How Much Do Novelists Make?

Jonathan Evison Opens His Wallet

How Much Do Novelists Make?
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$0 The amount that Jonathan Evison made for his first eight books—six novels, one memoir, and one story collection—which he says "were all unpublished, and will mercifully remain unpublished."

$4,500 The advance that Soft Skull Press gave Evison for his ninth book, and first published novel, All About Lulu. The money was "paid out in two payments, half on signing, and half on publication."

$300 Approximately how much Evison made a week at his day job as a landscaper. He worked 25 hours a week—"just enough to get by"—while writing and editing Lulu.

$0 Amount Soft Skull paid to send Evison on tour in support of Lulu. Instead, Evison managed his tour like a punk rock band, couch-surfing his way through a tour of nine western cities, bringing two friends along with him. "I paid for every meal, every beer, and the rare hotel, all out of pocket," Evison says, "for all of us."

$100 to $150 The amount of money Evison spent on beer and Jell-O shots, which he would bring to readings and share with the audience and bookstore staff. "The tour pretty much wiped out the advance," he admits.

$40,000The royalties Evison earned during the first three years of Lulu's sales. "I negotiated great royalty rates," he explains, "including foreign sales and the like." He still gets one or two small royalty checks a year. In 2012, they totaled about $3,000.

$15,000 Film rights for All About Lulu, earned over a three-year period. (The book has still not been successfully adapted to film.)

$75,000 The advance Evison received from Algonquin Books for his third published novel, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving. It's the most he's made on a single book by far. How did he get there? Evison's advice for aspiring novelists: "Maintain low financial expectations. Don't necessarily go for the money right out of the gate." Big advances might be tempting, but more important is finding "a publisher that will really champion you and help you build an audience," and publishers like that are often not the same publishers that can write big paychecks up front. It could be years after your first book before you're able to make a living at it. "In short," Evison concludes, "don't quit your day job."

$10,000 The movie option for Fundamentals. recommended


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sikandro 1
No details on West of Here?

The number that surprised me the most was the royalties for Lulu. Be curious what the actual rate was, but bully for him.
Posted by sikandro on December 5, 2012 at 10:07 AM · Report this
These are actually high amounts compared to what many novelists make.
Posted by Jonathan G. Ball on December 6, 2012 at 7:08 AM · Report this
biffp 3
Just finished Too Good To Be True by Ben Anastas, and novelist seems like a rough existence.
Posted by biffp on December 12, 2012 at 9:27 AM · Report this
You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me 4
How Much Do Successful Novelists Make?
Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me on December 12, 2012 at 10:31 AM · Report this
Good god. Lulu was a great book and he needs to be paid more. Amortize all that money out over time and calculate the hourly wage. I bet it just over minimum wage.

This is why when people complain that dreck like "50 Shades of Grey" make millions I tell them to shut their pie holes. At least SOMEBODY is making money from writing.
Posted by tkc on December 12, 2012 at 11:02 AM · Report this

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