Monster Hunter Nation

How Authors Get Paid, part 2

This link is going around Facebook and a couple of people who took my creative writing class sent it to me: http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-32379991

From what I’ve seen myself, I have no reason to doubt the BBC’s stats. I believe these are all UK specific, but the general idea probably translates over to the US as well.

Only 1 in 9 professional authors could earn a living solely from their writing in 2013.

Almost half the money made by professional authors is earned by just 5% of authors.

The top 5% of authors earned 42% of the income.

Wow.

Now if you are expecting some Occupy Wall Street type screed about how that’s unfair, somebody has too much privilege, or JK Rowling should stop writing to give other writers a chance, or how you shouldn’t read white authors for a year, or you shouldn’t read male authors for a year, or asinine nonsense like that (and sadly I’m not making up any of those), you are on the wrong author’s blog.

Screw that. You guys probably thought I was joking when I wrote my Alphabetical List of Author Success because my critics kept calling me D List http://monsterhunternation.com/2014/07/24/the-official-alphabetical-list-of-author-success/ but it turned out to be all sorts of scientific. Thanks, BBC. (And by the way thanks for Luther too, which is the 2nd best cop show ever, but not for firing Clarkson and ruining Top Gear, though. I can never forgive you for that)

Today I want to talk about how struggling writers can make more money. My creative writing class wasn’t so much creative writing, but how to get good enough at creative writing that you could make a living at it. So we’re not going to whine about how Stephen King makes more money than you. That’s for losers. We’re going to talk about how to make money at writing.

My personal philosophy is that all writers need to put GET PAID in their mission statement. All that artistic creative stuff is nice too, but make sure GET PAID is in there (in all caps).

When you get a chance I recommend reading this post I wrote last year in response to some dipstick who didn’t understand how book sales work claiming my career was in free fall. http://monsterhunternation.com/2014/09/17/file-770-is-mad-at-me-again-so-i-explain-how-authors-get-paid/  You can skip the first half with the internet bickering, but after that using my own books and royalty statements, I explain how best seller lists work, advances, royalties, back lists, and extra sources of income like subrights, dramatic, audio, foreign, etc. I wrote it to spite a dumbass, but the information is actually useful so we’ll consider that our part 1.

Before I quit my day job and became a full time author I was an accountant and a small business owner. I’m going to write this blog post wearing my accountant hat, so it is going to be cruel and it may hurt your tender artistic feelings, but tough. Do you want to make a living at this or not? If you want to be a dabbling hobbyist so you can brag to your friends you’re a writer, quit reading now, because I don’t want to listen to your whining in the comments. This is aimed at people who want writing to be their job.

First off newer and aspiring authors you need to realize a few things about the nuts and bolts of the writing business. It is a business. It doesn’t care about your feelings or your personal drama. You are just an entertainer. There are millions of other people who want to be entertainers. You aren’t a special snowflake, unique from the million other special snowflakes who also want to write books.

Novelist is one of those jobs that lots of people think sounds fun, but they have zero concept of how much work it takes for most of us to succeed. People have delusions that it is easy. You work for a few hours a day, and make millions of dollars. These are the same kind of delusions the masses have about being rock super stars, fashion models, actors, or NFL players.  Just like the millions of failed rappers giving away their old demo tapes, you may be super talented, far more talented than the other snowflakes, but unless you get your product in front of an audience who will give you money for it, your talent will not be appreciated, and you don’t get paid.

Someone you think is far less talented than you may achieve a great deal of success. Irrelevant. Quit crying about it. Yes, we all know you think your book is better than Twilight, but she sleeps in a house made of gold bars and you don’t. She found her market and satisfied her fans. Quit crying about it and go find your fans. The market does not give a crap about what some snob somewhere thinks is good. The market will decide what it wants. Just because you wrote something does not entitle you to someone else’s money.

You need to understand basic econ. There is supply and demand. No amount of wishful thinking will ever change that. You are trying to compete in an industry where the supply side curve has shifted dramatically in recent years.

Indy publishing and eBooks have increased consumers’ options. The market is flooded. Where they used to choose between a handful of traditional publishers in any genre, they now choose from a handful of traditional publishers and hundreds of thousands of indy published works. So there is a whole lot of supply available. Aspiring authors who used to just get rejected and never publish, now self-publish on their own. (that’s how I got started). In a normal market this drives down costs, which is why we have millions of 99 cent eBooks, so if your book costs more, it needs to have something that makes that additional cost worth it prospective purchasers. Not sucking is the biggest.

On the demand side, this is what the BBC said: The creative industries are thriving, generating £76bn per annum, yet professional writers have seen a near 30% reduction in earnings in recent years

So overall consumers are spending a ton on entertainment, but less on books. The numbers I’ve seen from Publisher’s Weekly say the same thing, it varies from genre to genre, but overall most of them are getting smaller.

That is because we are entertainers. Writers produce one form of entertainment. Consumers can also be entertained by their Xbox or their TV. You aren’t just competing against John Grisham, you’re competing against Christ Pratt, Beyonce, and Call of Duty. The good news is that there is still a huge demand for entertainment.  You just need to get a piece of that big enough to live off of.

Side note, this is one reason I really got torqued at that one whiner telling JK Rowling to hang it up so she could have her chance. Rowling got millions of young people reading, who grew up to be consumers who branched out into other authors and genres. You shouldn’t yell at her. You should thank her.

There is a paradox for an author in 2015. It is harder than ever to make money from writing. And yet there are more people writing and publishing books than ever before. The market is reasonably stable but it can’t begin to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of new books flooding it every year.

You don’t have to be a maths scholar to work out the financial ramifications. Nor the consumer response. Readers, with little spare time are overwhelmed by the choice and end up sticking to what the authors they already know and trust.

Hence the big brand authors trade even better in an overcrowded market. 

 

Know and trust are huge. It is the same reason Coke and McDonalds and Dean Koontz sell more than some new competitor nobody has heard of.  Of course the BBC looks at this information and then draws a totally wrong conclusion.

