Welcome to EMU’s Debuts, where eight debuting children’s/YA authors write about our journey toward the release of our first book.

We will be posting two items weekly: first, a discussion of a particular aspect of our writing, publishing, debuting lives, followed by a second post by a different author of her or his experience on the same topic. Others among us may comment as well, and we invite you to join the discussion!

Our official BIG LAUNCH will be the first week of January, but we’re too excited to wait that long, so read on…


Filed under Writing

6 responses to “3…2…1…

  1. Newbie

    The multi-author newbie blog is brilliant. Hope springs eternal and these stories buoy us all. I’d like to pose a delicate question to the group of wise elders gathered here:

    At risk of sounding mercenary, at what point can a writer who morphs into an author then actually bid the day job adieu and focus on writing full time (or in my case, writing what I want to write, instead of slaving away like Kafka did in a soul-crushing bureaucracy, soothing myself in horrible meetings by thinking “This person is SO going to show up in a piece of writing some day”)? I have found it virtually impossible to find actual numbers when it comes to descriptions of book offers. How much money does an offer land a typical first-time author? (And yes, I know it varies widely, but even a vague and caveat-laden range of actual dollars would be unbelievably helpful!)

    Thanks for the fun diversion from my “paycheck job” — I can’t wait to buy your books.


    • Hi, Newbie!

      I can’t say that I am yet to the juncture at which quitting the day job is an option, so I am not sure I have an answer for you. I don’t think many writers are in a position to quit the day job on the basis of one deal. The advance isn’t usually that large, and it doesn’t pay out immediately, or monthly for that matter, so it isn’t going to be equivalent to a salary. And since there is a long gap (2 years at least) between the deal and the actual book release, you would have to either make a big chunk of money on the advance or sell multiple books during that time period to replace a “day job” income.

      As you say, it is hard to find actual dollar amounts on advances, and most of us are not at liberty to divulge that kind of information in a public forum like this either, however here is one survey on that topic that was done in 2005. I would imagine that numbers have gone up some since then, but I’m not sure:


      As for time frame, there are so very many variables! I have several writer friends who have quit their day jobs within five years of their first novel; most of them have employed spouses and aren’t the only source of income for their households. I have one friend who’s first book was published about three and a half years ago, and since has had at least two more books come out that have done quite well. He recently went from full time to part time in his job. and hopes to scale back more. So it varies, but for those of us who are in soul-sucking jobs, there is hope. Just like the rest of this journey, however, patience is required. And as you say, thinking of ways to fit those people into our novels is one way to keep the day job interesting!


  2. Natalie Dias Lorenzi

    As a teacher married to a teacher, I know I couldn’t quit my day job unless I were bringing in the same amount of money I make now.

    Even if the advance on your first book were the same as a year’s salary from your day job, you wouldn’t likely get that entire advance up front. A more likely scenario is that you’d get some at signing and the rest once you’ve revised and turned in the manuscript after the final round of revisions. You may even have to wait for a portion of the advance upon publication. Then once royalties kick in, it’s not like a steady monthly paycheck. I’m not sure how often they come–anyone?–I think I’ve heard that they come quarterly.

    I think very, very few authors stay home to write full time unless they have a steady income source from somewhere else (a spouse, savings, inheritance, the lottery, etc.).

    Maybe one day!


  3. Without giving specifics, despite having gotten a deal that surpassed my expectations, I imagine I’ll be doing my day job for a long time. The good news for me is that I really like what I do. (I teach.) The bad news is, I’m often too tired at the end of my day to write. Nevertheless, I find time to write on the weekends and have great periods of productivity. I’m optimistic that I’ll keep writing, and hopeful that publishers will want to pay me to write them. Honestly, I think the number of people who live on PBs and novels alone isn’t that large.


  4. Newbie

    Thank you for sharing this, brave souls. I look forward to reading more of your Great Publishing Adventures.

    Trying to energized and not depressed by your responses!

    It may be that the best approach is to find a day job that doesn’t crush the soul quite so heavily… I’m not sure whether it’s good or bad that my career is word-related: on the one hand I know I’m an excellent writer/editor, but on the other hand, I can be worded-out by the time I’m home. Yet I’m pretty sure it’s the Kafka-esque bureaucracy that drains me, though. Not the words themselves, but the people using them.

    Ah, the challenge of the golden handcuffs!

    (How’s the Mega Million doing?)


    • Cynthia Levinson

      Hi, Newbie. (I hope you realize that your name encompasses all of us!) As someone who can’t imagine how any of the other EMU’s DEBUTers write on top of having jobs and children, I have no career advice to give except to do what you love (assuming you can afford it!).


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