Book Marketing, Author Publicity, Branding

Thursday, December 24, 2009

What's It REALLY Like to be a New York Times Bestseller?

Most authors aspire to become a "bestselling" author. What exactly does this mean? You might think it means that your book has sold millions of copies and that it nets millions in royalties. The reality, however, is quite different.

Sheila Kelly, also known as Lynn Viehl, is a New York Times bestselling author, and she blogged about the reality of hitting the NYT bestsellers list.

Her first NYT bestseller for mass market fiction was actually the sixth novel in The Darkyn series of books. She does a great job of breaking down how many books were printed in the publisher's initial run (not all publishers have print runs. Those are mainly used by those who use offset printing), the amount of her advance and how much she made in royalties during the period her book became a bestseller. She even posts a copy of her royalty statement.

Here are the highlights:

1. Her publisher did no marketing for her book. The author had a platform based upon previous books she had written, and she reached out to her readers. Her readers made her book a NYT bestseller.

2. For the royalty period that the book became a bestseller, it sold about 65,000 copies.

3. The author's royalties for that period were about $40,500. However, her net earnings, after returns, royalty holdbacks, etc., were just under $28,000. Her ACTUAL earnings for the period (because she had received an advance) were $0.

That's right, a NYT bestselling author sold about 65,000 books and didn't receive a royalty check. Now, once her title earns back the amount of her advance (IF it earns back the amount of the advance), then the author will start to see some royalty checks. But until then: nothing.

Kelly said most authors are lucky to make 10 percent profit on their book, and the amount of money she received for her effort up to that point (the blog post was written in April) was a grand total of $26,000. Many authors might say they would be happy to make $26,000 on the sales of their book, but remember, Kelly writes for a living, and this is a NYT bestselling book, after all.

I think Kelly shatters a few myths with her post:

1. Not all NYT bestselling authors are millionaires.

2. Not all NYT bestselling books sell millions of copies.

3. Not all bestselling authors have nationwide book tours.

Kelly's "secret" to sales success: connecting with her readers and reaching her book's niche audience.

As an author, what surprised you most about Kelly's post?



Anonymous said...

Wow. Eye-opening.

Ericka @ Creative Liar said...

*Slowly clicks the red "x" on the Mercedes Benz website.*

But seriously, this is surprising. I suppose it's a matter of assessing the purpose of writing in the first place. I'm sure it's disheartening to not be compensated for all the hard work and effort but on the other hand, being a NYT bestseller is an honor.

Thanks for giving us the truth however hard it may be to swallow.

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