When an author sells to a publisher they’re paid an advance, which is an amount of money before sales. That money (ideally) is to make the book because the publisher purchases an idea or a rough draft. Often it’s not enough money to live on (which is why authors seek paid author visits and try to sell multiple books a year). The advance amount depends on many factors (the subject of the book, an author’s reach, whether other publishers are interested, etc). The book releases and the sales of the book pay back the advance. After that, the author will earn royalties on that book. That’s profit minus the publishers cost to print, ship, distribute copies. In a recent legal hearing with Penguin Random House, they stated most books only sell 2,000 copies. For most publishing deals, an author would need to sell 10x that, or 20,000 books to earn royalties.
Twice a year I receive a royalty statement from my publisher. Inside are the numbers of sales and my earnings (if any, remember most books only sell 2,000 copies). I received my statement for Pashmina, which earned out (which is publishing speak for “paid back the advance”) in its first print run in 2017, almost 5 years ago. I was stunned to see that in that it crossed 100,000 copies sold!
When I pitched Pashmina in 2013, I was pregnant. I lost that pregnancy. Everything felt tenuous and difficult. In between dozens of exchanges with my editor, refining and revising the story I felt so unsure. I never made a comic longer than 5 pages prior to Pashmina!
We had our rainbow baby in 2015. I signed the contract for Pashmina and my first 200 page deadline descended. As I worked, Leela crawled through the studio. I was full of worry and doubt – about my book, life, everything! I held high hopes and dreams for Pashmina but I was unaware of the challenges within the publishing world.
Despite the challenges, five years later I’ve released 10 books with 6 more signed up. It feels wild to write that! Life still feels tenuous but knowing that my first book reached so many people makes it a little less terrifying. I celebrated yesterday with a small cake from the grocery store. Because even though the days and deadlines overwhelm, it’s important to celebrate the good things.
And 100,000 books is very good.