How Much Do Novelists Make? (Part 1 of 3)

(JK Rowling. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Novelists are among the worst paid writers.

Yes, the Steven Kings, Dan Browns, and JK Rowlings of this world get paid extremely well.

Actually, Rowling is said to be on her way up to become the first writer in human history poised to earn $1 billion over her career.

But the average novelist is practically hungry and driving that same old rust-bucket god knows since when.

It takes years to write a decent novel.

Then it takes equally long to find an agent.

And when years later, the book finally gets published, the advance is usually around $5,000.

That's all most novelists will ever see since royalties are not guaranteed. And even when they earn any royalties, the checks take months or sometimes even a whole year to arrive.

*** Sad and Astonishing but True

Since the federal minimum wage in the United States as of July 24, 2007 is $5.85 an hour, translating to $11,700 a year, most novelists and story writers would make more money if they worked full-time at McDonald's. And let me prove that to you…

*** Bucknell Survey

Author Tobias Bucknell (Source: ) conducted a survey of 108 fantasy and science-fiction novelists.

His finding: "the median First Novel Advance for a novelist is $5,000. The number is the same for both hardcover and soft cover releases."

If you do have an agent, the advance goes up to $6,000. For those without an agent, it drops to $3,500.

Since on the average it takes at least two years to write and publish a novel, a writer on the average makes a whopping $2,500 a year per novel!

Considering the immense talent, knowledge and creativity it takes to write a novel, it's a miracle that anybody actually takes the time to write one.

If a novelist has a couple of novels under her belt, then the median advance goes up to $12,500 for those who have an agent. If they don't, the advance shrinks to $7,500.

So how many novels an author needs to write a year, every year, to pay her bills, buy a home, send her kids to college, and save for her retirement, etc.?

I'll leave the answer of that depressing question to you.

© 2008 – 2010, Daniel Dessinger. All rights reserved.


  1. Jenna says

    I agree- I love to create stories and put them on paper- getting paid anything for it is like getting paid to do a hobby for me…

  2. Rashiidah says

    That reality is really disheartening. But, I still hope to be a novelist one day. I guess I'll have to put more heart into considering a second career

  3. 14YearOldNovelist says

    You could always have a second job you know. Just make sure you have a creative mind. :)
    My novels will soon to be famous one day.
    You will see.

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