"How much money do historians make from all the writing they do?"

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NH Civil War Gal

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My husband is a published author by independent publishers (long ago now), he blogs, and every week does a small, local independent tv show with books. His sales, with great independent reviews were in the 1500 to 3000 range. And he wrote for a niche market, not Civil War but science. He still writes, blogs, does the tv show. His big claim to fame, which bucked him up no end, was being recognized in the grocery store! But definitely don't quit your day job! To us, Eric is the Rock Star, for many reasons!
 

Joshism

Sergeant Major
Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Location
Jupiter, FL
For about a decade, I blogged for a couple of sites. All my paid work was writing about immigration related topics. At times I made 20,000 per year or more from this. My Civil War posts earned about 5,000-8,000 per year during the Sesquicentennial. That was down to about 2000 last year for The Immigrants Civil War.
May I ask if you were getting paid a flat fee from the sites, or was it pageviews / ad revenue based?
 

Pat Young

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Featured Book Reviewer
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Jan 7, 2013
Location
Long Island, NY
May I ask if you were getting paid a flat fee from the sites, or was it pageviews / ad revenue based?
I was getting a flat fee. Neither site was ad driven. I did not have have to get a particular number of page views ("hits"). Now at my new job, my blogging on immigration history has simply been folded into my work schedule and I have been put in charge of one of the websites publishing the materials, so it will be difficult after January when this goes into effect for me to disaggregate exactly what I am being paid for, though I will still be getting paid.
 
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demoderbydrvr

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Jun 1, 2019
Exactly right, Mark. And thanks for the kind words.

To give some real numbers...

My two biggest sellers are Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart's Controversial Ride to Gettysburg, which has sold about 8500 copies between hardcover and softcover since 2006 and The Devil's to Pay: John Buford at Gettysburg, which has sold roughly 5000 copies between hardcover and softcover since 2014.

Those figures include copies that I have purchased to re-sell. I've probably sold close to 600 copies of Plenty of Blame myself over the years, and probably about 500 copies of Buford at Gettysburg.
Wow, this is quite fascinating to see those numbers! I am assuming that also includes books purchased by libraries?

Larry at For the Historian and I had a pretty long conversation about the book industry on my last visit to Gettysburg.

I definitely would've thought that it would have been a tad more for the Gettysburg related books, especially since so many people walk into that visitor's center bookstore.

Makes me even more thankful you guys right such good books, when obviously the pay off for all of your hard work is fairly small.
 

Eric Wittenberg

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Jun 2, 2013
Location
Columbus, OH
Wow, this is quite fascinating to see those numbers! I am assuming that also includes books purchased by libraries?

Larry at For the Historian and I had a pretty long conversation about the book industry on my last visit to Gettysburg.

I definitely would've thought that it would have been a tad more for the Gettysburg related books, especially since so many people walk into that visitor's center bookstore.

Makes me even more thankful you guys right such good books, when obviously the pay off for all of your hard work is fairly small.
That number DOES include sales to libraries.

The truth is that if I break even, I'm happy. Profit is obviously a nice thing, but as long as I'm not losing money, I can justify the expenditures.
 
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demoderbydrvr

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Jun 1, 2019
That number DOES include sales to libraries.

The truth is that if I break even, I'm happy. Profit is obviously a nice thing, but as long as I'm not losing money, I can justify the expenditures.
thanks for the info! Just another reason I’ll just buy books I know I’ll enjoy or get something out of so the authors can get a little something for their hard work
 

19thOhio

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Joined
Oct 24, 2019
I researched, wrote and self published the story of a local regiment. By some indirect I came across a regiment that formed in our town, Alliance, Ohio. Even at age 70 I didn't know that such existed. Being the sesquicentennial of the CW, I wanted to read a book about what these men and their families experienced. None being available, I figured I just had to write it myself. Four years and 77,000 words later it was done. By then I almost felt as though I was a member of the regiment. I learned so much about the CW and the Western Theater. I had 150 copies made and have only 10 left. Most were sold at presentations and some on Amazon. I have met some interesting people and toured all of the regiments battle and camp sites of which I am aware. I think I have broken even with the printing cost.

At this point I do not plan to print any more but possibly share short stories on this forum when appropriate. I hope this is permissible.

I would be glad to share my experiences with anyone interested in such a project.
 

