Sunday, April 22, 2007

Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

Another question I often get asked by kids is: Are you a millionaire? I don't mind that question--I think it's legitimate. A lot of kids (adults, too) seem to think that once you've landed a book deal, you've struck it rich. The truth is that the financial spectrum of being a children's book author runs from paltry to...well, who hasn't heard of Harry Potter? So it's hard to talk specifics, but here's a quick overview of the average financial reality of being a children's book author: Once you land a book deal, your publisher will give you an advance against royalties -- this is money up front for signing a contract. For my first book (How I Survived Being a Girl) that was $4,000 -- an average amount for a beginning author 10 years ago. If you have an agent, 15% goes to your agent. Since you have a government, 35% should be put aside for taxes. That leaves you with about half of your advance--in the case of my first book, about $2,000 There are no benefits in this package--no health insurance, 401K, etc. Most authors don't publish more than one book per year. Since the money was an advance, you need to earn that amount back before you see any extra money (royalties). Streamlining numbers, a basic royalty structure goes something like...10% of the hardcover, 6% of the paperback. That's about $1.50 per hardcover sold, $0.30 per paperback. All those buck-fifty and thirty-cent(es) have to add back up to the original advance ($4,000) before extra monies are paid. Many children's book authors barely earn back their advance (so they earn very little royalties). Many children's book authors also have books go out of print within a couple of years (which ends the meager royalties). Translation: Plan to keep your day job (at least for a while). (Next post, the financial UPside to being a children's book author!)

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