Children's book authors can write fiction or nonfiction from ages ranging from infancy to pre-teen. Many authors are ecstatic to obtain a publishing contract and dream of making a living off their book. However, most traditionally published children's books do not make the author a lot of money, especially if it is the author's first book.
The Illinois Chapter of the Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) reports that most traditionally published authors do not make much money per book. For a first book, a publisher may give an author an advance of $3,000 to $8,000; this money is usually distributed equally between the writer and the illustrator. You must then earn back enough royalties on the books your publisher sells to earn back your advance before you make any additional money.
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When a publisher sells an author's book, he keeps the majority of the money and gives a percentage back to author, called a royalty. Normally, authors receive royalties of about 3 percent to 5 percent on their children's books. For example, if a children's book sells for $9.95, the author may receive 30 cents to 50 cents for each sale. Thus, a book may have to sell a lot of copies before the author begins to make money from it.
Some children's book authors sell excerpts to magazines as short stories. The excerpt must be able to stand alone as a short story and must fit within the magazine's theme; authors may have to tweak excerpts or otherwise revise their copy to render it suitable for publication as a short story. Most magazines pay between $25 and $200 per published piece, according to SCBWI.
Many traditionally published children's books go out of print after only 5,000 to 10,000 copies -- not nearly enough to make the author any money. If the author spends time marketing or advertising the book, its chances for success are better. Authors can participate in online forums about children's books or topics related to the book, post links on Facebook and maintain a blog about the book's subject without spending extra money. In addition, an author may want to consider using part of his advance to purchase advertising for the book.