Which is why literary prizes are so important. They provide a platform for new writing and an endorsed product on which time- poor punters can take a risk.

Sorry. The mass market doesn’t give a crap about literary prizes. The chunk of that multi-billion dollar entertainment market that pays attention to literary prizes is tiny. Award winning doesn’t translate into much, if any, extra sales. To many of the people who just want to be entertained, award winning doesn’t mean good. It means boring and preachy. That’s a whole different fight that I’ve been having for the last three years and don’t feel like having again right now, but basically, winning awards doesn’t translate into getting paid more. If you look at the list of authors who have won prestigious awards and you compare it to the list of authors making lots of money, there is a little bit of overlap, but most of the authors getting paid aren’t on that award winning list.

While a typical full-time writer earned £11,000 a year in 2013, the top 5% each earned at least £100,100, the research showed.

 

To put that into American dollars, the average is $17k and the top 5% is $157k. I’ve seen different numbers kicked around before, with the average being $30k and the top being $100k. I’m guessing that is all about how they pick their numbers, where they are cutting off “authors” and what market they are looking at, but either way, you get the general idea. Most authors aren’t making much money. Very few of us are making a lot. (As much as I get trashed by the snooty crowd, I’m making double those top end numbers, and that’s got to annoy them to no end)

So what do monetarily successful authors have in common?

They treat it like their career. They are professionals. They work and they produce. They don’t dink around. They realize they are entertainers and this is their job, so they treat it like a job. They make books people want to read and get them out the door.

The report said: “Thus, it appears that writing is a profession where only a handful of successful authors make a very good living while most do not.”

This is absolutely true. I’m betting the ratios are different, but it is true in traditional publishing and it is true in indy publishing. Because there is zero barrier to entry, there are hundreds of thousands of self-published eBooks out there which only ever sell a handful of copies to the author’s friends and families, but then there are self-published authors like Chris Nuttal, Marko Kloos, and Andy Weir who blow up huge.

Why? Because they are good enough people want their stuff, and they got in front of the people who want it somehow. The hardest part of self-publishing is finding something to differentiate yourself from the vast herd of suck around you.

Say you got picked up by a big publishing house though. In traditional publishing most authors still don’t quit their day job until after their fourth or fifth book is out and they’ve got arrangements for more.

Some authors come along, write one book, and it is a super mega hit for some reason. That’s great for them. They are anomalies. You can’t count on being an anomaly.

Around one in six writers did not earn any money from their writing in 2013, it said – despite 98% saying their work had been published or used in other ways.

I am very suspicious of this one, and depending on how they calculated it will explain a lot of the skew. If you earned zero money from your job, you aren’t a professional, you are an amateur.  You are a hobbyist. There is no shame in that, we all started there, but you aren’t a professional yet. That 98% who said their work was published or used in other ways… I’m sorry, blogging doesn’t make you a professional author. Working for free doesn’t make something your job.

And if people are using your stuff, why aren’t you getting paid? What’s wrong with you? Stop it. I’ve known way too many authors who’ve given away work for free getting paid in “exposure”. I’ve seen the same thing with musicians, photographers, and artists. If you are going to give away something for free, make sure there is a damned good reason for it, like a marketing plan that makes sense. I did free online fiction before I put out my first self-published work, because I used it to convince a group of consumers I could write well enough that they should give me money for my other stuff. That makes business sense. Working for free and not getting anything out of it is stupid.
That is one problem with being an author. Anybody can claim they are an author. There is no barrier to entry. Self-publish some crappy short fiction that nobody buys and you can claim to be an author (but they’ll hire you to work as a columnist at the Guardian).  So a lot of times when you see some terrifying statistics like these, keep in mind that there are a lot of hobbyists who are skewing the stats.

Not that the stats still don’t suck. This job is still really hard.

And 11.5% of authors now earn a living solely from their writing – down from 40% a decade ago.

 

That 11.5% makes perfect sense, and is about in line with what I would have guessed. When I go to any convention or writing conference, there is going to be a wide success range of authors. Let’s say you’ve got a room full of authors listening to a panel, and you ask “how many of you have quit your day jobs to just be writers?” about 10%-20% of the room will raise their hands. In most cases that includes the panelists. The 40% I have no idea because ten years ago I was selling machineguns, but it makes sense. There were far fewer total authors then competing in a bigger market.

Now for some numbers about the reality of making a living in this business. Let’s say you get a book deal with a major publisher. Because you are an unknown nobody they give you a $10,000 advance (which I believe is actually above average now) and the book will come out in mass market paperback. The cover price is $8.  The author gets 8% of the cover price on that mass market paperback. That is a whopping 64 cents the author clears per unit. To recover that advance and start getting paid royalties you’ll need to sell 15,625 books. Sadly, the last I heard the average midlist book (meaning a normal average paperback from a normal average author, that will probably be reordered when it sells out) only sells about 15k. Not per year. Total.

So that sucks. You need to do better than that If you want to get paid.

eBooks are nice because you are keeping a higher percentage, like 25%.  However eBooks also vary wildly in price, and the big publishers are going to be selling theirs for $5, $8, or some of them even price them something ridiculous like it is a hardback. This is where some of the self-published guys are rocking it They’re selling for a dollar or $2.99, but they’re keeping 75%, so they don’t need to move as many copies to get the same amount of money. Their problem is that most of them are selling tiny numbers of copies because they are competing in a saturated market and have nothing to differentiate them from their competitors.

Because most traditional publishers are having to tighten their belts, that hypothetical book deal above can’t count on a traditional publisher spending much marketing money or effort on it either. I’ve seen way too many new authors, and even older established authors who are no longer The Hotness get passed over and ignored by their publishing houses. Odds are most of your marketing efforts are going to come from you.

There are plenty of authors who produce a few books, maybe earn out their advance, maybe not. Then they give up and stick with their reliable day job. People who want to make a living at writing keep writing. They continue to produce books. Self-published or traditional, this applies to both.  They keep writing.

