Get Rich or Die Tryin’

So the other day an article appeared in which Patrick Wensink (author of ‘Broken Piano for President‘) states that it made him nothing, or almost nothing, depending on if he wrote the headline, too.

Apparently he and I have very different definitions of ‘nothing’. He does balance it with the obligatory “I’m glad to make anything off writing”, which… yeah, duh. Aren’t we all? But let’s speak to the point at hand:

It isn’t clear if the $12k is from February-July (which he apparently just got paid for) or the last year (February-February). If it’s the former, that’s $2,400 a month- not shabby at all. If it’s the latter, $1,000 per month- which isn’t too horrible either. Not enough to live off of, certainly, but a solid step in that direction- and certainly nothing to sneeze at as far as supplementary income. There are, however, some nuggets that authors need to understand buried in (what I feel is) a misleading article; namely:

One Book Does Not a Fortune Make: With rare exception, one book- even one that sells very well- will not set you for life. Books are a product, and their sales will stagnate at some point or another. The good news is that people will keep buying books. The better news is books will keep being written. This is also bad news if you’re a writer, because your book has to stand out and sell. So don’t count on one book- or even a couple- to set you for life.

Viral Success Does Not Equal Financial Success: It might sell a bunch of books really fast. Or maybe people like the story around the book rather than the book itself, such as the cease-and-desist around Wensink’s. What sells books is momentum, and viral attention can help that, but it does not guarantee it. Viral fame is fickle- for every 50 Shades that is spread around like the literary venereal disease it is, how many appear in a few places, are purchased by a few and just as quickly forgotten?

Allow me to speak to the heart of the matter: the money. After all, writing is a business no matter if you are self-published, published via a small press or a big, traditional company. Let’s assume the $12,000 is made over the course of a year, selling 4,000 copies in that 12-month period. As mentioned, not the worse result. What are the results of the three other books he has out? If each of those makes $12,000 in a year, that’s $48,000- suddenly, this looks pretty good for his apparently dual-income household. Why are two of those only available in paperback and not on the much more lucrative Kindle? For that matter, why is it only available on Amazon and not the other E-retailers? If you’ve made a solid profit off one medium (albeit the largest), how much more would you make if more people had access to it?

And maybe, just maybe, if one of the things you’ve written about is The Secret to Book Publicity, make sure what notoriety you have achieved hasn’t come from having legal action taken against you and certainly don’t complain about how little you’ve made from book sales.

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