Image by thismanslife via FlickrI started the week posting about writing so I'll end the week doing the same.Goodbye traffic.
When I first started writing books, the Dunning-Kruger effect in full force, I was firmly of the view that my undeniable skill would make me millions. After all, Dan Brown and JK Rowling and all that lot make millions, don't they? The big sexy numbers are here.
A little further down the path, I have come to recognise that this view of writing being the road to limitless wealth is not only highly unlikely, it is insane. Most writers don't make very much money at all. In fact, I'd be better off writing for UAE quality newspaper The National as a freelance than I would be writing books.
Here's the maths.
The vast majority of books will not sell more than 5,000 copies, while a 5,000 copy sale would make you a bestseller in Canada. 98% of books published sell less than 500 copies, by the way. And there are something like 500,000 books published in a given year. A bestseller in Australia is 10,000 books.
But that's just too depressing. As a rule of thumb, let's say 35,000 copies is a reasonable bestselling success. And we'll assume the royalty rate is 8%, which is also a reasonable number.
So, 8% royalty on 35,000 sales. AT £7.99, that's £22,372. Sound neat? If you have written (and you likely will have) a 100,000 word novel, that pays you a cool 19p per word. It would have been 22p a word, but you gotta give your agent 15%.
NUJ (National Union of Journalists to you) freelance rates for a smaller consumer magazine are 37p a word. The National, famously a good freelance gig, coughs up 55p a word for freelances .
Using the same assumptions, if your book sold a smashing 100,000 copies, like Miranda Dickinson's Fairy Tale of New York did, at the book's RRP of £6.99, you be looking at a nice cheque from the publisher for £55,920. Pretty cool for a few months' work, no? Now pay your agent and the taxman and you're looking at something nearer £30,000.
You'd still be looking at having earned less than writing for The National: 46p a word once the agent's been fed.