Sean Masaki Flynn explains author’s compensation

Sean Masaki Flynn, author of Economics For Dummies, answers a reader’s question on Freakonomics:

Q: Roughly what does one make for writing a Dummies book, and is it a more lucrative endeavor (in terms of dollars per hour) than the textbook route?

A: Author royalties are very paltry — both for textbooks and for other books. A typical royalty rate would be 6 percent or so of what the publisher can sell the book for at wholesale. That amount is typically half of the cover price. So if you see a hardcover selling for $30, the publisher probably got $15 at wholesale. So then 6 percent of that $15 would be only 90 cents. Then your literary agent will take 15 percent of that. So you are left with just 77 cents per copy.

And a book is considered a good seller if it sells 5,000 copies. Most sell far fewer. So basically, there is no money in publishing unless you can sell a lot of books.

Sadly, I am not J.K. Rowling.

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