Weird question? How does this relate to writing or the creative arts? That’s fair to wonder how. But it does. Just looking at the industry built around writing, which is more likely to have a career in publishing that supports you well? Writers? Agents? Editors? Publishers?
In the grand scheme of things, the number of authors who will strike a gold vein is small, less than one percent of published authors. However, very few, more than those that get rich, earn enough to just write for a living. The odds are forever not in our favor. But you know who does make a living off the craft of writing? The people supplying writers with tools, ideas, possibilities, and promises.
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Agents get you published and take a percentage, but they do this with multiple writers until their 10% adds up to enough for them to earn well. Say you sign a deal with a $10,000 advance, they get $1,000. Just like you will be eating ramen and sharing an efficiency apartment on $10,000 a year, $1,000 isn’t much, if they can sell fifty books in a year, it gets better. Still not great, especially since most live in NYC, but they can build that list as extensive as they want. Agents also find other ways to monetize their profession, such as conference appearances, paid critiques, and other writers’ services.
Of course, editors offer their services to us writers, and it can cost thousands. The promise a polished sheen to our treasure maps called manuscripts. If they can line up enough manuscripts in the freelance arena, they can do quite well. Then, the editors at the publishing houses make their bones by acquiring and preparing manuscripts for the press.
The final gold mine accouterment purveyor would be the manufacturer of the bunch, the publishers. Now, these guys are who decides what gets printed and what doesn’t. They burden the majority of the risk, financially, by financing the creation of the product. They keep the lion’s share of profit, and they can produce as much or as little as they want. They control the process and the pricing. The writer gets a percentage, but they have to pay back their advance first.
After that, writers wait for their royalties. Usually, three to four dollars a book after paying their agent. You have to sell a lot to get rich. Let’s say you want to make $75,000 a year to be a self-employed author. At $3 a book, that’s 25,000 copies. Quite a lot, in a flood and segmented market which is questionably losing readers annually.
Don’t write to get rich. Just don’t. Odds say you are more likely to win that money from a scratcher at the corner store. Write for you, write because you need to. The people who most likely make a living from writing are the ones around the writers, not the writers themselves. If you want to make a living with writing, be one of them. The supplier to the gold rush will get richer than most looking to strike it rich.