What Kind of Money Are We Really Talking?

Dear Guru,
I am a writer, (unpublished) but have some basic questions. I have seen some financial numbers for the huge writers, but have been unable to obtain a ball park figure for what a good LDS author truly makes. I can't even get someone to tell me how many books a better author sells. What kind of money are we really talking here? Is this worth my time? Do you have time to give me a hint here?

I'm a guru! Wait till I tell my mom. She'll be so proud. :)

Okay. This is an area that is difficult to get good info on because: 1) most companies are tight-lipped about their numbers, and 2) there are so many variables that it's hard to really say.

For example, a lot of it depends on the publisher, the genre, the retail price of the book, the size of the print run, how much advertising the publisher does, how much promotion you do, whether or not Deseret Book/Seagull pick the book up for their stores. . .

In the companies that I've worked for, a first run printing for a new or mid-list author averages 2,000 copies. If they sell through in less than a year, chances are there will be a second printing but the size of that printing depends on how quickly the first 2,000 sell.

An author is going to make 6–10% on royalties—sometimes this is based on the retail price and sometimes based on the wholesale price (again, depending on the publisher).

Let's say you do average and sell 1,800 copies of a book priced at $14.95, and your royalty is 6% on the retail price. You'll make just over $1600.

If you sell 10,000 copies (I've heard DB reps say they won't accept a book unless they think they can sell that many), you'll earn $8970—or maybe a bit more because some contracts pay a higher percentages on a tiered sales schedule.

Is it worth your time? That's something only you can answer.

(P.S. If an author or publisher would like to answer this question anonymously, please send an email and I'll post your response without revealing your identity.)


Jeanette said...

Thank you for summing that up for many of us no-names out here. Personally, I think it is worth it if you can touch and change people's thinking with a story's insights and experiences.

Laura said...

To put the money into perspective: my sister is a freelance fitness and lifestyle writer and had a piece commissioned by Experience Life magazine. The article needed to be around 2,000 words (I think) and had to have three sources. Upon acceptance of the article they paid her $1500. For one article. She spent about 5 hours doing interviews and writing and there has been considerable back and forth with the editor.

Whatever your motivation is for writing in the LDS market, it had better not be money.

Stephanie Black said...

If worth it=big money, then no, writing for the LDS market is not worth it in that sense. But most national market authors don't make big money either.

If you love to write and write what you love, it's worth it, even if your royalty checks are small.

Jordan said...

Josi Kilpack invites LDS authors to anonymously share their royalty check amounts every so often. Here's the most recent one: http://josikilpack.blogspot.com/2009/04/show-me-money-2008.html

Th. said...


Who would accept under 10% royalties? That's madness!

Karen Jones Gowen said...

Th, probably the same people who sign contracts giving first and last right of refusal on their next book (not a series, mind you, just their next submission whatever it is.) Those people, I would guess.

Stephanie Black said...

Th--regarding royalties, bear in mind that most LDS novels are trade paperbacks, not hardbacks, and thus wouldn't match the royalty rates for hardbacks.

Jennie said...

Another factor that has to be considered is how long a book is available in bookstores. Most Harlequin books have a 45 day shelf life. I have books that came out more than ten years ago that are still being reprinted, still available because of demand, and I'm still collecting royalties on them. Initial royalties on many LDs books fall below ten thousand dollars, but when you have multiple books still collecting royalties, then those royalty checks aren't so bad.

Anonymous said...

Between $50,000 and $80,000 per title. About 30,000 to 35,000 copies on the first printing of each title. 5,000 on the second printing. Paperback after that with about 2,000 in each paperback run.

Rebecca Irvine said...

Interesting... thanks. I am hoping with each book I write the royalty checks improve.