Then, for whatever reason, whether it happens on book #1 or book #100 one of those books sticks. The market likes it. There is no silver bullet. There is no certain way to pull this off. But one of those books clicks. It sells well. People tell their friends. Maybe somebody really well known raves about it. Maybe it is Oprah’s Book Club, hell if I know, but something clicks. Congratulations. You now have a fan base.

All of a sudden all those other books you wrote that didn’t do well, or only did okay? That’s sellable backlist. People will now go and purchase that stuff too. You are now getting paid for work that you did years ago. This is when it starts to get good. The more fans you get, the better your career does. That is your audience. Your job is to make them happy. You work for them. They do not work for you. Never forget that.

When I say a book sticks, I’m not even talking bestseller lists. I’m talking just good enough that a few thousand people love it enough that they will reliably give you money for your stuff. So you keep giving them stuff. They keep telling their friends. You’re still selling books to everybody else, but if you’ve got those reliable fans, things are looking up. The more of those you get, the better off you are.

So that last release you sold 15k copies? Let’s say you now have 5,000 fans who really like your work because of it, so now the next book comes out, and in that first, super vital release week, those 5k loyal fans buy it. That’s good velocity. That means the book stores reorder it. That means it shows up higher in the Amazon search ratings. Maybe some B&N employees pick your book as their Club 100 book they’re going to hand sell to customers. All of those things give your book momentum. And this one sells 30k copies.

Still not huge. Still not enough to quit your day job. But interestingly enough, that first book that only sold 15K? Some of your new readers have gone back and purchased it too. The advance is earned out, and now every six months you start getting a little bit of money for that old book.

As time goes on, you produce more books, you have more fans. As long as you keep producing, and you keep making them happy, it gets better and better. And your royalty statement keeps growing.

Here is the truly beautiful part. For each new work you produce, it has the potential to reach a whole new group of fans. A portion of each new group you find has the potential to go back and purchase your other works. It keeps building and building. To put this in perspective, my 13th novel (1st book of my 4th series) is coming out in October, but all my earlier novels are still being purchased by people who just found my work through something else.  On my last royalty check for the 6 month period ending in December 2014, my first novel, which has been sitting out there since 2009, still earned enough to pay my mortgage for the entire year.

That same royalty statement had 9 other items where I was still getting paid for work I’d done years before, so it is pretty sweet. You can’t reach that unless you keep producing books. Years ago Kevin J. Anderson—who has never won any prestigious literary awards—gave me the single best piece of professional writing advice I’ve ever heard. BE PROLIFIC. I’ve tried my best to do so. I’m on 13, that’s why I live in a nice house and my neighbors are doctors. He’s on 125. That’s why he lives in a castle and his neighbors are all Denver Broncos.  You see where I’m going with this?

The more you write, the more likely you are to create something that resonates with fans. I’ve had wannabes tell me that quality is never synonymous with quantity. On the contrary, the more you work, the more you write, the more likely you are to create something truly wonderful. Or in the context of this post, the more likely you are to produce something that pleases a whole bunch of fans.

What if you’ve done this, and you’ve written a ton of books but none of them are gaining traction? Then you need to take a real hard look at your business. What are you doing wrong? The biggest problems I’ve seen are that the writer simply isn’t that good, but sometimes they are, and they just aren’t finding the right audience. In that case, why? Are you writing in the wrong genre? Do your covers suck? Does your marketing plan suck? It could be a million things, but just like any other failing business, you need to be honest in your assessment.

It doesn’t matter how you accomplish all this, all that matters is that you are getting enough reliable income to live off of it. On that note, if you’re a struggling writer, and you could live anywhere with an internet connection, why are you living someplace with a super high cost of living? Don’t be stupid. You can’t afford “atmosphere” yet.

Once you quit your day job, now you can write more, which speeds up the whole process. When to quit your day job is all about opportunity cost. When you are at the point where the hours spent working your day job are not as lucrative as the hours spent writing, that’s when you should think seriously about quitting.

I loved my last day job. I was senior management at a company that did good work, with good people, and I got paid a lot of money. I hung onto my day job longer than I needed to because I had found an accountant’s dream job. But one day I got a royalty check large enough that I realized I was actually losing money by having a normal job. At that point, I warned my boss, and I started training my replacement (who a few years later is now a published author himself, so the circle of life continues).

Everyone’s circumstances are different. If you are a grown up and you have dependents, you need to be smart about building a writing career. Don’t be stupid. Some careers will develop faster than others. You may end up with an unexpected hit or a movie deal, but even then, be smart. Your next book may be a total flop. There are plenty of authors who are a flash in the pan, have a hit, and are then never heard from again. Normally that’s because they got lucky before they’d really learned how to be reliably good.

I know a lot of “professional” authors who don’t sell jack, don’t make any money, and have zero fan base. They don’t make a living off of writing, but rather they are usually trust fund babies, still mooching off their rich parents, or their spouse supports their hobby. They are dilettantes. Unfortunately these people also tend to be the loudest about any given writing topic, and just full of helpful rules to impose on new authors. Ignore them.

The best writing advice ever is from the song Rock Superstar by Cyprus Hill. I kid you not. Listen to it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4VpE-0zitU Learn it. Live it. Save your money, man.

Early Review of Son of the Black Sword
An Opinion on Gun Control, repost
the gripping hand
Guest

Clarkson, Hammond and May coming to Netflix soon!

richard mcenroe
Guest

Does that mean James won’t still be picking on the SJW’s?

Kristophr
Guest

Clarkson struck a producer. This was the second time he had physically attacked a BBC employee during a snit fit, and he was already on warning.

They really couldn’t do anything else with him. Maybe he needs a contract specifying any one he strikes gets half his pay?

richard mcenroe
Guest

Harlan Ellison punched a producer and was idolized.

Kristophr
Guest

Harlan had a day job that didn’t directly involve Hollywierd.

DaveP.
Guest

The Beeb: Engage in child molestation and de facto rape and have a protected job for decades.
Punch a couple of producers and you’re out on your ass.

junior
Guest

It’s true that Clarkson struck a producer. But based on what I’ve read, the incident appears to have been minor enough that the producer in question didn’t even report it. What I’ve read is that the only report on the incident to the BBC was from Clarkson himself. It seems much more likely that the BBC was looking for an excuse to get rid of Clarkson.

