Saturday round-up: tips for authors and illustrators

Over on Twitter we sometimes post publishing insights and tips. So they don't get completely lost in the ether, you can also find them here! These tips were first tweeted on Saturday 13th March 2021.

Authors and illustrators!

In this round-up, we have some select publishing insights to share with you:


  1. It is hard work to make a living as a full-time author and/or illustrator. A lot of people balance their writing/illustration work with a part-time job. A lot of people keep their full-time jobs and squeeze writing/illustration around that. Unless you come from a highly privileged background, it’s a hard slog that you stick with because you love it.

  2. Want to know about advances? Advance amounts are not pulled out of thin air – they are based on profit and loss spreadsheets that publishers run, taking into consideration: projected sales quantities, marketing and sales budgets, production costs, overheads and inflation. Profit margins are often tight.

  3. More on advances. You don’t get all of the money in one go. Authors tend to get part on signature of their contract, part on delivery of a final manuscript and part on publication. Illustrators tend to get the same but with an extra third stage for rough artwork before they go on to final art.

  4. Advance and royalties v flat fee. If you’re offered an advance and royalty deal, then you’ll start earning royalties on book sales once your advance has “earned out” (which means you’ve sold enough copies to earn back the advance money). If you’re offered a flat fee deal, you get that fee, no more no less, regardless of how many books are sold.

  5. *Caveat* Remember, if you have an agent then they take a percentage of everything in perpetuity. 99.9% of creatives tend to feel that agents are well worth the money (this is our own estimate, not fact, LOL).

  6. If you self-publish, you’ll get much higher royalties. If you’re traditionally published the royalties are lower but you get in-house editors, designers, production, marketing, publicity, sales and rights teams working on your book. I think you get the point.

  7. When you’re published, you have every right to ask your publisher for information on sales. Please note that they can’t give everyone updates every single week! But this is info you’re allowed to know and entitled to request.

  8. During the pandemic, and owing to many retailers being closed during lockdowns, @NielsenBook has not been able to release detailed book sales data in the way they could previously, so it’s much, much harder for publishers to share exact numbers at the moment.

  9. That said, publishers *do* know how many books have been ordered by retailers, so they can tell you how many copies are in the marketplace even if they can’t say how many have actually sold. Why does this matter? Well, it’s useful to know which retailers are supporting your book and what numbers they’re ordering.

  10. Again, during the pandemic and especially while we’re in lockdown, some retailers have of course been ordering smaller numbers of fewer books.

  11. Once your books have published, you can sign up for @PLR_UK and @ALCS_UK. Both of these organisations help you earn money without you having to do anything (other than signing up)!