When I got back into writing romance, it was at a time when the ‘golden age’ was ending. The publishers were no longer giving the big advances that the ground-breakers received. The industry as a whole was changing. I always knew I wouldn’t get to experience what they had. Mostly it was my own fault. I had pursued romance over the years, but never stuck with it long enough to finish a book. That changed in 2000/2001.
When I returned to romance, ebooks were just beginning to catch on. New York wasn’t putting them out yet, but a lot of smaller companies were and I took advantage of the new technology with an eye toward eventually moving into N.Y. print. At the time if you wrote erotic romance, you could make a living with ebooks. Not sure that’s the case these days without killing yourself trying to put out a ton of books. I’d heard for years from N.Y. authors that you could make a decent living if you just had enough print books out. At least five was needed as I recall. Those days are over. And looking back, I’m not sure they ever existed. They’re part of the Big Lie. (Before you jump on me with examples that are exceptions, realize that I’m not discussing the random book lottery winners–those authors that receive a HUGE advance straight out the chute.) I’m talking about new authors–like I was–believing all the numbers being tossed around about how much you could make from this or that publisher and believing that if you just managed to publish ‘X’ number of books you’d be well on your way to making a living.
As some of you saw from Lynn Viehl’s blog post, not even most New York Times Bestselling authors could support their families much above the poverty level. She’s one of the brave authors. She’s one of the ones who will actually tell the truth about the money. Not many authors are willing to speak out. Mainly this is due to fear and embarrassment. Some hesitation comes from concern over the publishers ‘seeing’ the post. (ie If they see how little I’ve been paid, they may not want to pay me what I’m worth the next time, etc.) Can’t really blame them, but unfortunately the silence perpetuates the Big Lie.
The funny thing about this post is it isn’t the publishers who are spreading falsehoods. Sure, they’ve warned authors throughout the years to never discuss their contracts. That was in the publishers best interests because some contracts ARE better than others. You don’t want all those authors walking around with ‘good’ contracts, but they rarely talked about money. And they certainly didn’t go around telling new writers that they were going to be able to make a living writing. In fact, most said, ‘Don’t quit your day job’. They were right.
These days you can be the author of 30 published books and not come anywhere close to making a living. I don’t think there is a ‘specific’ number that will put you in a fairly ‘stable’ position. The responsibility of promotion has fallen squarely on authors’ shoulders. With advances falling and expenses rising, that leaves little room for profit. I truly believe we’ll see a lot of our favorite authors leaving the business over the next couple of years. Those who choose to stay will have to do more than write if they want to make a living. They’ll have to become savy and skilled at creating multi-media content. More and more authors will test the waters on self-publishing with the various ebook stores. I believe very few published authors will go the self-publishing route totally. It’ll just be one facet of a larger career.
Are you ready for the future? Because it’s here.