The Million Dollar Book (Don’t Buy That Big House Just Yet!)

A few years ago, I was talking to an author friend who wrote a novel in the 1990s that his agent — who was one of the biggest agents in the game — thought was a “million dollar book.”

She was extremely excited and she took the book out to auction, convinced it was going to make her author rich and famous and push his career into the stratosphere.

(This would hardly be the first time she had done this for one of her clients. She really understood the market well.)

She picked the five biggest editors to start with — the type of editors who didn’t even have to get approval to buy a book because they had their own imprints and a lot of power — and she gave them each a few days to read and prepare their offers for the auction.

Six months later, every editor in New York had passed.

Here was a great author with an established career, and here was an agent who was one of the best in the business because she always found “big books,” and she couldn’t sell this truly terrific novel.

The moral of the story: whether you’re trying to sell your work to a traditional publisher or you’re going the self-publishing route, the odds of being the next “million dollar author” are extremely slim. That’s why you simply sit down and write the next book and keep plugging away.

Also, it’s why you don’t buy that McMansion until the check clears.


  1. I love that house in the picture. I just deposited a royalty check for $51.00 a few hours ago, I wonder if I could use that as a down payment?


  2. Success is never a guarantee. If you’re in the game to make it rich, you need to reevaluate your career. Or choose another game.

    • Absolutely. Any writer who picked this business to get rich did NOT think through his or her options well enough. There are a lot easier ways to get that McMansion.

      • Only the top one percent of writers actually get rich from writing. I honestly don’t think the average person getting into writing believes that’s going to happen to him or her. Still, I think most authors would like to be able to make a living from their writing. That, however, is getting more difficult to do in the writing profession. I think it’s estimated that maybe the top ten percent are able to do that. For the rest of us, we simply write during our free time and attempt to create the best stories we possibly can and to hopefully find a fan base. I think from all the writing I’ve done during the past six years, I’ve made close to two thousand dollars, which probably comes out to around a dollar an hour. Writing is proobably the only thing that keeps me sane.

      • That’s especially true if you write fiction. I’ve talked to friends who have been paid $250 for novellas that took them six months to write. I also have friends who have been paid $1000 for a 500 word non-fiction article. If you can get into the non-fiction writing and get some regular gigs, you can do okay. But fiction is a tough haul. I always think you’d better be writing for yourself first. Anything else you get from the writing is a bonus!

  3. All forms of entertainment have their similarities. In order to make a living playing basketball or as an actor an artist etc, you need to have a skill set with popular appeal or functionality and then work really hard and then throw in a whole bunch of luck.

    Millions of people pick up a brush or pencil but how many can do something with it that will bring a large audience willing to pay money for it. You may be a gifted writer or you may not ; it does not guarantee success from a financial standpoint. There are books and movies that are not very good yet that make lots of money and vice versa.

    I say do what your drawn to in life and see where it takes you while at the same time remember you need a roof over your head and some gruel to munch on.

  4. Troy said it all. The catch, of course, is needing a roof over your head and food on the table. You can cut your expenses down to next to nothing, but it still takes a 9-to-5 job to pay what bills you have, whether you enjoy the job or not.

Comments are closed.