How much I made on my first book
and the dirt on how book deals work and authors get paid.
Last year, after sending out a newsletter to promote the paperback release of We Are The Luckiest, I received a response that said:
Why are you pushing your book so hard??? Wouldn’t you rather have it be successful more organically?
This feels weird. You’re already a bestselling writer, and I already bought the book once.
I mean, fair enough. I never asked anyone to buy it again, or maybe I did? Or I hoped they would? Either way, my point is, being a “bestselling”1 author doesn’t mean what most people think it does.
These messages track with many others I’ve seen over the years, which point to the seemingly widespread myths (which I believed at one point, too, by the way) that 1) books sell well and practically on their own, like bottled water, and 2) authors, especially “bestselling” ones, are rolling in it.
(We’ll set aside the fact that no man has ever been told he should let his success happen more ~organically~. For now.)
Sure, some authors are rolling in it, and I love that. Most, however, are not. The disparity is honestly one of the wildest parts. As Cheryl Strayed commented in an interview about authors and pay in 2017, “There’s no other job in the world where you get your master’s degree in that field and you’re like, Well, I might make zero or I might make $5 million! We don’t have any standards in that way, and we probably never will.”
I’m writing this piece to address the myths above by explaining the reality of book publishing for most authors, and using my book deal and earnings for WATL as an example.
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