do the write thing

This nonbinary author got real about how much money their bestselling book made

You might think that your favorite author is raking in cash… but that’s not necessarily the case. Oh, capitalism!

Author Sim Kern’s critically acclaimed novel The Free People’s Village was recently named a USA Today best-seller, but they hit TikTok to explain what that really meant to their impassioned 56.6K followers. Spoiler alert: it’s a lot different than what you’d expect.

“A friend recently was calling me to congratulate me on my book … being a best-seller, and she was like ‘Oh my god, you must be making bank now,” they explained. “And I was like, ‘No.'”

While social media is all about living your best life and braggadocious claims, it was important to Kern that they keep it real. “As authors we’re supposed to project nothing but success and winning on social media but I’ve learned so much in the past week about what realistic expectations should be for a book release,” they said.

@simkern So im a #bestsellingauthor now. Cool club to be in. Does it mean im making bank? #publishingpaidme #publishingtips #booktea #booktoker #salarytransparency #diversebooks ♬ original sound – sim booktoks badly

In the video, Kern explained that for a year’s worth of work in writing the book, they received a $20,000 advance from independent press Levine Corrido. “For an independent press … that’s a great advance,” they explained. “I had never made five figures before.” Still, the advance was split into two payments, one after signing with the publisher and another after a year’s worth of edits. And on top of that, their agent took 10 percent!

Still, thanks to their incredible grassroots TikTok promotion, The Free People’s Village debuted at No. 86 on USA Today‘s best-sellers list when it released on September 12. The list ranks the 150 top-selling titles based on pure sales, as opposed to The New York Times, which caps off at ten. So, how many copies did that equate to? Including preorders, only 650.

And as Kern also explained, they won’t earn any extra money from hardcover or e-book sales until their publisher makes back the advance. That means selling around 7500 copies.

“I shouldn’t complain because I’m very grateful to have a best seller and the way publishing works … I get to claim that best-seller title forever,” Kerns, who founded the #TransRightsReadathon, said. “Maybe it’s inspiring to some of y’all authors out there to know you only have to sell like 650 books [in a week] to get on the bestseller list.”

That being said, they also acknowledged they wouldn’t be able to pursue writing full-time without the support of their spouse who works as an engineer. “This is a huge reason that publishing skews towards more privileged individuals,” they explained, adding that it makes it difficult to have “more diverse voices in publishing.”

But books like Kern’s are important. The Free People’s Village is an “eat-the-rich climate fiction” novel that takes place in an alternate 2020 timeline, where Al Gore became president and declared a war on climate Change. The book’s heroine, Maddie Ryan, is a queer English teacher-slash-punk rock guitarist who joins forces with a group of Black activists to try and start an anti-capitalist revolution. Adding to our reading list ASAP!

While Kerns admits it’s “almost impossible to make a living as an author,” we’re thankful for all the queer writers telling groundbreaking stories –– and sharing their truths with us.

@simkern Just gonna revel in this moment #humorfyp #booktokhumor #leftisttiktok #anarchists #queersoftiktok #translove #houston #solarpunk ♬ original sound – MObeen

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