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Jim Hines - 2013 Writing Income

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by A. E. Lowan, Jan 9, 2014.

  1. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

    I looked around and wasn't entirely sure where to put this.

    Jim Hines has published his writing earnings since 2007, to give a rough idea of what a mid-list author can make, since there is very little actual data out there in this regard.

    Jim C. Hines » 2013 Writing Income

    A couple important things to note - according to this article, Hines still works a day job. He also says,

    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  2. psychotick

    psychotick Auror


    Just to balance this out, this is an article about how much money the median authors made in 2013.

    How Much Money Do Self-Published Authors Make? - Forbes

    Jim Hines is an established trade published author, which puts him somewhere above the rest of the pack.

    Cheers, Greg.
    BWFoster78 likes this.
  3. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    BWFoster78 likes this.
  4. Nagash

    Nagash Sage

    Well, the reality, it would seem, is brighter that what I expected it to be for lucrative writing. I'm not sure if this verifies world-wide, though. Taxes in France aren't the same than in USA.
  5. psychotick

    psychotick Auror


    And here's my take on the survey. (December's post).

    Greg's Books

    I tend to agree with Hugh, but the fact that there is a discrepency between the numbers of authors counted in trade versus self publishing doesn't mean that the median income of self pubbed authors will rise immensely once the low end outliers are removed. My guess is that the two groups will end up pretty much the same with self pubbed and trade pubbed authors having a median income of around 5 to 10k per anum. Hybrids will still rule and few will be making the sort of income Jim Hines is.

    Cheers, Greg.
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2014
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  6. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver


    I'd love to see some actual sales figures from your books.

    If I ever actually finish mine and get it out there, I intend to provide a monthly update on sales. I find this kind of information fascinating and would love to see more of it.


  7. psychotick

    psychotick Auror


    I'm wary of doing that - which is one reason why I think Jim Hines is very brave for posting his. Every so often when you post sales figures on certain writing fora you get a rush of negative reviews on your books as people - presumably other authors with not as many sales - think you're doing too well. All I will say is that this year seems to be going reasonably well for me. It's the tenth and I've sold 430 or so books when I last checked.

    Cheers, Greg.
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  8. C Hollis

    C Hollis Troubadour

    I suppose my perspective on this article has more to do with the trend of the chart.
    There are three spikes on the chart: '08, '11, and '13.
    In '08 he attributes the spike to his introduction into foreign markets (particularly Germany).
    In '11 the spike is from two advances.
    In '13 the spike is a signing bonus.

    Pull those data points out, and you still see an increase in his income. What does this say to me? Patience. Admittedly, patience is much easier for people like me, who's primary goal is NOT to write for living. It would be nice, but that is not my priority.

    This chart also reflects the fact his income did not spike with the release of his first novel (in 2006). Too many people expect to throw their stories out there and sell big immediately.

    Hines is providing an excellent service by sharing this information. Stuff like this helps new writers set appropriate (realistic) goals, and gives them something real to compare their progress to.

    Too many good writers give up when they don't sell what they expected to sell with their first publication.
    psychotick likes this.
  9. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    Median is an interesting concept. How to Find the Median Value

    It isn't a true average, necessarily. I'd be interested in seeing the studies side-by-side because for example, traditional publishing should be higher, based on the not taking into account slush piles (unless I misunderstood that). What I mean, is that if every traditionally published author wrote their income on list for 2013, they should all have higher income than the "median" self-pubbed, if you take into account the fact that many of those self-published books will earn nothing or so little it barely moves the needle. If traditional authors earn (9k, 9k, 10k, 10k, 12k, 13k, 20k, 21k, 33k, 41k, 65k) the median is 13k. Which is not an average between the highest and lowest. It's an indication that more are near the lower end. And everyone who died in the slush pile didn't take up a space on the list, right?

    If, however, you look at self-pubbed writers, their list might look like this: (0, 0, 0, 0, 40, 55, 120, 400, 650, 1200, 2k, 3k, 6k, 9k, 55k, 81k). Meaning, the median would show at $400 (in my example only), but that's only because so many made nothing. MOST writers who self-publish and MAKE MONEY will beat that particular median.

    This WAS the point of the comparison, right? I might have misunderstood how the two industries compare. If so, please explain. I'm not the best at math, but I am heavily skeptical of medians. They are not the same thing as averaging the highest with the lowest.... they can be misleading, especially in cases where there re a lot of zeros or really low numbers ticking off the high numbers that really matter.
  10. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver


    Those are pretty good numbers. Congrats!
  11. psychotick

    psychotick Auror


    Actually medians are a better measure of a middle value of a spread of numbers than averages when there are extreme values that can skew things. For example in that spread of numbers all it would take would be one Stephen King and whatever his income is, to probably double the average. But that value would do nothing to the median income.

