- Don’t quit your day job until you see enough to live on
- There are two ways writers can get rich:
- Marry a wealthy person before you start publishing
- Marry a wealthy person after you start publishing
There is a slight exaggeration here. Some writers easily support families, but even a book on a best seller list is no guarantee of royalties high enough to pay you the minimum wage for the time it took to create the book. If you look at people comfortably supported by writing, you will notice they make their money from Hollywood, not New York. i.e., from movie adaptations, not from the publishing industry.
There are two ways that a movie makes an author money. Hollywood often will option a work someone likes, and will pay five to fifty grand to tie it up. If they decide to make it into a movie, the payment typically is much larger, often more than all the royalties the book has earned until then. The other important income is from the movie’s halo effect. Nearly all works made into movies see a surge in sales of the printed book, often such a big increase that book royalties add up to real income.
This latter effect is seen especially on movie remakes when a novel, say, sees a surge in sales many years after it has fallen from everyone’s radar. True Grit, a 1968 novel, saw sales surges based on the 1969 movie and then, after most people had forgotten it, from the 2010 movie.
The point of these remarks is that almost no writer has succeeded in writing as a career to get rich. A few have gotten rich, but for every one of them there are hundreds who have been fleeced by scammers who see writers as an easy mark.