Actual income for authors

What Subete ga F ni Naru has to do with the actual income for authors? Well, it has nothing much to do with the anime or the novel itself. But, it has a lot to do with Subete ga F ni Naru author, Hiroshi Mori.

A few weeks ago, ANN has published an article about him being open on how he makes money as an author. To be honest, I didn’t find anything surprising about where he makes the bulk of his money. It’s just that I feel that some part of the article or even his explanation can fall in the gray area and can be misleading to those who don’t understand about the publishing industry and life as an author.

Rather than listening to the other people who are not even an author, don’t you think it’ll be better to hear a debate from someone who is an author itself?

Well, you have me in the house.

Hiroshi Mori’s income breakdown

If you don’t feel like to look through the figures in the article, here’s the summary of his income based on the ANN article.

  • Subete ga F ni Naru book royalties = 61 million yen ($502,000)
  • Total royalties for all of his work = 1.2 billion yen ($10 million)
  • Broadcast royalties for the drama version of Subete ga F ni Naru = 5 million yen ($4113) per hour
  • Sponsorship from Coca-Cola for his novel, An Automaton in Long Sleep = 10 million yen ($82,300)
  • Advance payment for An Automaton in Long Sleep = 8.2 million yen ($67450)

Apparently he also has many unrealized projects and if the projects proceed as normally as it should, he may be able to net this amount of money:

  • A pachinko version of The Sky Crawlers = 5 million yen
  • Quote from the work in a TV commercial = 5 million yen

There are other ways he said that he could get paid such as blurbs on the back covers of the books which can earn him 100,000 yen ($823) and the sashes that cover Japanese novels can also earn him 20-30,000 yen ($150-$250). But I’m not sure if he gets paid for blurbs because he didn’t mention anything.

He also points out that he can make money from royalties if his works in the form of literary excerpts are used in the practice test booklets, textbooks and in the teacher’s guide.

With this much breakdown, you can say that he makes all of his money from nothing but royalties here and there.

Is that even the actual income for authors?

For the obvious reason, of course the actual income for authors varied. But it’s still possible to make that amount of money even if you don’t get yourself any licensing deals.

Why I’m saying this? It’s because I know that there are some indie authors who make that amount of money with their book royalties alone. One of the persons I can think of is Mark Dawson who is an author of John Milton series.

But then again, making money from the books alone is usually more in the indie scene because the royalties won’t get cut down by any middlemen.

Remember that indie authors usually pay everything (the cover design, the cover illustration, editors and copyeditors) in advance. So, at the end of the day, the royalties that they receive are higher than the traditionally published authors.

Don’t believe me?

Well, in the case of selling on Amazon Kindle, Amazon will only take 30% of your total book royalties. So now, you’re left with 70% of your total royalty. Even after tax, you still have more than 50% of your book royalties. The royalties I’m talking about here is applicable for Kindle US Store. As for other Kindle Stores, they have a different royalties rate and it’s also depending on whether your books are in Kindle Select or not.

In my case, I have to pay 30% of my book royalties to IRS since Malaysia doesn’t have a treaty with the US that qualifies me to pay less tax. So, that means I make less money than the other indie authors.

Even though most of my book royalties pretty much got eaten by Amazon and the stupid IRS, I still have 40% left, which is far better than the traditionally published authors, which usually get less than 10% in book royalties.

I guess Hiroshi Mori can get even more royalties if he’s an indie author.

The gray area

Despite his bragging about how much money he made from the book royalties, there are some of the things that he may not openly mention in that article. I don’t know whether does it have anything to do with the clauses in the agreement with his publisher, or it may only make him look like a fool if he ever mentioned it.

Here are some of the things that I’d like to address that can make the actual income for authors can be misleading, especially if you’re thinking about being an author.

You have to proactively market your books

I’m not sure what kind of publishers he has, but he can be considered lucky to have publishers who are willing to do the marketing for him. Most authors that I know would rather get a publishing deal because they believe that a publishing deal will save them a hassle to market their books.

But too bad, publishers don’t even know how to market the books. Even if they do help you with the marketing, they don’t do much. At the end of the day, you have to market your own books.

This is the part that Mori knows best. He knows that if he wants to make a living from his works, then he has to proactively market his book. He did say that he also advertised his other books at the end of Subete ga F ni Naru book and a teaser chapter to get people interested in buying his next book.

He also updates his blog regularly and guarantees a personal response to fan emails.

This is the thing that he does, but other people may not dare to do it – he proactively negotiates his royalties and manuscript fees with his publishers.

Okay, he did mention about his marketing process in the article, so it’s not that he doesn’t disclose his marketing process. But to some people, this part falls in the gray area since this is the one thing that they never get at all.

I guess with his effort and his publishers taking a liking at him (that’s just my wild guess), I’m not surprised that his publishers are willing to go the extra mile for him and not so much for the authors under their wing.

His copyrights belong to his publishers

This is the saddest part for the traditionally published authors. The copyrights for their works are owned by the publishers. Even after he dies, the publishers will still be making money from his works.

I don’t know what he had in mind when he signed the agreement with his publishers, but I bet he may not consider this part hard enough.

For me, my copyrights matter the most because it’s my intellectual properties. I bet that people will say that he works hard for something that he doesn’t own only because he’s not even the actual holder for the copyrights.

If he admits about the copyrights are no longer belong to him, he’s only bragging for nothing.

It takes a long time to make that amount of money

According to the article, Subete ga F ni Naru book has sold about 780,000 copies since its initial publication in 1996. I’m not sure whether the sales figure is until this recent year, but even if it doesn’t, you’ll get the idea that it takes a long time for one book to make that amount of money.

With less than 10% of book royalties, it’s not surprising here that the book took more than 10 years to accumulate such sales.

If you’re thinking that you can sell that amount of copies if your book was published early this year, then you’d better change your perception about this. And it applies whether you’re traditionally published or an indie author like me.

Should you care about his numbers seriously?

Well, it’s better for you not to take his numbers as a benchmark. It’s not because that his numbers are bogus or I’m just jealous because I don’t make money as much as he does. It’s just that every author is different and assuming that every author can make that amount of money is just misleading.

But then again, it is possible to make that amount of money with your writings. If you’re thinking about being an author, then take this as an encouragement for you to thrive to become a better writer so then you can achieve the same amount of income like him.

As for me, I’m still grateful for his openness to share how he makes money from his works. Rather than feeling intimidated by how much money he makes, it gives me a rough idea how much mney you can make from the licensing royalties.

Whatever it is, just take his numbers with a pinch of salt. Comparing yourself with someone like him may not do anything good to you. And this is the same thing I did to myself. You have no idea how liberating it is when you don’t compare yourself with other people.

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