    They are also a more intuitive grasp of the middle than averages in some cases. When you look at a writer and think he's average, middle of the road, in terms of income, you really think that if you put him back in the pack he' be right in the middle. I.e. half the writers would earn more than him, half would earn less. That's the median not the average. When you have extreme values such as a Stephen King the average may be so high that only five percent of writers earn more than it, and ninety five percent of writers earn less.

    In terms of this distribution the major difference as I see it is that self pubbed authors include a vast chunk who never earn anything at all from their work. This may be for multiple reasons, poor book, or not even trying to sell their work etc etc. The trade pubbed authors distribution as Hugh Howie points out, don't have this group among them. Agents and publishers won't allow books of terrible quality to be published (we hope) and are always there to sell. So if we were to somehow remove this chunk of authors from the self pubbed pile and thus only dealt with self pubbed authors who did produce work of some standard nd did intend to sell, the median value for their incomes would rise. By how much I don't know. The study talks about 19% of self pubbed authors being in this group from memory, so we' be looking at the spread of incomes of the top eighty percent of self pubbed authors.

    My guess is that this would lead to the two spreads of incomes of the trade published and the self pubblished being much closer. Maybe even the same. But it wouldn't mean that the typical author, trade or indie, was making a living from his writing.

    So what this does suggest is that the indie author if he produces work of a standard and aims to sell his work not give it away, can expect to make a modest income.

    And there are more things the author can do to boost his income.

    First as C Hollis has pointed out, write more books. This is one strategy I do follow. Unfortunately I then fail on the next, which is to write them all in the same genre. I write across four genres and so don't get the synergistic boost in sales I would if I concentrated on just one. You can also write in a hot genre such as romance, but unfortunately I'm just not going to do that. Marketing and promotion can help, but again I'm a lost cause here. I simply feel too uncomfortable doing this so that for the most part I do no promotion at all.

    I have no doubt that if I were to follow my own advice I could double my sales. But I also have no doubt that this would kill the enjoyment of writing for me. But others can take this path if they want to and for many it will be more profitable than it is for me.

    Cheers, Greg.
  12. psychotick

    psychotick Auror


    Apologies in advance for the text dump that follows, but the following was posted by a trade pubbed author on her blog and then taken down. There are only cached versions of the post left according to the header of the post so I thought I'd better grab a copy before that goes too.

    So this is taken from Wendy Higgens Writes, and is actually very current. It was also posted as a link on Kindle Boards by Hugh Howie, which is how I found it.

    Wendy Higgins Writes: HONE$TY PO$T: An Average Traditionally Published Author's Pay

    Wednesday, January 8, 2014

    HONE$TY PO$T: An Average Traditionally Published Author's Pay

    So, I'm going to talk about money.

    Are you cringing yet? I am, a little. It's just one of those taboo subjects, you know? Sort of...tacky. But I'm an open book so I don't mind sharing some personal stuff for the sake of informing people. Mostly because I think there's a huge misconception out there - one that makes me feel bad almost on a daily basis. I get asked for free things a lot. I'd be willing to bet that I get as many requests for free books and swag as I get fan mail. It's just part of the industry, but when I have to say no and I get a sad-face response I feel even worse.

    I'm not mean and greedy. I promise you. I'm just...broke.

    Not broke as in "poor," but we're your average North American family working our butts off to keep our heads above water and be able to send our kids to college someday.

    I'm going to give you the lowdown. Get ready. (And please know that I am NOT bashing my publisher. They are a business, so it's safe to say their goal is to make money along with spreading the love of reading.)

    The day my first agent told me the publisher was going to make an offer I remember his exact words. My agent said, "Now, don't go thinking you're going to be able to buy a beach house." He then told me to try and stay grounded and focus on my family. So I braced myself. And he was right. There would be no beach house purchasing.

    Shortly after my offer was made I came across a conversation on Goodreads that made me laugh. Some readers were discussing upcoming books and they mentioned one new author who was given over $100K for her book. The reason this was funny to me is because I knew that author and I knew her deal was about the same as mine. I got a $10,000 advance for my first book. Not horrible for a brand new author, but not $100K either. The average author does not get a huge advance like that.
    The thing people don't realize about advances is that: 1)You don't get it all at once - you get the first half when you sign the contract and the second half when you turn in the final manuscript, 2) It's not "bonus" income - it's an advance on royalties you will make from your portion of the book sales, so when the book goes on sale you have to pay all of that advance BACK before you start getting paychecks, 3)You have to share that advance and all income made with your agent (not complaining, believe me, they earn their 15% and I'm happy to pay it!!), and 4)You have to put a percentage of that money away to go toward taxes.