Kirk Womack

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Jun 29, 2019
Location
Brookville, Indiana
This isn't about writing books, but I was at Spring Mill State Park in Mitchell IN a couple years ago at a living history event. A lady approached me after the skirmish, and we talked for a bit. She then proceeded to ask me the infamous question: "So, how much do you all get paid to do this". After I came to( apparently you can loose consciousness from laughing too hard), I explained to her that we don't get paid to reenact, we PAY to reenact. And through the nose at times I might add. I explained that we do this because we love doing it. Same with authors of history books.
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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Feb 14, 2012
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Central Pennsylvania
That number DOES include sales to libraries.

The truth is that if I break even, I'm happy. Profit is obviously a nice thing, but as long as I'm not losing money, I can justify the expenditures.

Yes, but there'll be movie rights. :angel:One Continuous Fight? Movie. Now to pick who gets to play everyone.I'm out. All my picks are far too er, age disqualified. It'd be one of those adrenaline shot a second movies you come out of exhausted but satisfied.
 
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A. Roy

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Raleigh, North Carolina
The most that I have ever made in a year from all of my historical work combined--royalties, selling books, getting paid for speaking or leading tours, etc., was in 2013, when I made about $9000. To accomplish that, I was on the road every weekend but one from mid-April to the last week in July, and by the time we went to the Outer Banks for 10 days at the end of July of that year, I was so exhausted that I could barely function.

I'm often asked why I don't quit lawyering and write full time. My typical response, which is completely accurate, is to say, "Because my wife insists on living indoors and not in a cardboard box under an overpass, and because she insists on having money to buy dog food."
Yes, I have one of those indoor spouses as well! I left management in 1990 and started working full-time as a writer (with some stints as editor or web content developer). But I decided from the outset that most of the writing I would do would have to be commercially viable -- which ended up being either journalistic or marketing writing. History projects have had to be either connected to an editorial position, or just done for free out of love for the subject.

Roy B.
 

Claude Bauer

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Jan 8, 2012
A few years ago I was lunching with some professor friends. They were encouraging me to publish a book with an academic press. I asked them what they were paid for their books. The reply was a couple of thousand dollars, on average. Typically these books sell 500 to 1,000 copies. I took a pass.
I noticed when I was in college that some of the books I had to buy for my classes were written by the professor teaching the class. I don't know any professors, so wondering if this is still a practice?
 

thomas aagaard

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Nov 19, 2013
Location
Denmark
I noticed when I was in college that some of the books I had to buy for my classes were written by the professor teaching the class. I don't know any professors, so wondering if this is still a practice?
At least in some areas it should be the case.

At an university you want the newest and best research in your litterateur.
Since the "teachers" are actually there to do high end research and the teaching is only a minor part of the job their work should be the newest and best information.
So It really should be their books used.

The problem is obviously when their books are not the best... but they force the students to use them anyway.

I experienced both situations.
I also had plenty of cases where the knowledge we used was based on work done by one of our professors.
(Especially when it came to churches since our professor was the leading expert and the biggest excavations of medieval farms ever done here in Denmark was lead by the leader of our institute. That is before she got that position)
 
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CLoperfido

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Feb 11, 2018
unless you're a famous person with a big name or are number one on the new york times best seller list you won't make hardly anything being an author, especially history. My royalty check last year was a little over 300 and that was with only doing a few days signing in Gettysburg and one speaking engagement. I guess if you were to really hit the events hard and sell a lot of books you could make a decent amount but I guarantee the amount of time and energy put into those events would far outpace the money received back in royalties. I wrote my book for personal satisfaction and a challenge to myself, any money I get back is just icing on the cake.
 

bdtex

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Interesting thread. Glad it got a bump. I remember it but it's been awhile since I scrolled through it. Kind of an alarming thread too. The book numbers sold posted by some of the authors caught me off guard. I would have expected it to be higher. I am a relative late bloomer to this field of interest. I don't know what the sales numbers from past years was and there are hundreds,if not thousands,of good books left for me to read in the remaining years of my life.

The moral of this thread is to support the authors. Stay active in your Round Tables, Symposiums, Historical Societies,Book Clubs,SCV/UDC/SUVCW Camps and other organizations that support authors. Buy and give books as Christmas and birthday gifts. The teaching pastor at my church is a history buff and his wife's family is from Franklin/Nashville. I have bought him a CW book for Christmas the last 2 years.

ETA: This thread has inspired me to ask and poke around among organizations and people I associate with to guage interest in CW books and promote sales/purchases of same. I'm just one person,but if I can get a few others interested in reading, who knows how far that interest might spread.
 
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