How much do first authors earn
"The book market can compete with the art and weapons market in terms of intransparency," complains Tom Lamberty, head of Merve Verlag. Fees, advances, conditions? Little is learned about this, even on the Internet there are only semi-serious entries in some forums. The local book market generates an annual turnover of more than nine billion euros, twice as much as the film and music industries combined. So the money is there. But it is not in the writer's pockets.
When I tell guests about book-writing at a party, I often see a twinkle in their eyes: "Ah, you have placed a book with this great publisher - now you must have taken care of it first!" Then I briefly explain to them how things really work with the book market - and notice how one dream cloud after another bursts.
Because with around 75,000 new publications per year, the cliché of the poor poet unfortunately applies to 95 percent of the writers: "Very few authors can really make a living from writing. Most of them need a job or some other type of cross-financing," stresses Leander Wattig experienced consultant in the book industry.
My roughly estimated hourly wage as a book author is 6 euros gross.
For me, too, writing books is hardly worthwhile. It is an affair of the heart, but it is not profitable. Before it gets too vague, I'll get naked: my non-fiction book I take away your freedom was published by Rotpunktverlag at the beginning of July 2016 with an initial print run of 3000 copies. Unless you're a star writer, most books start between 1,500 and 4,000 copies. Even publishers like C.H. Beck, Suhrkamp or Hanser rarely go higher with non-fiction books by unknown authors. The starting editions in fiction are often a bit higher.
What did I earn with the book? By the end of 2016, I had sold 2,854 printed copies. The book costs 9.90 euros in stores. 7 percent of this is deducted from VAT, leaving a so-called net retail price of 9.25 euros. The bookseller earns around 40 percent for each copy sold, and Amazon even charges 50 percent for smaller publishers. (So think carefully about where you buy your books.) As an author, I get significantly less per copy sold, namely ten percent per copy sold, i.e. 0.93 euros. This amount is multiplied by the printed copies sold, making around 2600 euros. Incidentally, the ten percent fee is already the upper limit, with some publishers only offering around six percent for a paperback. There are also 325 e-books sold, and I get one euro each. (Yes, I earn more with e-books than with printed books.) So I earned around 2925 euros in the first six months of sales.
Of course, the income tax and social security contributions to the artists' social insurance fund are deducted from this sum - and because I am a freelancer, also sick days and vacation days for which I do not receive any money. In turn, there is one-time money for such a book from VG Wort, which exercises the rights of use for authors because the book can be copied in libraries. For a non-fiction book you currently get a one-time fee of 900 euros, regardless of the subject, edition or number of pages.
Adding in the funding of 1200 euros that I received from the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation while I was writing, I earned a total of around 5000 euros gross from the book. In view of the seven months that I worked full-time on the book from brainstorming to the finished manuscript, that's not much. My roughly estimated hourly wage as a book author is 6 euros gross.
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