How Do Writers Get Paid?

Let’s talk cash. The practicalities of obtaining the fruits of your labour. If you’re looking at making writing your living, it’s a big step away from regular monthly income.


I had planned to write an angry whinge about Amazon today, but on Wednesday they changed their policy of issuing paper cheques in dollars to UK writers! For the past few months I’ve been trekking down to the bank. You can’t just sling a foreign-currency cheque at the cashier like you can a sterling one; not at my bank, anyway. The poor staff member has to go and find their book-in-quadruplicate and take reams of information from me before filing it all away in various places, and I go home to await a postal notification that the funds have been exchanged and cleared.

Now you can go back into your Amazon KDP account settings and set it to EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer). They’ve also dropped the threshold for payment from $100 to $10, which will help many people.

Amazon pay 45 days, roughly, after the end of the month in which you hit the threshold. So you can’t chuck up an ebook and expect cash to roll in that week. Still, they pay better than Smashwords, who use Paypal to deliver quarterly royalties. If you use Smashwords for distribution, you will also see an annoying lag between sales on other outlets such as Sony, the reporting of the sale, and even when the sale’s reported you won’t see the cash for some time.

Kobo pay monthly once you hit £100, again a month after the threshold is reached. I’ve only just reached that – I sell so little there – and am awaiting the cash.

Similarly, Draft2Digital pay monthly but their threshold is $10 – they are new and I haven’t had a full month with them yet.

Print Books

Any of you who’ve had books in print are probably hurling abuse at me right now, especially at my complaints that Smashwords pays quarterly. Print royalties, of course, come in yearly or twice yearly.


How long is a piece of string? Twice as long as half its length, of course. Which is exactly the time it takes for a magazine to pay you.

The People’s Friend, which takes heart-warming fiction, is well-known for paying on acceptance. I don’t know any other periodical that does. Some magazines that I write for will pay after I’ve submitted the work, but before publication – that’s nice. I tend to submit an invoice at the same time as the completed article in those cases.

Other magazines pay on (which means after) publication, which is all very well, but publication can take a long time. An editor might say “it’s in July” but things change. Stories come in. Topics shift.

Some magazines ask you to submit an invoice. Others send a Commissioning Order or Purchase Order, which you use to create an invoice. Others again send you paperwork to complete to “put you on the system as a supplier”.

My Advice

1. Tracking. You must track your submissions, acceptances, invoices and payments received or else you’ll be in a hopeless mess – and out of pocket.

2. Confidence. Ask. There is a fear amongst beginning writers – hell, I still have the fear! – of appearing naïve, innocent, amateur or gauche. You’re keen to give the impression of being a professional, safe pair of hands, and you don’t want to look stupid. So instead of asking the editor you waste an afternoon googling “how do magazines pay writers” and you end up here, realising that there is no one set answer. But the very fact that there is no standard means that the editor expects to be asked. Asking about payment terms from the beginning shows you are professional.

3. Don’t argue! The way they do it is the way they do it, and they are not going to change their systems for you.


Good luck!

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  1. #1 by jumeirajames on April 12, 2013 - 10:30 am

    Wow, is The People’s Friend still on the go? Do they still publish Red Letter as well? My auntie’s favourite magazines.

    • #2 by autumnbarlow on April 12, 2013 - 10:36 am

      It is indeed! They don’t pay very well compared to some other markets – in fact they haven’t increased their pay rates at all, for years – BUT they are a hungry market, lovely to work with, and best of all… pay on acceptance. The editor is really supportive if you submit a story which nearly works – she gave me advice, which I took, and it ended in an acceptance. Fab stuff.

      • #3 by jumeirajames on April 12, 2013 - 10:54 am

        They must over 100 years old or something. There’s another one as well my auntie used to get but I can’t remember the name of it. I always thought they looked more like pamphlets than magazines, but when they appeared it was a red letter day for her.

  2. #4 by Sally Jenkins on February 13, 2013 - 12:56 pm

    Thanks for the heads up about Amazon changing how they pay! I published my first e-book with them at the end of January and was sure it would take forever to get to $100. Now I don’t have to!

    • #5 by autumnbarlow on February 15, 2013 - 9:47 am

      Glad to help! I’d heard some people got emails from Amazon notifying them of the change. I didn’t, but when I went into my account, I saw I could select EFT. Spread the word!

  3. #6 by Phil on February 8, 2013 - 5:48 pm

    Magazines that pay on acceptance…. Lovely. All mine pay on publication which means a lag of at least 2 months just to get the expenses back. Bad news if they are high. In one recent case I insisted they supply stuff before I wrote the article, but then I’ve been writing for them for a few years and the editor understands.

    One thing is to be prepared to jump through hoops so they can do electronic transfer. It can be a fiddle dealing with the accounts department but once you are in, it’s so much easier for them to deal with you in the future, which is never bad.

    • #7 by autumnbarlow on February 15, 2013 - 9:48 am

      Totally. Getting put on as a “supplier” can smooth things remarkably.

  4. #8 by Nimue Brown on February 8, 2013 - 11:05 am

    There’s also the lug books to events and sell direct model (available to the published and self published alike) where you try to cover the cost of the book and the transport, and the stall space and can aspire to be able to afford a portion of chips at the end of the day. I’ve seen a lot of people spending a lot of money on this one and not getting anywhere… few things are more depressing than a room full of authors with piles of books no one wants to buy. Although that said, we’ve done okay with this one more places than not.

    • #9 by autumnbarlow on February 8, 2013 - 11:16 am

      Oh yes, that is a depressing sight. What surprised me (if this is any consolation at all) was when I was at the Historical Novels Conference last year that even “well-known” authors didn’t automatically have great queues of people for their book signings. Bernard Cornwell, yes, I would have wrestled my grandmother for – he even had a Napoleonic guard of honour. But others, whom I shan’t name as I don’t want to embarrass them, had no-one. I ended up buying books and getting them signed just out of sympathy.

  5. #10 by jovanacannibal on February 8, 2013 - 9:31 am

    Reblogged this on lilithimmaculatee.

    • #11 by autumnbarlow on February 8, 2013 - 11:16 am

      Thank you! Good luck with your blog. It seems very new.

      • #12 by jovanacannibal on February 8, 2013 - 5:38 pm

        You’re welcome! :)
        And thank you, yes I’m new.

  1. Self-Publishing Round-Up | Autumn Barlow

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