The Money from Books

Thinking about the financial rewards of writing is like buying a lottery ticket. You know you are not going to be a millionaire overnight, but just the excitement of thinking about the possibility is worth the price of the ticket.

Yes, J. K. Rowling is a billionaire on account of the Harry Potter series. Yes, E. L. James made a hundred million dollars on the Fifty Shades trilogy. Yes, we all know that those are statistically non-existent rarities. If you are lucky, you are going to get a few thousand dollars for the first printing and that’s it. Don’t quit your day job.

Still, hey, if my book makes it big, I think I’d give you, my old friend and voluntary editor, a million dollars or so from the proceeds. And I’ll buy my wife that big present she always dreamed of having. I’ll buy myself a Ferrari. (A Lamborgini is, let’s face it, too pretentious.)

No, no, no. You shake your head and smirk to yourself as you start typing again. Now let me see, where was I. Oh yes, the protagonist was having a conversation with his father. Let’s work on that word count now. This is still the first draft and you are still on chapter three. It’s taking shape nicely. You like it better than Harry Potter. Speaking of which, if this book takes off, I think I will offer Tom Cruise a movie deal. Who is the hot movie producer these days. Stephen Spielberg seems passe. I need to google that later.

Ooops, time is slipping and I am still counting eight thousand words. Better get focused now. Books don’t make money, really. You write it mostly for the fun of it. “Writers write to write, not to be read.” But, come on now, dreaming about riches is part of the fun. It is equivalent to the fun of buying a lottery ticket. You are not going to win, but you can dream.

I have been writing since I was twelve years old, and in the past forty years I have made roughly five hundred dollars on my creative writing. I should know better than anyone that creative writing does not make money. It is all just for the pleasure of writing and the privilege of being able to tell your friends that you have a published work.

But just in case, I think I will set up a tax shelter in the Cayman Islands. And if the book really is a success, I would like to donate to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (They do take donations, don’t they?) Nothing like contributing to a good cause, you know?

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