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January 13, 2015


Patrick Carman

Thank you Shannon! This was a marvelous post that really tells it like it is. Also will you come to my kid's school in Walla Walla? I'll give you a bottle of wine and a gift card to my local Starbucks. Okay I'll throw in a school t-shirt too. But that's my final offer!


Very interesting insight, and I appreciate it. The only caveat I would suggest is that it might (emphasis) take the writer of the 700 page sci-fi tome a bit longer to write his book than the children's author's book, which I suspect is substantially shorter (not to diminish it's value, at all, based on size...just that it's not apples to apples in value returned to the author for their time at the book signing).

Sage Blackwood

The shorter the book, the longer it takes to write.

Shannon, thank you for saying all this. You don't mention distance... I get requests to come to the other side of the country for free. Of course, the airlines and the hotels don't know it's for free, so I have to decline. I'm very grateful to be thought of, though.


I have an idea! I'll go to schools and events and talk about your books for you, and we'll split the fees. ;) Ok, I know there are some problems with this (#1 being that I am not actually you), but, hey. I would have a great time doing that, I think. Affiliate marketing. Next time you get invited to do something in my neck of the woods, just be like "Sorry, I can't. But for a mere $xx,xxx I will send my personal speaking assistant." Bam. (I'm a little bit kidding but mostly serious. I am prepared to take an exam to qualify.)


Thank you for this post. It was very insightful. As a amateur writer, I'm curious: would you say new authors get less royalties than well-established authors like yourself? Is the difference significant(such as 5% vs. 20%), or do most authors get an average of about 10% or 15% but established authors make more simply because they have a bigger fan base (aka more sales)? Thanks for any follow up you have.


Great post; one many writers and readers alike need to read.

I'll continue to write what I love, but I sure won't be giving up my day job anytime soon.

-- Tom

Carol Nicolas

Thank you for the insight scoop. I really enjoy your books, so I hope you will keep writing, no matter what comments you get!
-- Carol


I'm finally a stay home mom just this month, and I'm also an unpublished author. I want to publish traditionally, but I'm worried about how it'll affect my family when it happens (one day!). What's been your experience as you raise young kids and work in the published world? Are you away from them a lot?

Tammy theriault

What an eye opener!!! Good to know what is what for sure!

Stephen Hardy

Well said. I better not ask you to come talk for free, lol.

sherry gammon

Amen, Sista! Good luck and keep on writing!

Nichole Giles

Another thought. Indie authors rarely, or never make as much per book as you have indicated here, except when they front the money and supply the books and then sell them personally, rather than through a bookstore. Keep in mind that indie print platforms take a whopping percentage of each book printed, after the print cost, and that is before the authors offer a retailer discount for distribution purposes. (Ideally, 55%, but rarely possible without going into negative numbers.)

If an author has a significant amount of money to front, they might hire a printer and a distributor, and it's possible that they can print in big enough quantities to make as much as $3 a book, but most indie authors make more like .50 a copy for hardcover or paperback. And then to get books on shelves is pretty well impossible without the backing of a big publisher. All this is not taking into account other expenses involved in publishing on your own.

So basically, no matter how you are published, signings and appearances often cost authors way more than they ever make. The goal for some authors who do events is to break even, which doesn't always happen. The best thing people can do to support author events like signings is to go and buy their books, and then spread the word to others so that they will do the same. And please don't ask for free services of any kind. Authors need to eat too!

Kelly Barnhill

I am frankly shocked that people say, "You seem ungrateful" to you. The nerve! And, I'm sorry, but that seems super gendered to me as well. Can you imagine them saying that to John Green, or Andrew Smith or Neil Gaiman? Never. They never would.


If children's author's make around 10% and adult authors around 15%, where does YA fit in? It is the fastest growing market in publishing isn't it? They should make more than adult authors I would think. Why do children's author's make a smaller percentage anyway? That seems especially unfair since there books usually cost less anyway.

Marina Gibbs

Good to know. Just as well I didn't ask you to come to our ward Relief Society book club for free, a few years back, just because you are Christian Gibbs' cousin. ;-) This is what we suspected, which is why we didn't ask. By the way, we ladies read "Austenland" and absolutely loved it!

