A couple of weeks ago, I was sent an email via my website, it didn't address me by name:
"I have a Fiction Story which I plan to Publish in UK. However, I do not have enough revenue to sponsor the idea. Hence I need a Partner that can assist me in this regard. If interested, You are to pay me 10,000 pounds which will entitle you to 50% of the royalties from the sales of the book after it has been publish.”
There are so many things wrong with this scenario, all I could do was smile as I hit the delete button. But, regardless of whether this is a scam or not, it has an underlying belief that all authors must be rich. It’s a belief that’s clearly shared by a lot of people I meet when I’m out and about doing author-ish things, and I’ve been out and about doing lots of author-ish things round World Book Day this month. The children I’ve seen are often up front enough to ask 'are you rich?’
My reply? "Yes! I have a new granddaughter. She's my third, I'm rich in granddaughters!"
|One of the very precious things in my life|
But despite the underlying truth in that, it's a bit disingenuous.
So for the record, although I now have had over 80 books published, writing has not made me rich. This isn’t a moan, I love my job and I feel very privileged to earn my living from writing, but my current income is around what I would be earning if I was still teaching.
You may have heard of writers receiving a ’six figure advance.’ An advance is what is the publishers pay you in advance of the publication of your book. My most recent advance for a picture book text was for £2750 (paid in 3 instalments). After publication, once the publishers have recouped the costs of the book in question, I will earn royalties of 3.75 percent on each book sold (as long as they are not heavily discounted).
|Some tedious details.|
If a book does well, royalties may occasionally be in the thousands over the lifetime of the book, but that’s very rare - more often a book earns just a few pounds a year - or nothing when it goes out of print. It’s also hard to get picture books taken by publishers, I feel very lucky if I get one or two a year. I do other sorts of writing, like ghost writing and writing for reading schemes, and chapter books (all with smaller advances than for picture books) and school visits to supplement my income.
|Having fun helping Reception class make up a story|
It’s no hardship or compromise, I really enjoy all these things. I think I have the best job in the world! In the UK, we’re fortunate to receive an annual payment from Public Lending Right (and lots of people borrow picture books from libraries, thank you, it all adds up!). A couple of times a year, there's a much smaller payment from the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society - if you register each title you get a tiny amount each time a poem or story is copied, broadcast or recorded by an institution that responsibly registers its use.http://www.alcs.co.uk.
|Thanks to PLR and ALCs every little bit adds up.|
Of course, there are a few exceptions who have made pots of money from children’s writing, but they are in a tiny minority. Much lower down the financial scale come the fortunate people like me who earn their living from children’s writing. But the majority of children’s writers and illustrators do not earn enough money to make a living from it, and don’t dare drop the day job.
So please don't assume any of us at the PictureBookDen are rolling in it. You're not rich, by the way, are you? If you have the odd £10,000 to spare, you're welcome to take my website correspondent up on that offer! :-)
Jane’s latest picture book is Neon Leon, fabulously illustrated by Britta Teckentrup, who is almost certainly not rich either :-)