Tomyironmane
Guest

Wasn’t the first time when he clocked Piers Morgan in the face? That shouldn’t count… I mean, there are people who fantasized about being Jeremy Clarkson for that.

Kelly Wood
Guest

The one connection between here and Whatever. Get Paid, this is your job loser.

Henry Smith
Guest

You’re a good man and a good writer, Larry. Thanks for all you’re doing, for your books, for fighting the SJW pigs, and for being a standup guy. I’ll continue buying your books! Good stuff! Keep it coming!

Michael
Guest

I also wanted to make a connection that this is a case where you (Correia) and Whatever (Scalzi) agree on something. I think you two are more alike then a lot of people want to make you out to be.

Kazriko
Guest

I’ve said many times that both sides in the puppies/antipuppies debate agree on a lot more than they disagree on, but everyone focuses on the differences.

jic
Guest

You mean they’re both full-time SF&F writers who make a good living from it? It seems to me that’s where the similarities end.

I’m not surprised that Scalzi is all about getting paid: I noticed long ago that leftists who own their own business tend to be far more ruthless about it than their rhetoric would lead you to expect.

Rob
Guest

Michael Moore has made millions selling socialism. I can’t tell if he’s disingenuous or a genius.

Christopher M. Chupik
Guest
Christopher M. Chupik

Can’t he be a disingenuous genius?

Sparky
Guest

Disingenius

PavePusher
Guest

That’s an odd way to spell ‘asshole’….

Khazlek
Guest

Both also seem to have people eager to claim their careers are in free-fall based on nothing.

Kazriko
Guest

I wonder if book revenues by authors follow the 80/20 rule, like so many other things? 20% of authors earning 80% of the total book revenue. It doesn’t seem to be perfectly fractal at the very least, because if it were then 4% of authors would be getting 64% of the revenue rather than 5% getting 42%.

BigFire
Guest

There are always the alternative operational model. Hugh Howey is the poster-boy for the self publishing. He recently finally signed on to have his novels published in format other than eBooks. But he retains eBooks and many of the other rights, since he likes publishing books his way. Hey, whatever works.

Michael Kingswood
Guest

That wasn’t exactly recent, it was more like 2 or 3 years ago. And he’s since stated that he would not take such a deal again.

Beolach
Guest

WRT Quality vs. Quantity, I really like the Pottery Parable (Google “quality vs. quantity pottery” for more discussion on it). Quantity is the only reliable way to get Quality.

Wallbanger7110
Guest

Amen and amen. Mastery (and maintenance of said mastery) of any skill requires hundreds to thousands of hours of applied practice (i.e. quantity). Of course those hours go by a little easier if you’re enjoying what you’re doing.

jic
Guest

Clarkson slugged a coworker. That’ll get you fired from pretty much any job. And even then the BBC didn’t actually fire him, they wimped out and just let his contract lapse, avoiding pesky disciplinary action that could make it tricky to hire him again in the future. Apparently, at least one BBC executive recently sounded him out about coming back.

Khazlek
Guest

It really is hard to blame them after he punched a guy. The funny part was when they said that he wasn’t coming back to Top Gear, that they were willing to have him do other shows for the BBC, and they needed hosts for Top Gear. If they were willing to have him do other shows what is the difference. It is also charming how the BBC takes a hard line on punches to noses, but seems less concerned about Jimmy Saville

jic
Guest

To be fair to the BBC, if they’d fired every one of their celebrities who was a monstrous pedophile, they would have had nothing to show on their channels between 1970 and 1990.

Christopher M. Chupik
Guest
Christopher M. Chupik

Well, later this year, I’ll be getting my first royalty check for a story I have appearing in an upcoming anthology. I’ve only been paid for writing once before, and that was a check for winning a short story contest a few years back. I have no illusions that my royalties will be huge, but it is damn satisfying to know I’m getting something at last.

Khazlek
Guest
It seems to me that your advice is good for anyone who wants his writing to be profitable, even if they never aspire to become full-time. Sarah Hoyt sometimes asserts that the declining size of print-runs are evidence that the traditional publishing world is in trouble. I have my doubts. Not counting indies, there are way more traditionally published titles being printed these days, why wouldn’t you expect each individual print run to decline. I remember in the ’90s, there was one SF bookstore owner who still had one customer who bought every SF novel that came out that month,… Read more »
Christopher M. Chupik
Guest
Christopher M. Chupik

Now that I look back on the Alphabetical List of Author Success, I can now say I’m O to N-list. Moving up! 😀

Brian Niemeier
Guest

“That is your audience. Your job is to make them happy. You work for them. They do not work for you. Never forget that.”

It’s probably no coincidence that every writer whose books are on my automatic must-read list has made this statement.

Thanks for this post, Larry–not only because your expertise is invaluable to writers like me who are trying to make a career of it, but because you’re taking time out from much more profitable work to do so 🙂

On a related note, have you had time to check your email lately?

Shadowdancer
Guest

Thanks for this, Larry. I needed it.

That’s all that needs saying, I think. Anything else sounds ridiculously emo in my head, so thanks for the steel to strap to my proverbial spine.

Draven
Guest

I don’t think the world is ready for Shadowdancer with steel strapped to her skeleton.

Shadowdancer
Guest

*cue Terminator theme*

Or this

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C3Uw9YClm2E

Reality Observer
Guest

Urp?

Kristophr
Guest

I think the fanbois would get off on vids of a cute filipina Terminator …

Old NFO
Guest

Dead on the ‘money’ Larry… And you’re right about building a base. My third book just went live, and I’ve sold more in 4 days than I did of the first book in a month!

