The reality of what most published authors make and what you read in the media for authors like Stephen King, J. K. Rowling, John Grisham, Danielle Steele and the like is a great disparity. The difference will amaze you and the reasons for the disproportionate recompense will make you realize what a rat race the publishing game really has become.
Last year I became a commercially published author by writing and assembling a pictorial history book on Crawford County, Illinois. It has sold quite well- almost 1,000 books- which may not sound like much considering the sales of the previously mentioned authors but in an area where there are 8,000 people (at the most) those sales are staggering, demographically. The publishing company has made $10,000 roughly , the vendors have made a little less than that and I have raked in $523.47! You read that right.
I wrote the proposal for the book and paid almost $3,000 in transportation and lodging to get to Crawford County and do my work. I spent a year and a half researching, gathering photos, doing the layout and even wrote the entire text, blurb, acknowledgements, corrected the proofs and had to scan and re-scan photos until everything was right. I'm still $2,476.53 in the hole while everyone else raked in money.
Is this fair? Of course not. Typical? Maybe. This book, while it gave me an opportunity to become a published author, in the truest sense of the word, is a financial bust for me even though the entire burden of the work fell on me. My work burden, while not typical, (usually writers just write a book- the rest is up to those employed by the publishing company ) adds an extra need for recompense for me but cut costs for the publishing company, instead, by not having to employ people to do the work.
Talk about a rat race! I'm wondering how many years of sales of this book it would take just to pay myself back on the expenses- not to mention an entire year and a half of wages for what a normal working stiff would make! I don't like to even think about it.
However, I'm proud of the book and so are all the residents of Crawford County who paid their hard-earned money to own a copy of a book heralding their historical and genealogical heritage. It's too bad you can't take that kind of pride to the bank!
Here's something to ponder seriously:
While people like me sweat blood and tears to produce something edifying for the reading public, the real "royalty" checks go to people who, by all rights and purposes, don't care if you can think at all. They pump out words a mile a minute, pretend they've written something important and sit back luxuriating in the spoils of the money they rake in. They're like the fun-size bags of candy you buy in the store during the Halloween candy buying season. They get more money and your soul becomes impoverished on the least amount of dross they can dredge up for your so-called "reading pleasure". If you fail to see the analogy of that, thank a publishing company.
Just the Castle Lady blowing off steam!