All right, time to talk about that subject which our Mamma’s told us never to discuss…Money.

Tell a person you’re an author and automatically they assume you’re rich. Of course when you hear things like J.K. Rowling is the wealthiest person in Britain, it only solidifies that conclusion. The truth is much more depressing. Most authors have to work full time jobs because their writing doesn’t suffice.

So what does a typical author make? You sure you want to know?

I always knew I wouldn’t make much money as a writer thanks to Brenda Hiatt‘s page, Show Me The Money. Take a look; it breaks down what most publishers pay.

But if you look at the page, you might be confused… What are royalties and what is an advance?

The typical New York publisher gives an author an advance. An advance is just like it sounds, money given to the author upfront… a loan of sorts. As you can see from Brenda’s page, that advance can be anything from $1,000 to five figures.

Authors do get Royalties as well as an Advance. Royalties are a percentage of money you get for every one of your books sold. The typical percentage is 8%. Yes, that means the author only makes 8% of her/his book sold. So if a book sells for $5-7 dollars, the author only makes 8% of that $5-7. Mere cents for one book.

Here’s the catch and how your royalties and advance are interwoven….You don’t make any money on your royalties until you pay back your advance.

Let’s look at Kensington’s advance on Show Me The Money.

It says the average advance is $3,000 for a book. That’s actually a bit high, but we’ll use it anyway. If you’re a first time Kensington author, you’ll get an advance of $3,000. Along with the advance, you’ll get 6% of every book sold (8% with your second book).

This means you have to sell…well, if I was good at math, I would have become an accountant, but obviously thousands of books. Once that advance is paid, then, you’ll start getting royalties.

But there’s another catch. It will take you at least a year to sell that many books. Then, after that, yes, you may get more money, but publishers can hold your check for months.

Take a friend of mine. She just got her royalty statement. It’s been a year since her first book came out. She sold almost all of her books released (around 20,000) and after paying back her advance, ended up with a profit of $1,000. But, its been two months since she got that statement and still hasn’t gotten her check. It could be another four months before she does.

If a person can write 2 books a year and gets $3,000 a book, that’s $6,000 in advances for that year. Great, but can a person live on that? No.

That doesn’t include taxes. There’s the stinger. You have to remember to set aside the correct amount for taxes since the publisher doesn’t take those out. And guess what else, the author’s agent gets 15% of her/his advance.

I have a friend who made bout $2,000 on her first book. Guess how much she spent in advertising and other necessary things that publishers don’t do for the author? $6,000. What did she spend her money on? Building a website, $300-500 dollars. Bookmarks, $200. An ad in a popular romance magazine…1/4 of a page, $550. Those are just some examples. The money goes fast.

So as you can see, authors are far from wealthy, in fact they often spend more on promo than they actually make. Yep, depressing. But we do it because we love to write, and we love to share our stories with you.

So tell me, are you surprised by what authors make? I’ve probably confused you more than I’ve explained. If so, then feel free to ask away! I’ll try to answer your questions as best as I can.