Jon
Guest

Wait… you’ve got another book out? Shit, I missed it. *wanders off to purchase*

AlexandruConstantin
Guest
Larry, what do you thing about the theory that I always see repeated by authors that one should cut t heir teeth writing short stories and try to get those published. While that seems like a sound idea on the surface I don’t exactly see how that can be profitable. For one the short fiction market is filled with magazines that really cater to a specific type of lit fiction. I have tried reading lightspeed, clarkesworld, etc. and they are so magical realism SJW that I can’t ever see them publish any kind of action fantasy/sf. Second is it worth… Read more »
Zsuzsa
Guest
I’ve also wondered about this point. I can see pros and cons. The pros that I see would be that you would get a lot of practice writing stories–not just the “start a novel, realize it’s crap, and give up on it,” but multiple complete beginning-to-end narratives. That would presumably make you a better writer (see the pottery analogy Beolach posted above). Plus, I could imagine that an agent/publisher might be more likely to look at your novel if your cover letter mentions, “My work has appeared in The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Weird Tales, and Sad Puppies… Read more »
Christopher M. Chupik
Guest
Christopher M. Chupik

Sad Puppies Monthly? I’d submit to that. It could be more hated among the SJW crowd than Baen in no time.

Doug Loss
Guest

You know, I’d subscribe to that in a second.

AlexandruConstantin
Guest

I would subscribe to a badass monthly magazine with stories selected by Larry. I would pay 20 bucks a month for something like that.

Shadowdancer
Guest

I echo this. I’d totally submit to something like that. Or subscribe. At least I’d get stories I’d wanna read.

(Wonder if Baen would be interested in running a magazine…)

Kristophr
Guest

They already do for Flint’s Ring of Fire series. The monthly magazine is mostly an anthology of 1632 forum submissions that Flint felt were good enough to make it into series canon.

Christopher M. Chupik
Guest
Christopher M. Chupik

Amazingly, my comment about Sad Puppies Monthly got quoted at File 770. Guess they’re getting hard-up for Puppy commentary.

Karl Sandwell-Weiss
Guest

I’d subscribe. Frankly, I’d love a monthly SSF magazine that was concerned with providing entertainment. I wouldn’t care if there was a message in the story as long as it was needed in the story and not put in to check off a diversity box.

I’d even pay extra for a printed copy since I’m from the generation that prefers to hold something physical while I’m reading.

Dave H
Guest
In “How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy, ” Orson Scott Card said this: “If you’re writing fantasy or horror, you probably have to start with novels — the short fiction market is too small. And even if you’re writing science fiction, you can’t live on short stories alone; at some time you’ll almost certainly switch to novels.” This was written in 1990 so Card didn’t have the Internet and ebooks to deal with. But with traditional publishers charging mass market paperback prices for ebook novels and self-publishers charging downwards of a buck for the same sized works, my sense… Read more »
Stan Bundy
Guest
Of course, one thing that you can do with short stories is to write a bunch in the same framework/setting, for practice as well as for working out the kinks in your setting, and eventually evolving some of them into a the basis of longer form fiction (consider the number of classic SF novels that started out as short stories, novelettes, novellas or serials that got expanded – And some came together as anthologies, Like many of Heinlein’s Future History books). Once you write novels in the setting and get them published, you can use the short stories not yet… Read more »
Suburbanbanshee
Guest

Or you can publish your short stories yourself, and make money on Amazon with short stories and short story collections. Or you can use short stories as a temporary “freebie” or “cheapie” to lead people to your novels, something to post on your blog, etc.

Dean Thomas
Guest
I am a supporter of GamerGate and a prolific SFF reader, but I’d never heard of you until the Puppies thing. Seeing how much the SJW crowd hate you folks, you must be doing something right! When your first MHI book was free, I got the Kindle version. Now I’m hooked and bought all the rest! This reinforces two of your points – sometimes, free can be good with the right marketing; and having a backlog can make you a lot of money! My only complaint is that I want moar MHI!!!! I guess I’ll have to branch out into… Read more »
PaulR
Guest

Definitely try the Hard Magic series. I think I liked them even better than MHI, and that’s saying a lot!

Mick
Guest

Personally I think the Grimnoir books are better – and I really really liked the MHI books!

Kevin Crawford
Guest
It also never hurts to explore different retail venues and be aware of the different margins available for different types of products. I write role-playing games, and I sell exclusively through OneBookshelf’s sites, the janus-faced DriveThruRPG and RPGNow front ends. Most people who aren’t RPG fans have probably never heard of them, but the terms they give publishers are excellent at 65% of the cover on non-exclusive PDFs, and 65% of the after-production profit of print-on-demand books, which they can offer seamlessly on whatever you put up. For RPGs, the margin is enormous. A 96-page game supplement can reasonably move… Read more »
Draven
Guest

And yet, some RPG publishers charge as much on DrivethruRPG as they did for the print versions fifteen plus years ago, and wonder why people aren’t buying a $30 PDF version of their rules…

The irksome part of that is, of course, that the publishers for RPG stuff aren’t usually paying anything to the artists and writers after their initial payment, as it handled as work-for-hire with no back end.

Kevin Crawford
Guest
An artist who accepts royalties on a small-press RPG product in lieu of payment up front is either touchingly naive, being taken for a ride, or both. A publisher with no real fanbase who just sticks something up on an OBS site can pull maybe 50 sales in the short term. It’s possible to make a hundred or two in net profit on that if you handle your production costs correctly, but publishers in that sales range should not be buying commissioned art in the first place. Any plausible royalty share of that income is going to pay out beneath… Read more »
Brian Niemeier
Guest

“Any plausible royalty share of that income is going to pay out beneath the typical floor for commissioned art.”

Like Dean Wesley Smith says, never offer a percentage to anyone you’re not willing to make your partner. Learn to do as much as you can yourself. Handle the rest on a one-time cost basis.

TallDave
Guest

Do not taunt Alphabetical List of Author Success.

