Why I Love Not Receiving a Cent of the Royalties from My Books

Most writers won’t sell a lot of books. But I encourage those Christian authors who do sell a large number to give away most or all of the royalties to God’s kingdom, and to recognize they belong to Him. (Of course, you could only give away all those royalties if you have another job that pays your living wage, as not all, but a good number, of bestselling writers do. If writing is all you are paid to do, then obviously you have to live on some of that income, and there’s nothing at all wrong with that!) One of my heroes, C. S. Lewis, gave away the majority of his royalties to the needy. There are many good reasons for this—including the temptations that receiving large amounts of money can present, as well as the joy to be found in giving.  

This idea applies not only to writers who have other jobs, but also to those who have second incomes they don’t need to live on. One example might be when one spouse makes enough to live on, and the other spouse’s income, whether part-time or full-time, can be given away. In such situations, instead of serving to raise your standard of living, the other job can serve to raise your standard of giving.

Some authors I know, who make a living by their writing, choose certain books and say, “100% of those royalties will go to God’s work.” Some business people own more than one business and say, “100% of the profits from that particular business will go to world missions or famine relief.” I know one author who has done that and the book she chose is by far the bestselling book she’s ever written. And sometimes those businesses given over to God’s kingdom work also thrive. Perhaps God has an extra motivation to make that happen when His people make those decisions.

John Piper, the bestselling author of more than 50 books, gives away all the royalties from his books. (To clarify, John is paid a good wage by Desiring God, just like I am by our ministry. So both of us aren’t giving away everything, but are giving away our royalties.)

Desiring God made a video of John explaining where those royalties go. I love John’s heart, and the joy that he receives from giving is evident: 

Like John, I’ve experienced the sheer happiness of giving away funds to further God’s kingdom. All the royalties from my books go directly to our ministry, Eternal Perspective Ministries (which gives 90% to worthy Christian organizations and uses the other 10% to help offset costs related to the writing/researching/editing of the books and to facilitate book donations to people all over the world). By God’s grace, to date we’ve given away nearly $8 million to fund missions, feed the hungry, sponsor prolife causes, and much more. Here are just a few of the projects EPM has supported this year:

  • Mercy Ships: medical outreach to Benin on the Africa Mercy
  • Joni & Friends: “Wheels for the World” Cuba
  • SAT-7: Middle East “Because I am a Woman” TV program
  • CRU: Syria crisis

Because all the royalties go to kingdom causes, I’m not tempted to spend on myself the money God has graciously entrusted to me. Instead, Nanci and I get to give them away and rejoice as we make eternal investments in God’s powerful work around the world. Greed is kept in check, because our lifestyle doesn’t go up if a book commands a greater advance or higher royalties. It’s just more money for the work of the ministry. When I see my books on the bestseller list, I figure, “Maybe the Lord wanted more money for missions work.”

I don’t go to bed at night feeling I’ve “sacrificed” that money, wishing somehow I could get my hands on it. I go to bed feeling joy, because there’s nothing like giving. For me, it is like the joy of leading someone to Christ.

No matter our occupation, each of us has a responsibility to faithfully steward the money God has entrusted to us. May we all be found faithful—and experience the deep, overflowing happiness of giving!

“You must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Yeshua himself, ‘There is more happiness in giving than in receiving’” (Acts 20:35, CJB).

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries