Reviews by Jessewave

The Male/Male adult themed romance book archive

Writing is a great career but ….. how much does it pay?

author 2Many romance readers seem to think that a writing career is something that is not only glamorous but a way to make pots of money quickly in their spare time and, if they’re very lucky, they can parlay writing into a full time career. However, only the most successful authors can afford to write full time and there are not that many of those rare beings in this genre, so it’s important to know what you can expect to make as a writer before you jump in.

And the dreams don’t stop. Readers also have visions of their books turning into movie scripts like one very famous (or infamous) writer who recently did just that! They figure they can write in their pyjamas and not have to commute to work, as the commute would be from their bedroom to the den/office, :) after they catch up with the morning shows and drink their second cappuccino or latte. Doesn’t that sound idyllic? However the truth may not be the picture I just painted because writing is hard work if you do it right and produce quality work, as any experienced author will tell you. So this post is an attempt to find out if there’s any money to be made from all that hard work, and if so, how much.

Where to publish? We used to think that there was only one way to get your literary works of art into the hands of readersย โ€“ by publishersย โ€“ but as current events and trends have shown us, publishers are facing stiff competition from an unlikely source: self publishing. Seems authors are doing it for themselves. To demonstrate how far we have come in this business, I’m enclosing a link my friend TJ sent me to a New York Times article about Steven Soderbergh, the well known filmmaker, who is publishing a hard-boiled suspense novella on Twitter, tweet by tweet, called “Glue”. So far, he has published seven chapters. Twitter may be the next mountain in publishing for writers to conquer, but not today. ๐Ÿ˜† Of course if you tweet it you can’t charge for the book. ๐Ÿ˜ฏ Here’s the link to the article

Just how much money can be made? This started out as an article about self publishing and I’m still going to write that essay soon, but today I want author 3to zero in on how much money M/M writers make. This post is directed to all our writers out there, novice and experienced, and I’m looking for their help in completing the enclosed survey which could be used to develop a database of what M/M authors make, before taxes. There is no definitive or credible information around currently and this database of author salaries would be a boon to every M/M writer, either current or aspiring. With the incredible influx of new authors into the genre I thought this would be useful comparative information for everyone. I should say right off the bat that I’m sure it’s not just the money that attracts people to writing as a career because many writers have told me that they can sooner stop breathing before they can stop writing. However, conversely I know that a lot of authors write to supplement the incomes from their full-time or part-time jobs. Can a romance writing career be based on something so unromantic and prosaic? Surely creativity and art must play a major role! :) I’m sure it does.

authorThere are two important sides to the revenue coin. The first is that most M/M authors still currently publish their books through publishers โ€“ mostly epublishers โ€“ but this is changing. Today more and more authors are discovering self publishing. The main reason for this shift is money. If the writers are good at what they do and/or have a large fan base they typically make a lot more money by self pubbing. Royalties through an epublisher are usually between 30 โ€“ 45% of what the publisher nets (not grosses), meaning sales through a third party like Amazon earn an author less when the author is going through a publisher middleman.

By self publishing through Amazon Digital Services, on the other hand, an author can make as much as 70% of the gross receipts, depending on the pricing structure of the books. As writers get back their rights to books that were previously under contract with a publisher, the likelihood of them going the self publishing route rather than renewing their contracts is very real and publishers are bleeding a lot of their more popular writers. Likewise, some new writers choose to self publish from the getgo because they believe they can make more money that way rather than the traditional one through a publisher, and going by the numbers they may have the right idea. However, if you’re an aspiring writer don’t quit your day job without doing a lot of research, and the data from this survey could be part of that research in terms of the answer to the question: How much does an M/M writer make from his/her books?

Money, money, money. So how much does an author really make and is there a huge difference between releasing his/her books through an epublisher vs. self publishing? The enclosed short survey should provide some useful data on writer income that I hope will benefit all m/m authors. You can help your fellow authors and yourself by completing the survey which will also be on the right hand sidebar. BTW, no one will know how much anyone makes individually because the poll is completely anonymous: Here it is:

How long have you been published as an M/M author?

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How many stories/books are in your backlist?

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How much did your first book earn?

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Was it a:

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Do you currently use an epublisher?