David MacKinnon
Guest
On the nose again Larry, Only an academic with an axe to grind would think that a reader would enter a genre that way. “Hmmm…I think I’ll give this Science Fiction thing a whirl. Let me research who won the most Hugo awards as my starting point”. Epic Fail. More like; “Hmmm…I think I’ll give this Science Fiction thing a whirl”. Looks at alot of book covers. “Hey, thats a badass looking dude in body armor with a shot gun.” “Hot chick looks awesome in the matching body armor behind him”. “Title of the book is something about hunting monsters…evidently… Read more »
Richard McEnroe
Guest

Most likely way: “Hey, (insert reader name here)! You read this stuff! What’s good?”

Kevin Findley
Guest

The best way to find good books at B&N is to ask one of their hipster wannabe employees what they like and hate. Ignore the former and buy the latter.

David MacKinnon
Guest
Oh, Totally off topic but… The preview show for Shark Week was on the other night, and it had a bunch of clips. You know, amateur footage of people encountering sharks? Well, this one clip had a blonde girl paddling in the water completely losing her….well. There was a “dark menacing” shape in the water slowly getting closer to her and she went into panic shrieking hysterics as it slowly got closer and closer, and then…. It was a manatee. I thought of Wendell and a typical SJW and I laughed so hard I was crying. Somebody more talented than… Read more »
Khazlek
Guest

It was linked on the MHI Facebook page.

TallDave
Guest

MHI Facebook page? That’s a thing? To Google!

David MacKinnon
Guest

Okay…
Noob on the internet here, attempting to link this…
Please, please, please work!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mbBs1OLV7HY

Reality Observer
Guest

It came with no sound? (Could be my system – it does weird stuff during the monsoon.)

Wendell looked like he was having fun, anyway…

Robin Munn
Guest

There was sound when I played it; it was probably your system hiccuping.

Kevin J. Anderson
Guest

Correia, this is one of those pieces of shoddy journalism and poor fact checking. Get your information straight: my next door neighbor was a retired Pittsburgh Steeler linebacker, not from the Denver Broncos.

richard mcenroe
Guest

So when you talked to him you used smaller words?

viktor
Guest

Did he know the names of all three rivers?

Patrick W.
Guest
This post makes an interesting contrast to what Ursula K. LeGuin recently wrote about essentially the same topic… http://bookviewcafe.com/blog/2015/06/01/up-the-amazon/ Not really sure what tags are allowed/disallowed in the new format but the following is a quote: If you want to sell cheap and fast, as Amazon does, you have to sell big. Books written to be best sellers can be written fast, sold cheap, dumped fast: the perfect commodity for growth capitalism. The readability of many best sellers is much like the edibility of junk food. Agribusiness and the food packagers sell us sweetened fat to live on, so we… Read more »
Zsuzsa
Guest
Ms. LeGuin’s success as an author must be respected, but she’s full of it here. Leaving aside her rather judgmental attitude about what is and is not literature, her attack on Amazon is entirely misguided. As many of the commenters on her original article pointed out, Amazon is what allows books to avoid the “best seller” process she’s complaining about: recommendations that genuinely bring people to related material rather than just the latest hot thing, letting people search for older books in used book stores, allowing eBooks to stay “in print” essentially forever if that’s what it takes to find… Read more »
Bugmaster
Guest

It sounds to me like LeGuin is saying the same thing as Larry Correira is saying, only in a more judgmental tone of voice.

Bibliotheca Servare
Guest

I’d recommend reading it again…just saying. 😉

Bibliotheca Servare
Guest

Okay, I reread my reply, and I heard the…impoliteness of it. What I *should* have said was that I disagreed, and that I felt/feel that Larry *doesn’t* agree with LeGuin, and LeGuin wasn’t just being judgmental, but also insulting, patronizing, and…donkey-like. *ahem* Maybe a distinction sans difference, but I’m a touch picky about word choice, and “judgmental” didn’t/doesn’t have the same connotations of explicit nastiness that insulting etc have, in my opinion. Sorry about my initial reply. God bless. 🙂

Suburbanbanshee
Guest

LeGuin’s Amazon sales are low because most of her sf books aren’t marked “science fiction,” and a fair number of her fantasy books aren’t marked “fantasy.” Her recent covers from certain publishers are generic in the extreme, such that you can’t tell that they are science fiction or fantasy, and many of them don’t possess plot blurbs on Amazon, either. This is all her publishers’ laziness, since nothing prevents them from improving LeGuin’s discoverability and adding blurbs and keywords; they could even put better covers on her ebooks if they were actually interested in sales.

Alien
Guest

If Luther is the 2nd best cop show ever, what’t the first?

John R. Ellis
Guest

I’m fond of Barney Miller, personally.

Achillea
Guest

Justified.

And isn’t Luther the ‘cop’ who just kinda conveniently forgot that homicidal psycho bitch murdered her parents? Much as I love Idris Elba, ‘Luther’ didn’t exactly impress.

Sparky
Guest

Monk.

Steve
Guest

Hill Street Blues.

RES
Guest

I would suggest Justified, but i don’t know whether it is a cop show.

Malcolm the Cynic
Guest

If not in the letter of the law, certainly in the spirit. Raylan may not be a cop, but he is certainly law enforcement.

Brian Niemeier
Guest

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

Kevin Findley
Guest

The Andy Griffith Show – Deputy Fife was so good, he never had to carry more than one bullet at a time.

Steve
Guest

Larry,

Thank you for this. Looks like very good advice – especially the part about being prolific.

I think a lot of people like to talk about writing a novel more than they like writing a novel. And end up like Brian the dog from Family Guy.

If you have any recommendations about how to find someone to create cover art, that would be awesome.

richard mcenroe
Guest

Try visiting DeviantArt.com or Renderosity.com for artists offering to do commission work.

Steve
Guest

Thanks Richard.

I see some really cool stuff over there.

I’d been looking on Google but nearly all the top hits come back with boring, generic looking stuff… stock photos with a bit of light photoshopping for the most part.

The best covers I’ve seen lately were the Czech editions of the Monster Hunter International and Grimnoir books.

Brian Niemeier
Guest

DeviantArt is where I found my cover guy.
http://crawlers-den.com/
http://carpet-crawler.deviantart.com/

Dave H
Guest

I think a lot of people want to have written a novel. They don’t want to do the work, they just want the bragging rights.

