How Much Do Authors Make

By
Teo Spengler
- January 09, 2018

Stoking a Passion for Words

How Much Do Authors Make
DragonImages/iStock/GettyImages

They say that everyone has a book in them, and it is probably true that each life could provide the characters and plot for at least one good tale. But only the people who get around to doing the writing can claim the title of "author." Authors are more often driven by passion for written words rather than love of money, and that's a lucky thing. While some authors makes the big bucks, many never hit the best seller list.

Job Description

An author is someone who writes a literary work, novels, poetry or essays.

Education Requirements

Writers follow a variety of career paths, and no particular education is required. Some well-known writers never went to college, while others hold several doctorate degrees. If you want to become an author, you should read and write a lot, and any curriculum that encourages either of these and helps hone your skills with words are worthwhile.

Some writers do earn a bachelor's degree, and sometimes even a master's degree in a communications-related field like English, literature, creative writing or journalism. The Master of Fine Arts degree is the highest academic degree you can earn in Creative Writing, and is the equivalent of a doctorate. It takes about three years to earn it. In MFA programs, you work on craft and participate in workshops where you can get feedback on your written work. Alternatively, you can attend writing workshops and participate in informal writing groups to hear feedback.

Some well-known authors, like Ernest Hemingway, have said that it is more important for a prospective author to get out in the world and have adventures and experiences than to study in school. Hemingway worked as a journalist in Europe and also as an ambulance driver in the war.

Typically, publishers pay book authors some money in advance, which is an advance against royalties. The amount of this advance varies between publishers and authors, sometimes quite dramatically. Authors are also paid a percentage of the money their books make. This percentage is termed a royalty. It also varies, depending on the type of book it is and how well it sells.

The median salary for authors and writers is $61,240. Median means that half of authors and writers earn more than this and half earn less. It should be noted that writers do not have exactly the same job description as authors. All authors are writers, but not all writers are authors creating literary fiction. Some write for media, the internet and film, while others might write brochures for industry, do technical writing or work in advertising. Therefore, published salary averages or medians might not be accurate for authors alone.

About the Industry

Authors almost always work for themselves, making it an ideal career for a mother who wants to work from home. They write a book, then usually find an agent to help them sign with a publisher. Self-publishing is also becoming more viable, as online sellers like Amazon create platforms that allow authors to reach a broad audience without the help of a traditional publisher.

Years of Experience

Authors often get better as they acquire more experience, but not always. Sometimes the early works of an author are judged more favorably by critics than later works. There is no guarantee that an author will make more money at the end of her career than she did mid-career.

Job Growth Trend

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for the category "authors and writers" is expected to grow eight percent over the next decade. This is about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About the Author

Lawyer, writer and world traveler, Teo Spengler splits her home time between San Francisco and France. She has specialized in travel, legal and business writing for the past 15 years, including articles providing tips for mothers returning to the work world or making other big changes in their lives. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, and numerous attorney websites. She holds a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley, an M.A. in English and an M.F.A. in fiction.