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How Much Do Fantasy Authors Earn?

How much can fantasy authors expect to earn when they publish books? Few writers actually share their earnings, but it can be enormously helpful for aspiring authors.

On Reddit, traditionally published fantasy author Paul S. Kemp and self-published fantasy author Michael J. Sullivan pulled back the curtain on their yearly earnings. Kemp said that he does not “expect to quit my day job anytime soon.” He spoke frankly about his writing finances:

I’ve been doing this twelve years now. When I started, I earned $5-7K per year. As my backlist and audience grew, so too did my earnings. My best year has been roughly $70K and an average year these days runs between $35-45K. Setting aside outlying years, my income from writing has been on a reasonably steady upward trajectory (ebooks are helpful here, in that your backlist stays in print essentially forever). Next year will probably be another year in the 70-100K range (due to an upcoming release and the way the payment schedule shakes out), but after that I expect things to once more regress to the mean.

In contrast, Sullivan didn’t earn any money from his first book, published by a small press that offered no advance. When he switched to self-publishing, his career started to take off. Check it out:

When I started self-publishing in 2009 I made barely $50 a month. By the time my fourth book came out in 2010 I was making $2,000 – $3,000 a month. Not nearly enough to live on but it did erase an extensive debt we had accrued.

In October 2010 I released my 5th book and my sales really took off. I had 4 months of sales in excess of 10,000 units each and incomes on the order of $45,000 – $55,000 a month. By the end of the year I signed a six-figure contract to resell that series to Orbit.

Foreign sales were a huge boon…and I received approximately double my US advance by selling overseas. Revelations earned out a bit over it’s first year and I received my first royalty check in April. I anticipate another royalty check this October but expect it to be less than the first one.

Follow this link to read more from other fantasy writers at different stages of their careers. Feel free to share you own experience in the comments as well.

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