B. Durbin
Guest
Speaking of L.E. Modesitt and cover art and machine guns… Okay. I realize that those things were not put in conjunction. But there’s one cover for his otherwise excellently-illustrated Corean Chronicles that has the worst example of a firearm use that I’ve ever seen. It’s as though the artist has never seen even so much as a Hollywood movie with firearms. And that’s coming from someone for whom “shooting” means “archery.” Sheesh. On a more topical note, a few years back I came across someone talking about the huge cabal of rich authors (this was before self-pub really became viable.)… Read more »
Achillea
Guest

But there’s one cover for his otherwise excellently-illustrated Corean Chronicles that has the worst example of a firearm use that I’ve ever seen.

Maybe there are invisible bayonets in the story? Yeah, I got nothin’.

Khazlek
Guest

Could he be bringing it up to his shoulder? An admittedly odd choice for an action pose.

B. Durbin
Guest

Note the flying cartridges. Wrists of steel and arms like iron, I’m telling you.

(I get sore looking at that just from an abstract PHYSICS POV.)

Synova
Guest

Maybe it’s a… um… a top break, side by side, and he just reloaded really fast so that the expended cartridges are still sort of out there flying but he hasn’t brought the gun up to his shoulder again yet.

(That’s the absolute best I can do.)

Dave H
Guest

Maybe he’s out of ammo so he’s ejecting empty cases at the target?

Arwen
Guest

Off topic, but you should add the Alphabetical List of Author Success to Best of MHN.

Paul
Guest

Yes, this.

David Krumm
Guest
This is a very interesting topic to me because I’m a hobbyist author who doesn’t make any money, and I’m not sure what I want to do about that. I’ve written 4 books (each one sucked slightly less than the last!). I’ve put some of it out there for free. I got fans; a few hundred strangers who are happy to read my fiction, and say very nice things to me. I’ve made absolutely no money from any of it. I’ve thought a lot about changing that “no money” thing, but it’s tricky. > put GET PAID in their mission… Read more »
Groot
Guest

Bronson Pinchot did an amazing job of narrating your amazing books.

Adam Lawson
Guest

So that’s where I saw the name File 770 before.

Had an inbound link from them a while back and had NO IDEA what it was. Guess I’ve made it as an annoying conservative author.

trackback

[…] Christopher Chupik in a comment on “How Authors Get Paid Part 2” at Monster Hunter Nation […]

Fruitbat44
Guest
This does echo a couple of pieces of advice I heard, one from a struggling writer, “Don’t give up the day job!” And from a professional writer, “I gave up my day job” (Customs & Excise VAT, which he described as, “Like working for the Gestapo, but without a snappy black leather trench coat.” but I digress) “When I was earning enough from my writing to live on.” An aside about writing as a job, one comment I recall from a professional writer, who is proud of the fact he writes to make a living, the one time he wrote… Read more »
jic
Guest

If anything you could argue that the BBC actually treated him much more leniently then most employers would: If I punched a coworker, I doubt my bosses would be desperately trying to hire me back in a slightly different role almost immediately.

Mick
Guest
I have a bit of a quandary I wonder if anyone can address. I write fiction, yes, but I also write nonfiction. I am currently paid for the nonfiction – not enough to quit my day job, but enough to make it worthwhile. This has the benefits of keeping me writing every day, even when I feel like it’s a monumental task (it’s a job, after all), easing my financial stress ever so slightly, keeping me writing every day, getting my name in front of 10s of 1000s, and finally, keeping me writing every day. The drawback is that getting… Read more »
Tomyironmane
Guest

The advice to only do something for free if it’s going to help get you paid down the road… I wonder how many people besides me started buying your books because of this blog? I wonder how many people realize this blog IS an advertisement for both you and your work?

Erwin
Guest

In terms of growing a fan base, how do you balance not alienating current fans with attracting new fans who passed on previous works? Eg, I never would have found Monster Hunter without chancing on Hard Magic.

tungsten carbide
Guest
Larry, two things to think about in the stats here: (1) what are the raw numbers of authors today vs twenty years ago? I would not be surprised if the number of authors, including self-published, has increased by a factor of 5x – 10x in that time due to the technology, in which case the 20% vs 5% figure is misleading since there could be an equal or higher total of people making money writing now. (2) As for the distribution of wealth, are you familiar with the term “Power Law Distribution?” It applies to many things, including for example… Read more »
Malcolm the Cynic
Guest

Is Justified the number 1 cop show ever? Because it should be.

RedJack
Guest
I have a few friends who have tried to write, didn’t become JK at the first time at bat, and gave up. Similar to those who are “artists” but never realized it is a job. It is a job. I write a bit on the side, but for me it is a hobby. It is a hobby, and something that part of me “needs” to do. The thing I see at classes around here is a lot of people want to write, but not really write. They want to get paid to do nothing. It isn’t a job, it isn’t… Read more »
pennywit
Guest

Hmm … seems to me that if you want to write literary fiction (high quality work that doesn’t appeal to the common folk), you ought to subsidize it with something else — perhaps a career as a writing teacher, a freelance commercial writer, or even writing popular fiction.