Jacqueline Garlick

Agreed on the Indie front. It is NOT more profitable. Less if anything. Plus, you have to endure being shunned, ignored, and basically treated like a second class citizen by the big box store, EVEN when they agree to ALLOW you to sign in their store. They take all the profits, as I stand and hand sell my wares to their customers. Doesn't make sense to me, other than, I get to meet readers face to face, and hopefully, gain a following. THAT is the only reason to do this, away from writing time. A very important one. HUMAN CONNECTION. I do this. I sign at Library's, bring my own books. Collect my own money. Readers love it. Stores don't control it. I get time with precious readers and enough gas money to get home! YAY!

Erica Eliza

Would you mind elaborating on why adult authors make more than children's? Does YA fit under the children's umbrella? Is it really all about page count? I've seen plenty of scrawny adult books.


Re: Daniel "might take longer to write...the 700-page book" -- it might or might not, but I don't think that should enter into the equation.

Time spent writing could well be figured in to other places (book price, advance amount, etc) but the time spent on the signing itself is equal for both parties. It is a speaking event, they are hired to speak and to sign for a certain length of time.

They are not being hired to write during this time, so how long it takes them to write the book doesn't really factor in, the way I see it. I think it's a case of children's authors making smaller commissions per sale than adult authors for no reason other than precedent.


Wow. This has shed so much light on what it takes to be an author. Thank you for this, Shannon! You're amazing!


Thank you for always being honest and open with us. This is pretty much unrelated, but I wanted to tell you that my fourth grade daughter bought the first Storybook of Legends with a gift card just after Christmas. She loved it so much she used her Christmas money to buy the second and third. You are a big hit in our home! Thank you for many hours of reading pleasure.


I am an art historian, and I am always a bit flummoxed when people get all up-in-arms about artists/authors/musicians making money because art has always, always, always had an economic component. (Well maybe not cave art, but that's a different story.) And I don't want my art created by a robot. Frankly, I'm not sure that robot-produced art would really count as Art.


I have an author money question I've been curious about, I read a lot of eBooks, and have been wondering about the Kindle Unlimited program. Since I get to read those books, practically for free, I was wondering how authors get paid for them. Do you get a small percentege? Is it worth it at all?

Lehua Paker

Preach, sister, preach!


This is great and interesting. Thanks for sharing!!


Thanks for this post. Though it does explain further why you don't respond to emails, it doesn't take the pain and disappointment away... :(

Petunia Krupnik

Just a question, are you going to Salt Lake Comicon again this year? (I'm hoping, crossing all my crossables, that it's a yes)

Laura Hickman

Thanks Shannon, this was an excellent and truthful article. Putting pen to paper (or hands to keyboard) as a carreer can be both tough and beautiful.

Jenna M

Hi Shannon!
I was inspired to start writing as a direct result of The Goose Girl- my roommate at BYU handed it to me when I was uber-stressed due to final exams and I couldn't put it down. Thanks for that beautiful story!

Please, please keep writing more about your experiences as an author. Your post in December about trying to publish in a market that may be already saturated was very informative and I sent it to all of my aspiring author friends.

Thanks! :)

J. Oh

I agree with Jenna M's comment--I'm so grateful for these awesome posts about your experiences as an author. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to share; it's so informative and interesting. :)


I love your blog. And I have a question for you: How can I convince my friend to read a different genre? When I was reading The Goose Girl, and I attempted to get her to read it, she dismissed it because she says, "I hate books with whiny princesses and magic" (she assumes every princess is whiny). She's stopped reading, even though she used to enjoy it, because there aren't enough books in the ONE genre that she likes (Realistic Sci-Fi Adventure). We used to be book buddies, and I thought I could try to get advice from one of my top-ten favorite authors (you!). So, how can I get her to branch out and start reading again? If you decide to write a post in response, thanks in advance!

Jill Lemon

Very informative - thanks for sharing. I have been to a few book signings (including one of yours) and am going to Marissa Meyer's book signing at the King's English this week. I know the cost of the book is more than what you would pay at Amazon/Costco but I personally LOVE meeting the authors. My tween/teen kids also love meeting a 'real' life author.
Could you share any information on how an author earns a commission on books purchased by libraries? I regularly borrow a book from the library before purchasing.

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