Show Me The Money

This morning I'm especially pleased to welcome Brenda Hiatt, a longtime friend, to SlingWords.

If you're an author, chances are you've heard of Brenda and her Show Me The Money annual report on what authors really earn.

In addition to being extremely smart about the business of publishing, Brenda is also a Historical and Regency author who has had 15 novels published with Harlequin and HarperCollins.

Now, like most of us, she's in the the process of re-releasing many of them as ebooks. Most recently, she has been writing contemporary women's fiction and young adult romance.

Passionate about writers' rights, Brenda has long been active in several writers' organizations, including serving as president of Novelists, Inc. She's been collecting data on writers' earnings for many years. You can see her Show Me The Money reports on her website. She also hangs out on Facebook and Twitter so connect with her there.

Now, let's have a round of applause for my friend Brenda Hiatt.

Show Me the Money

by Brenda Hiatt

For almost the entire history of publishing, writers—those who create the content people buy, and who keep everyone else in the industry employed—have had the least access to information about that industry.

Since knowledge is power, this has worked very well for publishers, who took full advantage of writers' general cluelessness to offer the least money and worst contract terms they could get away with. In recent decades, writers began to organize into groups like RWA, SFWA, MWA, Ninc, etc. That, plus the rise of the internet—writers' water cooler—finally allowed writers to share significant information, to the benefit of all.

Still, the one thing people have always been reluctant to talk about (often for good reason!) is money. Back in the early 90s, RWA's PAN did a couple of anonymous surveys of author earnings, the first such project I'm aware of. Personally, I found it tremendously useful, as did most other writers I knew at the time. But after two years, they stopped doing it.

Frustrated, I finally decided to take on that task myself and began putting out calls for earnings data, to be compiled and shared anonymously with anyone interested. I first shared these surveys primarily at RWA's annual National Conference, as a handout and workshop. Later, I created a separate page on my website to share this data, and it has become far and away the most-viewed page on my site.

I'm pretty sure more people in the writing community know me for this survey than for my books (alas? I'd love to be known for both!) I continue to collect data and do regular updates to the survey on my website, breaking out average and median advances by publisher, as well as royalty rates and total earnout info.

With the recent rise in indie e-publishing of both reverted backlist books and original work by new and previously published authors, I've had more and more people tell me I really should add that data to my survey. I agreed, but have had a difficult time figuring out just how to categorize that data—and just what information to ask for.

Finally, I chose several parameters and put out a call for information, and the data has started coming in. Things are changing so quickly in this arena that all I'm sharing right now is a snapshot, but I hope it will still prove useful to those who check it out.

I also hope writers will continue sending me their data so that I can continue to update both surveys and keep them relevant in this new, exciting era of publishing. Details (and the surveys themselves) are at my website. While you're there, I hope you'll check out my books, too, since I'm a writer above all else.

So write the book of your heart, arm yourself with information, then go forth and prosper!

Takeaway Truth

Visit Brenda's site today and check out her information. While you're there, follow the instructions to submit your indie earnings data. Knowledge is power--and inspiration and motivation.


  1. Brenda, I enjoyed the post and I'll be popping over to your site. Thank you for SHOW ME THE MONEY. It has been helpful in knowing which publisher to consider targeting.

    Have a Merry Christmas season.

  2. Excellent post. Thanks so much for doing this Brenda!

    Lisa Mondello

  3. Great, informative post! Thanks, Brenda, for sharing and thank you Joan for hosting!

  4. Sandy Elzie ...

    Hi, Sandy, thanks for stopping by.

    Happy Holidays!

  5. Lisa Mondello ...

    Lisa, thanks for visiting.

    Happy Holidays!

  6. Bella Street ...

    Hey, there! Thanks for stopping by. Haven't had a chance yet to start Bite Me.

    Looking forward to some holiday reading!

    Best wishes,

  7. Thanks, Brenda. I've always found your "Show Me The Money" post tremendously helpful.

  8. Thanks so much for the nice comments, everyone! I'm glad you're finding my surveys useful.

  9. Hi, Brenda,

    Keep up the good work with Show Me the Money! It's a real help to us writers.


    Jacqueline Seewald

  10. I think it's so important for authors to be open with other authors about their earnings. There will always be those at the top of every publishing house who do very well. But authors shouldn't go into a contract seeing dollar signs, only to find out there are only cents in their first royalty check.

    What you do Brenda is awesome. It gives the author new to a publishing house information with which to make an informed decision.

    Thank you!

  11. Brenda,

    I've appreciated all the work you've done to keep authors informed about earnings. That's how I know I've made far more self-publishing than I would have with traditionally publishing--over 32,000 sales in seven months and $25,000 from my two sweet historical Western romances. It's been on my to-do list to report to you, but I haven't gotten around to it. Will do so now.

  12. I love this site, and pop by often!