Bugmaster
Guest
Personally, I’m not a writer, so maybe my opinion doesn’t exactly matter. Still, as a reader, I am kind of undecided about this. On the one hand, I’ve read the first two MHI books, and I liked them a lot. I’ve also read a bunch of space-opera MilSF, and again, it was fun. But on the other hand, nothing that I’ve read in these books really stuck with me; I don’t feel the urge to go back and re-read them. By contrast, I find myself re-reading other books, such as Soon, I will be Invincible, Constellation Games, The Black Company… Read more »
Reality Observer
Guest
Well, the authors you reference do (did) make a living from their writing, so I’m going to dismiss them here. You can make a living by not going to the mass market – but you must be the absolute best at what you write. (Which only comes after long practice, which is what everyone is telling you.) You have to fill a VERY big slice of your niche. (There are buggy whip makers who probably make more than Larry does – maybe as many as three.) There is room out there in the writing field for almost anything, but some… Read more »
Erwin
Guest
I suspect you’re misreading LC’s advice. (Could be wrong) There’s nothing in his advice, at least in this section, that suggests avoiding saying something. He does advise writing something that people enjoy reading. Now, there’s a real trade-off there – in that writing something entertaining is hard enough – so sometimes I see authors who are perfectly capable of writing something entertaining go off into the weeds and write something I just can’t finish when they try to make a statement. Still, most of my favorite stories do both. My perspective is that a story that says something I won’t… Read more »
Bugmaster
Guest
@Erwin: Yeah, I agree with pretty much everything you said. However, I interpreted (perhaps, misinterpreted) LC’s advice as saying, “You know that one story that burns in your mind like white-hot fire ? The story that you have been yearning to set down on paper ? Well, no one wants to read it, so don’t waste your time, and write some more laser gun action scenes, instead. You’ll make bank, trust me”. The thing is, that advice is actually totally compatible with what you said. Not everyone can be a Pratchett or a Gaiman or a Grossman (either one). Most… Read more »
Bugmaster
Guest

I should add that IMO Scalzi isn’t all bad (*), I liked the first two Old Man’s War books. Scalzi apparently phoned in the third book, but hey, they can’t all be winners…

(*) I’m referring strictly to his fiction, and not to his political opinions — which are, indeed, all bad.

Erwin
Guest

I don’t care about scalzi”s opinions. Just, ergh, Redshirts. Really not my cuppa tea.

Nah. I am thinking of Stross’s merchant princes stuff. Well realized world. Perfectly realistic heroine with ability to shift worlds. Gritty feudal system. Perfectly realistic grubby, nasty, inbred feudals. Depressing combat. Couldn’t finish series, even pre Amazon.

Watts is a good example of tradeoffs. Blindsight was awesome. Echopraxia much less so.

Achillea
Guest
I disagree, depending on what you mean by “awe-inspiring”. I think different people have different views of what’s ‘awe-inspiring.’ As an example, I’m not really all that into heavy-duty milSF/F. My reaction to battle scenes that go on for more than a couple of pages is often an eyeroll accompanied by “yes yes yes, they fight, got it,” then skimming to the end to see who wins and if anyone important dies. I’m probably an outlier here in that, but out in the rest of the world, not so much, as there’s clearly a market for F/SF that doesn’t have… Read more »
Zsuzsa
Guest

I just have to reply to say that the way you read space battles is exactly the way I do–except that I usually miss few character deaths in my skimming, and then three sequels down the road find myself saying, “Wait a sec, he DIED??? When did that happen?”

Suburbanbanshee
Guest

Well, first he should get it done. Then he can think about finetuning. But remember, if your brother were ever to be unable to stay interested long enough to finish his book, obviously it wouldn’t matter whether anybody else were interested. 🙂

Also, there are a surprising number of romance readers who are interested in weird stuff. If he can market it to them and make it accessible enough to others, it can be awesome.

Tim C. Taylor
Guest
Hey, Larry. I appreciate all the advice and insight you freely offer aspiring writers on your website. It’s inspiring without the dishonesty I see elsewhere of pretending that if you wish hard enough to have a successful writing career, it will come as your right. It’s not that simple! Anyway, I wanted to pick you up on your article about the decline on author earnings. I agree with your advice, but hopefully I can make the stats appear less bleak for your readers by pointing out their source. The report referred to by the BBC was carried out for the… Read more »
Brian Niemeier
Guest

Check out the latest Author Earnings report. A lot of it has to do with how Hachette screwed themselves and the rest of the Big 5 by overpricing ebooks following the agency model’s return. But of particular interest to folks here is the fact that indie authors now earn more on daily ebook sales than all Big 5 authors combined.

http://authorearnings.com/report/may-2015-author-earnings-report/

Erwin
Guest
I’d guess that the total gross revenues for sf&f are decreasing – there is just too much supply. However, I’d also guess that the total revenues for authors are increasing. Publishers appear to be losing market share but making money. That is about what you’d expect from the efficiencies occasioned by going to electronic distribution. To put it another way, it sucks to be a distributor or bookstore. I kind of wonder about the current tipping points between traditional publishing and indie publishing. At what volume, for typical contract terms, and typical ebook/paper sales, does traditional publishing make more sense… Read more »
Erwin
Guest

Also, in terms of getting paid, have you ever thought of just having a section at the top of your page listing the most recent 2-3 publications? It was actually kinda hard to figure out that your earc was already available using your website. Might be a mobile thing.

Brian Niemeier
Guest
“At what volume, for typical contract terms, and typical ebook/paper sales, does traditional publishing make more sense than indie?” We can actually take a stab at figuring this out. Consider Skin Game by League of Legends enthusiast and all-around cool customer Jim Butcher. The Kindle version is currently $8. Most tradipub contracts give authors 25% of net on ebook sales, which actually ends up being 12.5% after Amazon and the publisher take their cuts. This arrangement earns the author $1 on every sale (Jim may very well earn more, but for argument’s sake, let’s stick with the $1 figure). Indie… Read more »
Leit
Guest
Bear with me here; this may seem tangential. There was a recent article on Cracked (which, despite being a humour site, is better at journalism than most journalists) where they spoke to an author who writes… well, basically women’s wank material. What struck me about the author’s points was how similar they are to what Larry advocates. Be prolific, have a long tail for back sales, find your target market and please them, market yourself. Work the Amazon ratings and keywords system. This guy isn’t earning in the same region as Larry, but he’s making a living and he states… Read more »
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[…] writing science fiction novels is not to make men uncomfortable.  The point is to GET PAID (a.k.a. the Tao of Larry Correia).  If you’re not writing to reach your audience — and you can tell if you are, because […]

Michael Kahn
Guest

Good article. Because I enjoyed the article and liked the fact that your first book from back in 2009 is bringing in enough royalties to pay your mortgage, I just clicked your link and bought it from Amazon. Now you can put another beer in the fridge on me. 🙂

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