I just wrote a book. Believe me - I’m more surprised than you are. But I did, so go buy it so I can afford to live. I say this because so many people have said to me since it was released, “You must be rolling cash Scrooge McDuck style now you’ve written a book”. The answer is always the same, “Nope”.
Fun Fact; there is not a lot money in publishing. (Unless you’re J.K Rowling and sell 4 zillion books).
So, I would like to clear some things up. Because there are so many things I had no idea about within the publishing world till I wrote my book and it’s freaking fascinating!
1) Sometimes authors will take out loans to be best sellers. I know. Crazy, right?!
A lot of people want to get onto the NY Best Seller list and to do so, you need to sell 9,000 copies in the first week. So, they take out a loan and buy 9,000 copies of their own book. This can cost up to $100,000 … and then they just have to pray that their gamble pays and the book becomes a bestseller. I guess the idea is that if they have the title of New York Times Bestseller it will sell more copies and generate more hype and more publicity. People also do this in Australia to get into the weekly Top 10 bestseller lists so their books are displayed at the front of the store hopefully resulting in… you guessed it, more sales!
(Fun Fact – I did actually purchase three copies of my own book, because when I was doing signings I spelt people’s names wrong and had to start over. Again, how did I write a book?)
2) A bestseller is different depending on what country you are in. In the USA, the number of books you need to sell to achieve bestseller status is huge. Because America is huge. It’s all relative to population. I should have published my book in Antarctica. Instant bestsellerdom!
3) Your book gets edited. A LOT. Anywhere between 6 rounds to 20 rounds of edits.
4) You don’t have a lot of say on the cover. As an author, your publisher consults you but ultimately it’s their call. They know the market and the bookshop people who sell the books, and you really do just have to go with them. I’m glad that I did, but God I wish I didn’t look so smug on my cover. I literally never pull that face. WHY did I pull it on the photo shoot for the cover??
5) Publishers are the ultimate risk takers. They choose an author, print the book and if they don’t sell they are returned to the publisher and that’s it. So much money lost. On the other hand, they could publish the next Dan Brown. It’s a massive risk every time, and such high stakes. Super stressful. No thanks. Scary.
6) Some books become popular years after they are published. Recently The Barefoot Investor jumped to the top of the bestseller lists despite being released years earlier. It suddenly got this cult following and has literally sold hundreds of thousands of copies in the last two years. WEIRD. But also GO SCOTTY PAPE GO!
7) It is really hard to sell books. Only a small percentage of the population buys books and this number has dropped even more so since you know, the internet and Netflix. So, to be a bestseller – no matter in what country, is a really big achievement.
Oh also – self-published authors can make a lot more money per book than traditionally published authors. So, if you have a book idea, write it and you’ll become an author! But I don’t recommend that route. Because if you self-publish you won’t have someone to edit your mistakes.