In which practical meerkat has a few words about money, writing, and freelancing

from mb_galleycat at Most Authors Make Less Than $1,000 a Year: DBW

“The majority of authors make less than $1,000 a year, according to a new report from Digital Book World. Almost 80% of self-published authors and more than half of traditionally published authors earn less than $1,000 a year, according to the report. A little more than 40 percent of hybrid authors (both traditionally published and self-published) made less than $1,000 a year and not surprisingly 90 percent of the aspiring authors made nothing….

The research revealed that only 10 percent of traditionally published authors made more than $20,000 a year and 5 percent of self-published authors made more than $20,000 a year.”


I’m pretty sure that these stats aren’t the entire story, but they’re much of the plot. Depressing, isn’t it?  Writing has rarely been a self-supporting business for the majority of its participants, which is why we once upon a time had sponsors, and now have bankrolled publishers, and reader-driven Kickstarter and Indiegogo, etc. So if you’re a reader who wants to see more work from a writer, support it!

[pause here to link to the current kickstarter, because hey, it’s relevant to the topic]

All this is why I have always, always hammered home the fact that writers – all creators, really – need to be businesspeople, too. It may not be what we thought we were signing up for, but guess what?  We’re only artists when we’re writing.  The rest of the time, we’re sole proprietors of Me, Inc.  Keeping an eye on financials is essential, even if it’s often not a fuckton of fun.

This is also why I encourage anyone who wants to become a freelancer to not get too hung up on the title.  Yes, “full-time writer” is a lovely thing.  There’s a happy sort of glow about it, for many of us.  Poverty, less so.  When the story-related money doesn’t come in, have something else on the side.  It might be another kind of writing, some other desk work you can do on a contract basis – or it might involve picking up shifts at the local retail store, movie theater, or restaurant or moonlighting as a teacher, a cabbie, a carpenter (if it was good enough for Harrison Ford, it’s good enough for you).  Don’t ever let anyone give you shit about how taking other jobs make you any less of a full-time freelancer.  You’re still selling your lance…just for a different war.

But keep writing.  Because even if you only earn $1,000 this year – next year you could be making $25,000.  But only if you have something to sell.

(And keep those non-writing skills in shape, too!  Because two or three good years might be followed by two or three dry ones.  That’s just how it goes.)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Scroll to Top