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How much do you currently earn on average using an epublisher? > Per novel

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> Per novella

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> Per novelette/short story

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If you currently self publish how much do you earn? > Per novel

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> Per novella

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> Per novelette/short story?

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Do you plan to continue self publishing exclusively?

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How much do you earn now annually from your writing career? > Using an epublisher

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> Self Publishing

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NOTE: The term “epublisher” is used interchangeably in this post with “publisher” since the majority of epublishers also publish their novels in print.


I live in Canada and I love big dogs, music, movies, reading and sports - especially baseball


  • Interesting survey. I will have to confess, my royalties have paid the mortgage over ten times–but then again, I live in a pretty crappy house. ๐Ÿ˜‰ It was good to discover that I’m selling on a par with a lot of other people.

    I’ve just stepped a toe into the self-publishing waters. I was curious and I had a project that was a bit different, so I thought I would give it a try. It was definitely a long learning curve for me. Not sure I will do it again, unless I hire people to help me do the formatting and such. I just don’t have that kind of time to invest in each writing project. I think I’d be better off writing the next one. But maybe it gets easier as you do it more often? ๐Ÿ˜•

    • Hi Sarah

      You’re one of the lucky ones. A lot of authors have it rough, but I think that depends on the demand for the type of book you publish as well as your reputation. I’ve been in love with your writing since you first published as are many other readers, so we’re happy to buy your books (and pay your mortgage) . ๐Ÿ˜† Raincheck will always be one of my favourite books and I absolutely adore Rodney. :) It’s amazing how one book just resonates.

      As for the self publishing experiment, i understand that formatting expertise is available for as little as $50 as are covers for approximately the same price, and editing is based on a per word formula. The industry to provide services will grow as more people get into self publishing. I understand from a few people that the learning curve of the first self published book is very steep but then it’s almost like a piece of cake because you know where to get the services you need and what are the steps.

      • Aw, you are seriously making me blush here! :blush: Thank you, that is very kind of you to say! (I love Rodney too, I keep thinking he deserves a sequel so we can find out what happens next…)

        Lordy, it took me nine hours to format the self-pubbed venture (and that was with help!) and when I discovered that I had *still* managed to screw it up, well, let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. Before reading this post, I would have sworn up and down that I’d never self-pub again (despite the fact I love the end result), but reading what Kaje had to say on the price breakdowns is making me rethink that again. Hopefully it *does* get easier!

        • A Rodney sequel??? I am so there. ๐Ÿ˜€

          Formatting help is available from $50 I understand. I hope to get information on other resources for my post on self pubbing.

          Why do authors think that because they can write they have the skills for all the other elements that go into publishing. ๐Ÿ˜ฎ Stick with what you know. ๐Ÿ˜†

          • Ah, I tried to do it all myself because of financial constraints at the moment. But yeah, lesson learned.

            Hah, that’s two votes for a sequel to Rodney’s story! Maybe it’s not such a far-fetched idea after all! :smile:

  • You might specify for “books in your backlist” whether you want to include freebies or only works for sale. I’m not sure how you’re using the data. I put in my for-sale books (12 including the shorts) but my total would be 25 if you include the freebies.

    I’ll be interested to see the data. I had no expectations whatsoever when I started publishing. I was taken a bit aback by how much of a cut Amazon, ARe and other retailers take – 40 to 60% off the top, for listing and selling the book. Considering the low overhead for online ebooks, that’s a pretty good deal for them. I do try to buy from publishers directly more, since I became an author and saw the numbers, but convenience and lack of bookshelves holding past purchases, and security concerns about some pubs websites do reduce that.

    Paperbacks are definitely not much of a money-maker for me. I love having them – it feels real, and I bought a fair bit of paper, before getting into e-books and running out of shelf space. But there are times when I’ve made around a dollar, off a twelve-dollar PB sale. The vast majority of my sales are e-book. And contracts between epubs do vary (percentages, and whether on gross or net.) New authors would do well to ask around about that, if income is a high priority.

