Then 2008 turned out to be a much better year, and I hesitated. Suddenly posting the writing income feels more like gloating. But I decided to go ahead, because this too is part of the reality check. There are good years as well as bad, and the variation from one year to the next can be both dramatic and unpredictable, at least for where I'm at. (Full time freelancers probably have a better handle on what to expect from year to year.)
As of 2008, I had been writing for 14 years, and I had three books in print with a major publisher. The year before, I made just under $16,000 from my writing. In 2008, I made $54,000.
To my shock, I actually made more from writing fantasy than I did from my day job. But I'm still a long way from being able to quit the day job. For one thing, the writing income doesn't include benefits. For another, the writing income is not at all stable, and there's a very good chance 2009 will look more like 2007 than 2008. For those two reasons, I expect to keep punching a time clock for the foreseeable future.
The breakdown for that money looks like so:
Novels (U.S. Sales): $8000
Novels (Foreign Sales): $44,000
Short Fiction Sales: $2150
This seems like a good time to say how much I appreciate my agent. He kicks ass, and is directly responsible for those foreign sales that covered my wife's tuition and some much-needed house repairs last year. Thank you!
I write a book a year. Looking at this, it's pretty clear that -- in theory -- you can make a liveable income on a book a year as a low-to-midlist writer, but only with those foreign sales to supplement your income.
Of the foreign income, I'd say over half comes from Germany, where the goblin books really took off. That's not something I had any control over, and I can't guess whether the same thing will happen with Stepsister. It's much more common for a foreign deal to earn $1000 than $10,000, at least for where I'm at in my career.
I was most surprised at the short fiction total, actually. I haven't written that many short stories this year, but they've been going mostly to professional and pro-paying markets. That adds up.
I don't expect 2009 to pay as well. (Though I'll be happy to be proven wrong!) Nor am I looking forward to doing my taxes this year. That's another fun thing about freelancing -- taxes aren't deducted from that money, so I'll be writing a nice big check to the government just as soon as I get my paperwork from the day job. This is the first year I'll have a tax debt, so not only do I pay for 2008, I also have to pay estimated taxes for 2009. Ouch.
So, any questions about the financial side of the business? Is this helpful, or has it moved into the realm of pure ego-stroking?