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The Money Post

Me!
One of the students at the high school I visited yesterday asked me how much I make as a writer. I told him I was so happy someone had the guts to ask. Talking about money is still such a taboo, but that's what leads to mythconceptions that all authors are as rich as Rowling.

Of course, the most popular blog post I've seen on writing finances lately comes from John Scalzi. On Monday, John wrote an in-depth post about his writing income, including a lot of good financial advice for writers and non-writers alike.

I'm going to do the same thing, for three reasons. 1. The Internet has a proud tradition of people like me riffing off of more popular bloggers like John. 2. I'm all about the mythbusting. 3. John Scalzi made $164,000 from his writing last year.

Don't get me wrong. I'm happy for Scalzi. Okay, slightly envious, but still mostly happy. And he does say quite clearly that he's an outlier. But when the only public data point is an outlier, that's what people are going to remember.

I made just under $16,000 from my writing last year. $2500 of that went right back into expenses, leaving me a nice little sum of $13,500 ... before I pay those nasty taxes. Still, it's enough to cover a slightly used minivan, make a few mortgage payments, and treat me and the wife to dinner from time to time, but definitely not in the job-quitting league. Though it was enough that I could rationalize the fancy leather jacket without feeling too guilty about it...

Anyway, there are two huge differences between me and Scalzi. (Probably more than two, but only two are relevant to this particular discussion.) The first is that he's writing fiction and non-fiction both, whereas I'm only doing fiction. The second is that he's a more popular writer than I am, with more books in print and more readers buying said books.

Me, I've got two books in print, the second of which came out in 2007. So in a lot of ways, I'm still young as a novelist. The annual income has risen every year for a while now, and I'm hoping to see that continue.

To break down that $16,000 a bit further, here's where the money came from:

Novels (U.S. sales): $6600
Novels (Foreign sales): $7000
Short fiction sales: $1000
Editorial work: $900
Speaking fees: $300

The money doesn't quite add up, because I'm rounding off. Close enough, though. My biggest single expense last year was a $700 lifetime membership to SFWA. After that, convention expenses and other promotional costs (bookmarks, tattoos, etc.) are roughly tied for second place.

What's the point of all this? Mostly because I think it's better to know stuff than to guess. The more folks know about what different writers make, the more realistic the expectations will be, and the better you'll be able to plan your own future. In my case, it's going to be an awfully long time before I can quit the day job, if ever.

Two other things worth noting: foreign sales are wonderful things, and I love my agent for his overseas connections. Also, even at the relatively low rates I'm getting as a new novelist, the novels still pay a lot better than the short fiction.

Now go read ellameena's post on freelancing. I'll meet you over there, and we can all grumble about how much more those blasted non-fiction writers make than us hard-working fiction folks.

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Comments

kenllama
Feb. 13th, 2008 03:35 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing this, Jim. I've always wondered how much of a living people can make off of their writing, and I've thought of you for the last few years as someone whose writing career is really taking off, yet I noticed you showed no signs of quitting the day job. This really sheds some light on why not!

I hope you remembered to count the leather jacket as a business expense. That's part of your impression management/PR budget... ;)

*hugs*
Ken
jimhines
Feb. 13th, 2008 03:38 pm (UTC)
You know, I didn't even think about that. Taxes scare me a bit, so I tend toward the conservative, but the only time I wear it is for writing-related events. Hm....
sylvia_rachel
Feb. 13th, 2008 03:50 pm (UTC)
My uncle (who used to be a professional musician) gives the following advice about taxes: Declare every penny of income, because the IRS will be really really angry if you don't; however, also take every credit and deduction you possibly can, because the worst thing that can happen is they'll disallow it.
jimhines
Feb. 13th, 2008 03:52 pm (UTC)
Sadly, I doubt I still have the receipt for the jacket. But I've been getting better each year about the deductions...
kenllama
Feb. 13th, 2008 06:15 pm (UTC)
but you probably have the credit card statement, right... i say it's good enough. 'course, i'm not the IRS...

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Jim C. Hines
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