Over the past week there has been some discussion in a couple of (reader) Facebook groups I’m a member of in regards to how much authors actually earn.
The answer is a can of worms with lots of variables such as whether you are trad published or indie published, and if you’re trad published, the particulars of the individual publishing contract. The most simple and general answer is – unless you are James Patterson, JK Rowling or Nora Roberts – authors don’t earn all that much!
What was surprising, was the misconception that readers have about what authors earn, and that in fact, the misconception that they earn a lot!
Unfortunately, it’s not the case.
According to the most recent data, the average income Australian authors earned from book sales was a measly $12,900! And most authors, either have a ‘day job’ or have to supplement their earnings with writing-related jobs such as teaching or mentoring.
The other thing that came out of the discussions was that many writers readers want to support their favourite author, but don’t know the best way to do this. So, I thought it would be helpful to list the ways in which you can best do this. Not everyone can afford to buy books from an independent bookstore, some may only be able to afford an ebook, or only be able to read thanks to their local library. But, no matter your circumstances there is a way all readers can support their favourite authors.
1. Buy from your local independent book store
The best place to buy your books is of course your local independent bookstore. Not only are you supporting your local bookstore, but you are ensuring authors receive the top end of their royalties. While it used to be the case that authors were paid a flat royalty fee (usually around 10% of the RRP no matter where their books were sold and for how much) some publishers are now writing into their contracts that authors will receive less for books bought through department stores (who sell close to cost price rather than RRP). So purchasing books through your independent retailer is always the best option if you are able to.
Some readers made comment that sometimes they can’t find their favourite author’s books on the shelves of their local bookstore. If you find this is the case, please speak to your bookstore owner as they will be more than happy to help you. And nine out of ten times will be able to source and order the book in for you.
2. Buy from an online or larger chain book store
If you aren’t able to buy from an independent bookstore, the next best option if an online retailer such as Booktopia, or a larger chain book store such as Dymocks. And don’t forget some newsagents are also stockists of many books.
3. Buy from a department store
Discount department stores such as K-mart, Target and Big W (Australia) are a tempting place for readers as due to their bulk buying power, they are able to sell books at a highly reduced price (sometimes half the RRP). And often, they sell books at a loss. For these stores, they use books (and other products such as toys) as what is called a ‘loss leader’ – tempting buyers in with low prices in the hope they will make other purchasers while in the store.
While there is nothing wrong with this business model, what is concerning is as I mentioned above. Because of the low cover price, some publishers are now writing into their contracts that authors will get lower royalties for books sold through these stores.
Of course everyone can’t afford to buy at RRP and authors would rather you buy a book than not, it is just something to be aware of so readers can make an informed decision.
I know voracious readers who buy books from various places and also borrow from libraries to share the love around and keep their reading budgets in check and still support authors as best they can. What a great idea!
4. Borrow from your local library
It’s not a widely known fact, but authors do earn a small amount when their books are borrowed from libraries. It’s a system in Australia known as Public Lending Rights. So when you borrow a book from your library you are still in fact supporting your favourite authors in a small way. Yay! And, don’t forget your helpful librarians are always more than happy to source a book if you can’t find it on their shelves.
5. Share and review!
There is a wonderful way to support your favourite authors and it doesn’t cost a cent! Share the love! If you’ve read a book that you loved, pop online and share it on your social media. Even better, pop on over to Goodreads (it’s free and easy to join and a great place to find new books and authors) and leave a star rating or review. You can also hop onto Amazon and leave a star rating or review from there – and you don’t have to have bought it from Amazon to do this either!
Sharing and reviewing is the ultimate way to support your favourite author and to make their day. There’s nothing more rewarding for an author when they read a lovely review or see their books pop up on social media. So thank you, thank you, thank you!
But wait! What about ebooks & audiobooks?
Glad you asked!
eBook royalties for traditionally published authors are often paid at a higher rate than print books, however, ebooks are also priced much lower than a paperback. Authors still do get a good percentage of royalties from ebooks, so if you are a lover of your kindle or eReader, don’t fear, you’re doing a great job supporting authors (even more so if you’re leaving a review!)
As for audiobooks, this is a relatively new area, of which there are many variables and there is not a lot of clear information on this out there yet. It no doubt, comes down to who retains the audio rights (publisher or author) and individual publishing contracts. When I have up to date and reliable information, I will update this section! (And if you are a trad published author who would be willing to shed some light on this area please feel free to contact me.)
I hope this brings to light some unknown facts about what authors earn and how you can best support your favourite authors! We genuinely thank you!