How Much Money Do Young Adult Writers Make?
First, we need a big fat disclaimer.
I am a writer. I am not an agent, a publisher, an intern, or anyone connected to the publishing industry in any way besides a writer. None of this data is scientific; it is based on my own experiences, the experiences I know of others, and a hefty dose of speculation. I am speaking ONLY of YA, because that is all I can even pretend to know.
People Are Not Making As Much Money As You Think They Are.
The reason you think everyone and their dog is closing a six-figure deal is because, you guessed it, those are the ones people advertise.
If someone sells for a huge amount of money, the writer and the agent--somewhat understandably--want everyone to know. If someone's Publisher's Marketplace announcement doesn't say "major deal," you can pretty much assume they did not get a major deal.
And most deals do not say major deal. Most deals don't say what kind of deal they are. Those aren't million dollar deals just being coy with you. Those are four or five figure deals, which are the large majority of deals closed, even among most established authors.
I'm Not Just Talking About People You Haven't Heard Of.
People seem to think that the writers getting four or five figure advances are in some different, lower tier from the authors that you see on bookshelves or on the internet. Trust me. They're here.
You Don't Know How Much Money An Individual Writer Makes.
Even if you think you do. You seriously do not know. Books oversell or undersell their advances all the time. You could hold two books in your hand and never know that one sold for five times the amount as the other. You really do not know, and you will not know unless the writer tells you. Which he probably will not, unless you are married or you blackmail him, neither of which I recommend, because authors don't make good husbands and, as you are learning, we don't have much money to blackmail.
Small Advances for First Novels are a Good Thing.
I'm a BIG advocate of small advances for first novels. If you can get a tiny advance, promote yourself like crazy, and exceed your publisher's expectations, you're doing great. And of course it's possible to earn out a huge advance too, especially because you'll get a ton of support from your publisher (more on that later), but I think there's time for big advances later. It's easier to be impressive with a small advance, and I'm always in favor of anything that makes it easier for you to look good.
Your Agent and Publisher Will Support You, Regardless of Your Advance.
Okay, I won't lie and say that I haven't heard of agents who support their big authors and ignore their little ones. But the good agents don't. And if your agent does, you have a problem, and the problem is your agent, not you.
And the mark of a good editor is she makes you feel like the only author on their list. No matter how much money she's spending on you, she never forgets how much she loves your book.
Advances Are Not Comparable Across Genres.
A contemporary author who compares herself to a fantasy author, in the current market, is setting himself up for major disappointment. Deals for fantasy authors are usually bigger than those for contemporary authors. A big reason for this is multi-book deals--more books obviously equals more money, and most (but by no means all) of multi-book deals are for fantasy.
Once again, these are all things that I've noticed based on personal experience. If you have information or even an opinion that differs from something I said, please let me know in the comments! I'll try to answer any questions, as well, but please don't forget that disclaimer above about how I don't actually know anything. I just get to make things up because this is my hub. La la la.