    Alrighty, so now you know how much I made for an advance. Glad we got that out of the way. Let's forge ahead into regular pay.

    I got the offer for my book in October 2010. I received my advance in 2011. My book published in 2012. I did not get a paycheck during my publication year because all earnings went to paying back the advance. To summarize, over the course of my first two full years as an author I made a net of $6,000 (that's my advance total after paying agent and taxes). That is $3k a year to begin. Let that sink in....
    I did not start getting paid until eighteen months after my book hit the shelves. From what I hear, this is completely normal for an average traditionally published author who hasn't hit any of the bestseller lists.

    So, now that the long waiting period is over, how much do I make?

    Well, when I sold books two and three, I got $15K advances on each of those. Yay for that!

    My books are paperback originals - no hardbacks - and I make 6% of the paperback sales, 25% of the ebook sales. Publishers take a big chunk because they have a lot of employees to pay, and print costs are not cheap. Of my percentages earned I share 15% with my agent and put away approximately 15% for taxes. That means for every $10 paperback of mine that is sold I get $.60, and $.09 of that goes to my agent.
    I make about $.50 from each book. Fifty cents. So it's not that I don't want to send books when people ask for them - believe me, I'd like to send a book to every person on earth who wants it! But I'd have to sell 60 books in order to send one internationally. Pretty crazy when you think of it like that, huh?

    I read once that this is how it is for musicians, as well. They make very little from each sale. Now it's clear why musicians and authors get so upset when we come across sites where people have downloaded our books and music for everyone to enjoy without paying. Piracy sucks. I may be living my dream, but I still need to feed my children and pay my bills like everyone else. Being in the entertainment industry doesn't mean someone is filthy rich and it's okay to steal from them. (Whoops, I digress...tiny rant over.)

    All-in-all, if you want to be a writer for a big six publishing house it's best not to go into it for the money. Go into it for the love of writing - the love of your story and the desire to share it. Those reasons make this job fulfilling on a level that no other job has ever been able to do for me. I love interacting with readers. I love making stuff up and crafting it into a world that will transport someone's mind away from the harshness of reality for a bit. That's what it has to be about. That has to be the pay to get you through when you're not actually getting paid.

    I now have two books out and the third will publish in four months. With each year that passes and each book that publishes, things are more comfortable. In 2013 I made somewhere between a fast-food worker and a small town teacher - SWEET! I'm moving up in the world! :)

    And I'm happy - so grateful. I truly am. Please, please don't think this post is about me complaining or being negative. I simply want to dispel the myth that all published authors are loaded with money. It's an unhealthy assumption that hurts and disappoints all involved.

    Here are a few other author facts concerning funds that are not general knowledge:

    1) Publishing houses do not send all of their authors on book tours. In fact, some don't send any, and some select only a choice few authors who are either huge sellers or who they're trying to promote into becoming huge sellers.

    I have never been sent to any signing events. Anything I attend comes out of my own pocket (and just to give you an idea, full cost of attending an out of state event can cost around $1,000 for fees, hotel, food, travel, etc.) I'm lucky if I get to do one big event a year. As far as signings, I will generally only agree to signings that are in driving distance - day trips, woot! - or places where I'm already planning to travel. I have family in Atlanta and Dallas, so I've recently signed in those places when I've gone to visit my family.

    2) Publishing houses do not provide swag for authors. Some might, but mine doesn't. All bookmarks and buttons, even launch parties, etc, are paid for out of pocket by the author.

    3) Authors don't get a lifetime supply of free books. We get a certain amount of our books up front and after that we have to buy them (I get 25 of each book when it publishes). I can contact the distribution warehouse to order them at 50% off, which is awesome, but not free.

    Unfortunately, we also don't get a bunch of free books by other authors. I naively thought this was going to be one of my author perks. I was very disappointed to find out I'd have to wait and buy the books on release day like the rest of the reading world, LOL! Poor me. ;) I'm a fangirl at heart.

    4) Big publishing houses pay their authors twice a year. I now receive a paycheck every six months so we have to budget carefully.

    I hope all of my divulging has been informative and not abrasive. Remember, this is just MY story. Every author's situation is different, but you can bet there are many, many average authors out there in the same financial boat as me, just trying to get by and keep readers happy while struggling to afford the lifestyle of doing giveaways and attending fun author events.

    We do it because we love you and we love books. And yes, it's worth it.

    Happy reading in 2014, Sweeties.
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