    • Also “How much did your first book earn” will continue to increase somewhat over time. My books earn most of their return in the first six months, but my first book is still selling slowly but steadily, two years after release. One of the things about ebooks and POD that is nice, is that the books don’t go out of print. Unlike the old days, where most genre books had a limited time to sell, most of our backlists can be kept available indefinitely. So building a backlist can result in a slowly increasing annual income, as long as you continue to add new books to it. (Hopefully, piracy issues and so on aside.)

    • Hi Kaje
      Since this survey is related to income I’m assuming that any books listed by an author are those offered for sale, otherwise it would skew the data.

      It’s a real eye opener to see how much is the split between publisher/author in terms of royalties paid to the author. Of course the publisher invests the money for the cover, editing, listing the book, promotion etc., but it’s still the author’s proprietary work and the income split doesn’t seem to favour the author. A few authors told me that the sunk costs for the “publishing” elements when they self publish are not that much but that the learning curve is steep.. The numbers I quoted in the post came from an author who has been in the business for a number of years and uses a range of publishers as well as self publishes.

      The purpose of this article and another one on self publishing that I will be posting in a few weeks is to at least provide some information to authors who are looking to self publish, by outlining a few of the traps and the rewards. :)

      • It’s more the bookseller portion that was an eye-opener for me. I expected the publisher to take their cut – they do the editing/art/formatting/distribution/publicity. But the distributer basically lists the book on their database, and maintains records – it seems crazy that for that, they often get more off my books than the publisher and I earn together. But that’s the way it works.

  • Angel

    Thanks for the information but did you enter it in the survey? That’s the only way your information can be integrated, and while it might skew the results it’s still very important to include the good, the bad and the ugly.

    I guess, since your books don’t sell well you’re one of those authors who love writing too much to give it up. :)

    • I did the survey with no glitches.

      I write because when I stop I end up with a very expensive vacation to Sunny Rancho Loco in beautiful Downtown Memphis, with lots of fingerpaints and all the psychotropic meds I can eat. (Enough meds and the fingerpaints taste better than the “food” they’re serving.)

  • I use both a publisher, and self publish my reprints.
    I have 12 novels currently out, and over 70 short stories.

    The absolute most I have ever made on a book is $1300 (2600, split between Naomi and me). It came out before mid 2009, when the bottom seemed to drop out from under every publisher. I have never had numbers that good since.

    My top-selling book has sold 1831 copies. It was an Ellora’s Cavemen anthology.
    My top selling solo endeavor is Glad Hands, at 1320 copies.
    My worst selling title (as myself) is Hard Reboot, a het cyberpunk novel.
    My worst selling m/m piece is Barbarossa’s Bitch, but I only have 3 months of sales data for it. For more than a year, it’s “Swimming through the Net,” set in the same Cyberpunk universe as Hard Reboot.

    Contemporaries sell best, especially kinky ones. Cyberpunk…there’s no market for it. It’s my worst performer across all years, publishers, genderlines and plots.

    So far this year, with a new book out last September, one out in October and one out in January, I have made $112 in royalties. I’ve made $350 in hand sales.

    I can’t seem to sell books. I’ve been reviewing very well, but no sales.

  • I wasnt able to finish. One one of the questions the processing froze up on me, and even trying to fresh to start over it still says it is processing the last vote. Its been this way for over an hour. ??? I tried. Sorry

  • Thanks for doing this, Wave. It’s hugely useful information, if only to see what’s a realistic guess at my possible income over the next few years. Budgeting when you’re self-employed as an author is an incredibly tricky thing!

    • Hi Jo

      For some reason authors’ annual income, or even earnings per book are closely guarded secrets and no one knows what to expect when they start writing. For example I was surprised to learn the large difference between author royalties from a publisher vs. self publishing. Of course there is a huge learning curve for the first self pubbed book and some upfront sunk costs, but the money is soon recovered if the book sells well.

      I thought that authors like yourself who are new to writing would appreciate this information as it comes from their colleagues, and the beauty of it is that it’s anonymous, so everyone will be truthful. :)

  • Erastes and I have chewed through the epublish-only situation before. I’m happy that my publisher (Lethe Press) produces both print and cyber versions of my work. Royalties on ebooks are better because they cost little or nothing to produce. For my own reading and reviewing, however, I don’t WANT to use a Nook or Kindle, and I’m disinclined to read works on my laptop because I spend a great deal of time there on my own work and play. Recently, I’ve had to miss fiction I want to read by, for example, Alex Beecroft and Aleksander Voinov because they were ebooks only. The industry is definitely changing but I’m in favor of making our work available in both platforms long term.

