31.3.08

So how much do you earn?

I mentioned in my last entry that I would be talking a little more about how it isn’t easy making a living as a writer. This ties in quite well with a question I was asked today during the short school tour I’m doing this week: so how much so you earn?

Kids (and adults) have this general view that published authors can immediately give up their day jobs and rest on their laurels. This is all well and good if you’re J.K. Rowling but the truth is, most authors don’t have bestsellers to their name and can’t afford to live off book sales alone. Some have day jobs, others work as journalists and many rely on income from readings, event appearances and tours.

When I first entered the wonderful world of publishing, I was very naïve and actually pretty clueless about the numbers that govern the definition of a successful book. I remember being told that the UK average of copies sold per book was around 4,000 – I thought it was more than triple that.

More illuminating was Sathnam Sanghera’s recent column in The Times. The column outlines some surprising figures: statistics from Nielsen Bookscan show that, of 200,000 books on sale last year, 190,000 titles sold fewer than 3,500 copies. More shocking is that of 85,933 new books, as many as 58,325 sold an average of just 18 copies. 18 copies!! Am I the only one that finds this unbelievable? It suddenly makes me feel very good about my own book sales, which thankfully run into four figures, not two.

These numbers are great for self-validation. After all, other than book sales, there is no real or objective way to quantify how good a writer is. So I guess the honest answer to the question posed at the top is, not a lot but I’m damn happy regardless.

3 comments:

  1. aye, same goes for musicians...even if i concentrated full-time on playing gigs and producing i'd struggle to earn enough to keep afloat, especially in berlin where you get paid in beer.

    still have fun trying tho'.


    (disclaimer: no capitals mean it's late and i can't be arsed with the effort of holding down that shift key, tho' that doesn't explain why i took the effort to explain this inclusive bracketing)

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  2. Hi Kia!

    This post was very helpful to me as i dream of being a writer. Essentially, i want to be like you. Self made, independant and very successful mash'Allah. Everyone doubts that i'll be able to do it because of the typical Asian belief that writing of any sort is unconventional and unable to guarantee financial stability. Instead i am constantly badgered to pursue medicine. I've scrapped science from my life though and chosen English Lit, English Lang, R.S and Sociology for my A-Levels (much to the displeasure of certain family members). I just don't know where to begin... I've got a blog... Now what? Any advice Kia?

    -Nelima

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    Replies
    1. Nelima, I'm sorry I never replied to this. If you come across this comment, tweet me at @kiaabdullah and I'll be happy to get in touch properly.

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