their way through the situation for fear of being found ignorant. Simple to fix. Just ask if you don’t know and alternatively make sure the other person knows what you are talking about. I learn something new nearly every single day and hope to continue that streak for the rest of my life.

But even  worse, and more common, is assuming the other party is mad at you for some reason. The fear of that “assumed anger” prevents an open dialogue or at least delays it.

Much of our business comes down to relationships and fear or anger prevent them from being healthy.

Read More