Have you ever wondered what a bestselling author earns? Or how many copies are sold as a result of chart placement? Last week, I was thrilled to discover that the author of a book which debuted on the New York Times bestsellers list had made a copy of her latest royalty statement available on the internet, for all to see.
Lynn Viehl writes dark fantasy and science fiction and is published by The Penguin Group USA, and Onyx Books in the UK. By her own admission she does very little promotional work for her books, and her personal blog is a lovely, gentle affair with no overt promotion for her books (but a lot of interesting stuff for writers to consider). When her book Twilight Fall was published last July it hit the New York Times bestsellers list in its first week on sale. It went on to sell nearly 81,500 copies in the first four months after its release, and earned Ms Viehl royalties of nearly $40,000 in that period alone. Her publisher held back $13,500 as a reserve against returns, leaving a royalty figure of $27,700—but as Ms Viehl was paid an advance of $50,000, she has a further $22,300 to make in royalties before this book earns out, after which time all royalties—minus her agent’s fees and tax liabilities—will be hers to fritter on what ever she chooses.
Taken alone, this might not seem very spectacular (a couple of people have already commented on various blogs that they expected a place on the New York Times bestsellers list to depend on higher sales and therefore, higher earnings): but appearing on this list will probably have bumped up sales of Ms Viehl's other books, too, and that has huge implications: Ms Viehl is a very prolific writer who has published a staggering forty-two novels across five different genres using eight different pseudonyms—and all since the year 2000.
I am in awe of her, and more than a little envious: and I bet her house is clean, too!