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2014 Writing Income

About seven years ago, I started doing a yearly blog post on my annual writing income. Yeah, it’s a weird and sometimes uncomfortable thing to talk about, but I also think it’s important to get some facts out there. It’s hard to get any real data on what authors earn, where the income comes from, and so on. Of course, I’m only one data point, so don’t go drawing any broad conclusions. But one is better than none, eh? And I’ll link to any other authors I see posting similar info. My background: I’m a U.S. author and have been writing science fiction and fantasy since 1995. My first novel with a major publisher came out in 2006. Since then, I’ve been averaging about one book/year. I have a few short collections and one odd novel project that I’ve self-published, but I’m primarily published through a traditional/commercial/whatever-you-want-to-call-it publisher. I’ve also got about fifty published short stories. I’ve hit the Locus bestseller lists, but I’ve never made the New York Times or USA Today lists. I still work a full-time day job, and I’ve got two kids at home, which means I probably devote about 20 hours/week to the writing career. My income posts from previous years are here: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013. 2014 Income - Cumulative 2014 was a good year. Not my best, but I didn’t expect it to be — I had sold three books in 2013, and spent the next year actually writing two of them. This means I got a chunk of all three advances in 2013, but the rest of the money will be spread out through 2014 and 2015. All total, I earned $50,900 as a writer last year. This is after my agent takes his commission, but before expenses and taxes. Here’s how it roughly breaks down:

  • Novels (U.S.) – $39,840
  • Novels (Foreign) – $4130
  • Self-published Work – $1400
  • Short Fiction & Nonfiction – $2300
  • Other – $3200

2014 Income Breakdown The “Other” category includes the advance for The Goblin Master’s Grimoire, my short story collection from ISFiC Press, as well as things like honorarium payments for speaking engagements, a T-shirt royalty payment, and other miscellanea. Expenses for the year were probably between $3000 and $4000. (I haven’t calculated everything yet.) Mileage and convention costs, primarily hotel rooms, were the largest chunk, followed by hiring an artist to do the cover for Rise of the Spider Goddess (which I haven’t yet seen any income for, since that book only came out last month). I also paid another artist to do the banner art for my website. I’m very happy with both of these decisions. In the “Novels (U.S.)” category, I’ve got nine books in print with DAW. (Number ten comes out on Tuesday, but that’s another blog post.) Looking back, all nine of those books have earned out their advances and are now paying royalties. Those royalties account for a little under half of the novels income in the U.S. I should also note that because DAW purchased English language rights, the accounting for the UK edition of the Magic ex Libris series flows through them, and gets counted as part of the U.S. deal’s income. Novel advances are generally broken down into multiple payments. For my most recent books, they’re split into an on-signing payment, delivery & acceptance, and publication. For Unbound and Revisionary, the on-publication payment is further split into hardcover and mass market. What this means is that in 2015, I can expect to see the hardcover on-publication payment for Unbound, the D&A on Revisionary, and the D&A and publication payments for the Secret Novel Project of Doom. Though the on-publication payment for that last might not show up until 2016, depending on when exactly the book comes out. I’m also hoping to pitch and sell some new books this year, which would hopefully bring in some on-signing money and make sure I’ve got authorial job security for another year or two. I hope this was useful, and I’m happy to answer questions. Here’s to a successful 2015 for all of us. ETA Related Posts:

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.



( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 5th, 2015 03:06 pm (UTC)
Kameron Hurley has a similar breakdown of her year at http://www.kameronhurley.com/2014-some-honest-publishing-numbers-and-almost-throwing-in-the-towel/ although she doesn't talk about the money she earned.
Jan. 5th, 2015 03:08 pm (UTC)
This is fascinating, useful information, Jim. Thanks for putting it out there.
Jan. 5th, 2015 04:24 pm (UTC)
I'm always interested in seeing financial facts about the publishing world (advances, earnings, etc.). And nice to see that one of my favorite authors is doing well. (Of course, once you subtract 25% for taxes, give or take, that number goes down quite a bit.)

Thanks for sharing.
Jan. 5th, 2015 04:40 pm (UTC)
Yeah... I was paying pretty high estimated quarterly taxes last year, so I'm hoping we come out okay when I file everything for 2014. Fingers crossed!
Jan. 5th, 2015 06:58 pm (UTC)
I don't do estimated taxes yet (my writing income is still too up and down) but I do take 25% of every writing check and stick it in a savings account for tax time.
Jan. 5th, 2015 08:15 pm (UTC)
Just curious, do you include the time you spend promoting your books and, I don't know, meeting with editors and cover artists and whatnot in with that 20 hours a week?
Jan. 5th, 2015 11:48 pm (UTC)
Somewhat, yes. 20 hours is a very rough estimate, and varies from week to week. But promotion and correspondence and other administrivia definitely take up a part of that time.
Jan. 5th, 2015 10:19 pm (UTC)
Did you ever find out why the foreign payments were so low the last two years?
(Obviously only if you want to share.)
Jan. 5th, 2015 11:47 pm (UTC)
Mostly just not making a lot of foreign sales. There have been a few, but they don't tend to pay that much. The goblin books in Germany were the exception, and that well has mostly (but not entirely) dried up.
Jan. 6th, 2015 12:33 am (UTC)
Well I wish you a new year filled with wells!
Jan. 6th, 2015 01:07 pm (UTC)
When you talk about advances "...they’re split into an on-signing payment, delivery & acceptance, and publication", what's the typical percentage of the stages? I've always been curious about that.
Jan. 6th, 2015 01:13 pm (UTC)
It depends. Authors/agents will push to get more up front. Publishers tend to want to go the other way. Which makes sense on both sides, from a business perspective.

I'd have to double check, but I think it generally ends up being split pretty evenly into thirds.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )


Jim C. Hines


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