In 2020, there were over 44.2 thousand writers and authors working in the United States, down very slightly from the previous year but still markedly higher than the figure recorded back in 2011. Many changes have occurred for employees in this sector over the last few years, and it is a truth universally acknowledged that writing for a living is no mean feat.
The total number of books published in the U.S. exceeded 4 million — including both self-published books and commercially published books of all types—according to data provided by ProQuest.
Printed book sales amounted to 750.89 million units in 2020, marking growth of 8.2 percent, the highest year-on-year increase since 2010.
For those lucky enough to have got their big break, work as an author can be incredibly lucrative. The group of top 25 bestselling authors sold together 37 million units. Only 10 books sold more than a million copies last year, and fewer than 500 books sold more than 100,000 copies. The midlist author that sells between 20,000 to 100,000 units became the bread and butter of the publishing and bookselling industry.
Many self-published authors would be ecstatic when they would sell 5,000 copies a year, even when this means that they would have to get by with an income of about 25,000 $ yearly (before cost and taxes, in the optimistic case the writer can earn 5 $ on each copy).
But here comes the heck: only 25,000 books out of the 4 million published titles sold more than 5,000 copies in 2020. The average U.S. book is now selling less than 200 copies per year and less than 1,000 copies over its lifetime.
Most books don’t sell at all. Knowing this as a writer, how are you going to feel about publishing your book? One choice will have you turning to the next story with a smile on your face, disbelieving that you can make your works available for them to be discovered or not. The other choice is to give up in frustration, your expectations unmet.
The bottom line of this post is: don’t turn to writing in the expectation of earning a living. First make sure it earns you a living before counting upon it to pay for a roof above your head and bread upon the table. Only 0.62 % of the writers manage to reach that stage. Their average income fluctuates between $15,080 to $127,816 per year.
Compared to the average odds of 2 % to become a millionaire in the US, the path of the artist doesn’t favorize young people in search for fortune and fame. And don’t throw your money away on courses or websites that warrant you a sure path to success. There is only hard work and a little bit of luck that will get you there.