Publishing VI - Post-Publication - Write On! Creative Writing Center

Publishing VI - Post-Publication

This is the big one. This is the one that everybody wants to know but few have the courage to ask. How much money do you make when your book sells? What happens after you’ve sold one book? How do you make it onto the NYT Bestseller list? Okay, let’s talk about it.


Talking about sales is tricky, and it’s tricky because nobody really knows their sales. The whole thing is a bit of a mystery. Yes, you get a royalty statement every six months or so to tell you how many books you’ve sold and how much of your advance you still owe your publisher, but that’s not always the whole story. Getting real, legitimate numbers is something that’s hard for an author to do, so please don’t ask an author how their book is selling. They probably don’t know. 


Let’s talk about the nitty gritty: money. How long does it take an author to pay back their advance? Well, that depends on the author and the size of the advance. Stephen King? He’s being offered million dollar advances that he’s earning out on release day. A midlist author who got a $20,000 advance? They might not earn out ever. This is something that ranges from one end of the industry to the other, and really depends on what’s going behind-the-scenes at a publishing house, but the percentage of authors who earn out their advances is very small.

New York Times Bestseller List.

We’re all thinking it, so let’s just talk about it. Who makes it onto the NYT Bestseller list? Despite its outward appearances, The List is really a game of politics. In order for a book to land on The List, it really has to have serious marketing and serious buzz long before release day. Pre-orders need to be involved. A movie deal doesn’t hurt. A very, very popular author like JK Rowling or Dan Brown can be expected to make The List with very little effort due to a very large platform and fanbase, but debut authors are less likely to make it without serious support from their publishers, and midlist and indie authors aren’t likely to get anywhere near it. It has to do with sales, yes, but there’s also much more to it than meets the eye. It’s a romantic notion but a rare one.

Future Book Deals.

While some people might think that getting their first book deal is hard, they haven’t taken into account getting a second book deal. If you made excellent sales, getting that second book deal probably isn’t going to be that hard. But let’s say you just have mediocre sales. Your first book contract might have come with an option clause that gives your publisher the right of first refusal for your next book. If it did or didn’t, either way, you’re now going to be submitting your book to an editor once again to see if you get another book deal. And alas, the process begins again. Hopefully, your foot is in the door and you can just keep on chugging right along. But if not, that’s okay. You’ll find an editor, just like you did the first time.

That’s it for our publishing series! If you have any questions or anything that you want me to speak more in-depth on, please leave us a comment! 

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.