Sunday, May 13, 2007

A totally blunt conversation about a category romance writers royalities

Happy Mother's Day to me -- I got my royalty statement last week. And I really want to talk about these - because I would have died to get some real information when I was starting out. But in this industry like most industries it feels really strange to talk about money. But I can't think of what the negative of it would be - so - here's a really blunt conversation about money and writing category romance.

I sold my first Harlequin Duets (Too Many Cooks) and my advance was 3,500 dollars. It came out in 2001 and it has to date sold 46,623 copies in the US, Canada, France, Italy, Latin America, Argentina and some other odds and ends. That translates into around 5,000 dollars that I got in bits and pieces over the years. My other duets have done about the same give or take a few thousand copies.

Flipside - that fantastic line that never really got a shot - yikes. My advances for my two Flipsides - Pencil Him In and the award winning Dishing It Out. Was 4,000. I didn't have an agent and from what I can gather at that point in my career it really wouldn't have made a difference. Your agent, should you have one, will not change your advance for a category line - they come in real handy later - but up front (from what I can gather) new authors get what they get. Pencil Him In came out in 2004 and to date has sold around 35,000 copies in various markets. That translates to just over 4,000 dollars. Dishing It Out, which came out as the line was being pulled has not made any money over my advance and probably never will. Which is pretty sad.

Superromance - my advances for Family At Stake, His Best Friend's Baby and my part of the Valentine Anthology were each 5,000 dollars. And, again, from what I can gather that's the standard first time out author advance - I would LOVE to hear if there's something different. Now His Best Friend's Baby which didn't get great reviews and didn't win the awards that Family At Stake won - sold DOUBLE what FAS sold. HBFB sold around 16,000 copies retail - this does not include the subscription services. Now, both books have huge reserves and the reserve is what Harlequin thinks will be sent back to the publisher. For example Family At Stake has a reserve of over 20,000 books. My next royalty statement this might translate into books sold or books returned and that book may actually prove to be my best seller. Who knows? That's what I learn with every royalty statement - who knows?

I think the retail sales really come down to covers. HBFB has a nice picture of a kid - FAS has the creepy older guy, younger girl cover.

So, there you go. Some numbers from a fairly new writer starting out in the line. Is it a lot of money? Not yet -- but someday. Maybe. Who knows?


Julie said...

Thanks for being so candid! As an unpubbed writer, this is one of the many things I wonder about when I'm asking myself whether it's even worth it.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Hey Julie -- it's totally worth it. And writing for Harlequin means writing for a publisher with a built in readership that's higher than most first time authors would ever dream of getting.

I think we hear a lot of things coming into the business -- I was told I would make about 15,000 dollars a book and maybe for some lines that's the case and maybe it is the case for bigger names in the business. Just not yet.

Sinead M said...

Molly, love this post and your candor.
It's important to talk about this, because a lot of newbie writers don't realize how hard it is to build up to making a decent living writing.
It doesn't happen for most from the first book on, or even the 2nd, or 5th.
A lot of work for little pay. You really have to love to write.

Christine said...

Thank you for posting this, Molly. It's hard to know what to expect past the actual signing of your first contract. While money is important (anyone who says otherwise is crazy), there are a lot of things to consider.

I'm assuming single title has bigger advances, but more risk.

Maureen McGowan said...

I really think you can't just consider money when deciding whether writing is "worth it". I'm actually doing a post about this on Wed.
Re single title... From what I've heard from various people, it really depends on which publisher. Some of the single title romance publishers (even the so called "big boys") make the category romance advances look huge in comparison.

Molly O'Keefe said...

And as you write for Harlequin and get more successful in a line -- you get bigger advances. In terms of job security in a business where there is little to no security - Harlequin gives you the best chance at a career. And the best chance to break out and into bigger things. That's how I feel today.

Kimber said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you Molly for posting on this. Money is a difficult thing to discuss, even on the personal finance boards I hang out on (folks won't even say what %age return they're earning).

Most of my buddies come from the business book world and there, the situation is much worse (business books are almost always small press). The rule of thumb is that if the author doesn't have any other product to sell (consulting services, etc), its a break even business at best.

Carrie L. said...

Thanks Molly for writing about this! A bunch of us have tried to figure out what is reasonable to expect from category publishing (aka how many books per year it would take to sit at home and just write and eat bonbons...I know it never really works out that way, but it's my fantasy!)

I really appreciate the info and I will pass it along to the other writer friends who were also wondering.

See you at the next TRW!

KJ Howe said...


Thanks for sharing this helpful information. It's amazing to me that you can spend months or even years working on a novel and make so little. Definitely not interested in doing an hourly rate calculation!

Here's hoping that you have bestseller success and that you start making lots of money. And, when that happens, remember I'm the girl who gave you her chocolates. LOL

I appreciate your candor!


Cheryl said...

Molly, thank you for your candor. I hate secrets - grew up with too mnay - and so many writers guard the info. about money like it's a state secret!

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