Thursday, 19 November 2009

An economic truth about writing a bestseller

The io9 website has an interesting article here where New York Times bestseller Lynn Viehl (who writes paranormal romance fiction) discloses her royalties for the previous year and reveals that she barely scratched by above the poverty line. A few hundred sales less and she'd have qualified for American food stamps. And this despite her novel Twilight Fall (not Twilight Fail as I first misread it, thinking it was a Meyer parody) hitting the NYT Top 20 and selling 90,000 copies, which is quite respectable.

6 comments:

Gabriele C. said...

She also writes SciFi (the Stardoc series) under the name of S.L. Viehl.

Greyweather said...

I'm pretty sure the poverty line is determined from gross income rather than net income.

For example, she mentions paying taxes. If she were actually "$2500.00 over the income level considered to be the US poverty threshhold" for a family of four, then her Earned Income Tax Credit would be $3,360, much more than she could possibly owe in taxes.

Jebus said...

So an author realistically earns less than 50c per books sold? (if I have that right, I was never good at maths) I knew it was a tough gig but fuck me!

Adam Whitehead said...

As the author says, she would only be barely above the poverty line if she was also the only breadwinner in a family of four. Since, however, she isn't, then it's not quite as dramatic as it initially looks. She also writes more than one book a year, which means she earns rather more than that.

The overall point, that bestseller does not automatically mean big money, I think stands. But I have to say, as someone who has never earned more than twice the British minimum wage (and only then when I wasn't in Britain), that those kind of figures would sound reasonable to me for a young author without a family writing one book a year and just getting their first foot on the ladder. But you can certainly see why even successful authors don't give up their day jobs straight away.

Anonymous said...

Curious: what is the British minimum wage?

Adam Whitehead said...

"Curious: what is the British minimum wage?"

Currently £5.90 an hour for people aged 21 or over. That applies universally, to all paid jobs (no exceptions).