Friday, April 27, 2018

Writing: "Don't Quit Your Day Job"

Everyone has the idea that being a writer is essentially an annuity that pays off regularly for something that seems so easy--writing a book. And that concept, although proven generally false, won't seem to die.

There are some pretty famous authors who continued at their full-time profession while writing well-known works. A few others bring down a significant amount of money by being full-time writers, but the number is pretty small.

What's the average income for a writer? And does it matter if you're published by a traditional, royalty-paying publisher or do it yourself as an "indie?" According to a survey (that's a couple of years old), writers published by traditional houses average from $5000 to $10,000 per year, while "hybrid" authors (those who publish both ways) can have a median annual income of $15,000 to $20,000 per year. Note, however,  that most hybrid authors already have a following when they strike out on the indie trail. For those who don't fall into this category but base their publishing career on their "indie" books for income, expect an annual median of about $5,000, with 20% of these authors making nothing.

Note: I just received notification that "Amazon's Jeff Bezos said recently that 1,000 Kindle Direct Publishing authors made $100,000 or more in Kindle royalties last year. It’s believed to be the first time Amazon has released that data in addition to disclosing the number of Amazon Prime members – 100 million worldwide." We'll see. For now, I'll stay with the figures I've been given.

A few make a living at writing--but few enough that the most common advice given a writer is, "Don't give up your day job." But lots of my colleagues do their writing in the morning, at night, on weekends, and whenever they can fit it in.

So, to those who think there's money in writing, be forewarned. As my uncle used to say, "It keeps me out of pool halls and off street corners." But for many of us, we don't do it for the money--or the fame (there's none out there for most writers)--or the perks (which, so far as I can tell, are non-existent). We write because we have to. That's why I do it.

Tweet with a single click. "Is writing a money-making proposition?"

8 comments:

EM Griffith said...

Thank you, Dr, Mabry. Many people assume all writers make NYT bestseller incomes, but my best year when contracted with a publisher (1998) brought in about $17,000. I was thrilled. Until tax time. As a "self employed" person, which most writers are, the tax rate is about 30% right off the top. You've got to love what you're doing and/or feel called to the writing life to do it. I appreciate you and so many other authors who do what you do. May God bless your efforts!

Richard Mabry said...

Elise, thanks for your kind words and for sharing your own experience. It's nice when you see your book making money, but that feeling only lasts for a short while. I agree--you have to love what you're doing.

Priscilla Bettis said...

It's hard to find real life numbers from a large sampling, so thanks for posting this. I'm not planning on quitting my day job, so the numbers aren't too distressing for me.:-)

Richard Mabry said...

Priscilla, it's not only hard to find "real-life" numbers, it's difficult to interpret them. For instance, the income I quoted from a recent survey vs. those from Amazon's CEO. And it all boils down to the advice we've all received--you don't get rich as a writer. Thanks for your comment.

Patricia Bradley said...

Play the stock market if you want to get rich. lol I've never written for the money. If I had, I would have given up long ago. Thanks for another great post!

Richard Mabry said...

Oh, come now, Patricia. We all know that you're one of the more successful authors around, and therefore you're rolling in money. Uh, how about $20 until next month? Seriously, it's not the money, is it?

Patricia Bradley said...

If you count the 30 plus years I wrote I might be clearing .50 cents a hour. Lol but thanks

Patricia Bradley said...

Hit send too soon. It's definitely not about the money, but it is nice to be paid something. :-)