Jonathan Evison Opens His Wallet: How Much Novelists Make

Jonathan Evison

Jonathan Evison

$0 The amount that Jonathan Evison made for his first eight books—six novels, one memoir, and one story collection—which he says “were all unpublished, and will mercifully remain unpublished.”

$4,500 The advance that Soft Skull Press gave Evison for his ninth book, and first published novel, All About Lulu. The money was “paid out in two payments, half on signing, and half on publication.”

$300 Approximately how much Evison made a week at his day job as a landscaper. He worked 25 hours a week—”just enough to get by”—while writing and editing Lulu.

$0 Amount Soft Skull paid to send Evison on tour in support of Lulu. Instead, Evison managed his tour like a punk rock band, couch-surfing his way through a tour of nine western cities, bringing two friends along with him. “I paid for every meal, every beer, and the rare hotel, all out of pocket,” Evison says, “for all of us.”

$100 to $150 The amount of money Evison spent on beer and Jell-O shots, which he would bring to readings and share with the audience and bookstore staff. “The tour pretty much wiped out the advance,” he admits.

$40,000The royalties Evison earned during the first three years of Lulu‘s sales. “I negotiated great royalty rates,” he explains, “including foreign sales and the like.” He still gets one or two small royalty checks a year. In 2012, they totaled about $3,000.

$15,000 Film rights for All About Lulu, earned over a three-year period. (The book has still not been successfully adapted to film.)

$75,000 The advance Evison received from Algonquin Books for his third published novel, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving. It’s the most he’s made on a single book by far. How did he get there? Evison’s advice for aspiring novelists: “Maintain low financial expectations. Don’t necessarily go for the money right out of the gate.” Big advances might be tempting, but more important is finding “a publisher that will really champion you and help you build an audience,” and publishers like that are often not the same publishers that can write big paychecks up front. It could be years after your first book before you’re able to make a living at it. “In short,” Evison concludes, “don’t quit your day job.”

$10,000 The movie option for Fundamentals.


From Wikipedia:

Jonathan Evison (born 1968), is an American writer best known for his novel All About Lulu. His work, often distinguished by its emotional resonance and offbeat humor, has been compared to a variety of authors, most notably J.D. Salinger, Charles Dickens, T.C. Boyle,and John Irving. His debut novel, All About Lulu, published in 2008 by Soft Skull Press, won critical acclaim, including the Washington State Book Award, and landed on many year-end “Best of” lists, including Hudson Booksellers, where it enjoyed the added distinction of being the only independent title selected in 2008. The L Magazine included All About Lulu in its Best Books of the Decade. Evison’s second novel, the New York Times Bestselling West of Here, was released in 2011 by Algonquin Books. West of Here won the 2012 Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award and the Booklist Editor’s Choice Award, and was named Book of the Year by Hudson Booksellers. Editor Chuck Adams (Water for Elephants, A Reliable Wife, An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England) has called West of Here the best novel he’s worked on in over four decades of publishing.Both of Evison’s novels received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly. A third novel, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, will be released in August 2012. Evison recently completed a fourth novel, The Dreamlife of Huntington Sales, and is currently at work on a fifth novel, Harriet Chance. In 2009, Evison was awarded a Richard Buckley Fellowship from the Christopher Isherwood Foundation.


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