    • Hi Elliott
      The larger epublishers offer their books in both print and ebook except for Carina. Riptide is fairly small, they call themselves a boutique publisher, but I don’t know what their policy is on print. However I believe only novels are generally available in print (with exceptions, because there are always exceptions) because it would probably be uneconomical to print shorter books such as novellas. However I do know that some publishers offer a compendium of several books by the same author in print in form of an anthology, or a series. I think it’s strictly a matter of economics why more publishers don’t offer their books in print.

      • Ellora’s Cave is very slow to offer their books in paperback, choosing to wait 2-3 years after the ebook comes out. This is a holdover from the days when their contract was not life of copyright, but 3 years for ebook and 5 for print. They tried hanging on to the rights as long as possible.

        Most other publishers offer them simultaneously.

    • Samhain puts their books out in print a year after the electronic release, but only the ones that are 50k words long or more.

      I’ve self-pubbed one novella so far, and plan on a couple more. With all of them I make print versions through CreateSpace. There’s not much money in print but it’s worth to do for the few readers who still prefer the feel of paper. Plus you can take them to conferences, etc.

      • I thought Samhain offered print books 8/9 months after the electronic release – guess they have extended that time. They have always only made just novels available in print.

        I used to buy a lot of print books but I have run out of bookshelf space now so I have 3 Kindles. ๐Ÿ˜†

        • Technically, mine was 11 months later. Maybe it varies.

          I’ve run out shelf space too, but some books that I really love I have in both formats. I grew up in a house full of books, and seeing them around me fills me with comfort.

  • What jumpstarts earning is as variable as each authors name. There is no rhyme or reason why one of my books sells well and another doesn’t. The best way to earn more money is to write another book.

    I will add that a friend IRL had no idea that “these types of books” were out there. He’s elated to find stories with characters like him. So even now, with all the internet advertising, FB’ing and Twitter there are readers who have no idea gay books are out there.

    • Hi Sara

      As you indicated, obviously there are many factors that contribute to an author’s earnings and the more well-known the author the better the sales in most cases if the product is good. Also, knowledge of what’s available in this market has a lot to do with it. Many readers are still not aware that male/male romances exist and the more we advertise through different media and word of mouth, the better the likelihood that someone will buy the books. However M/M has been around for 10 years and there has been a lot of exponential growth since I first started reading these books. Just take a look at the number of epublishers who specialize in these books since Torquere first came on the market; the number of authors has also exploded, so the message is definitely getting through – maybe not to everyone, but to a large group of dedicated readers who help to spread the word.

  • Hmm. Good point. I just went by ebook sales since that’s where the bulk of income is earned for most m/m authors. Or at least it’s where I earn the bulk of my income now. For the total revenue earned, I did lump it all together. But even if I removed those numbers, I’d still fall in the same tier, so maybe it’s moot?

    Thanks for doing this, Wave. I hope we get lots of good data. It would be so helpful to have realistic numbers.

    • Hey Josh

      Many readers buy the same books in ebook format as well as print, especially if they are part of a series. For example, I have all of the Adrien English Mysteries in both print and ebook as well as your Collected Novellas. So even though they are called epublishers, and that’s the majority of their business, they also publish their books in print using POD .

      I, too, hope that the authors will respond in large numbers so that there’s a big enough sample to provide some definitive data.

      Thanks for responding.

  • unsure about the poll – my books are published in eform, but I’m careful to only use publishers these days that will publish in all possible formats, I wouldn’t use one now that didn’t publish in paper as well – so I couldn’t leave answers to the final set of questions.

    • Hi Erastes

      I assumed, perhaps incorrectly, that the majority of epublishers, if not all of them, offered their novels in print (POD) as well as in ebook form. I buy a lot of print books from epublishers that originally published them as ebooks. e.g. Samhain, Dreamspinner and Amber Allure. I also buy books directly from Amazon that were originally released as ebooks.

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