I’ve been blogging about my income as a writer for a decade now (taking last year off to explore writing income data from a different angle). We don’t talk much about money, and writing tends to be romanticized more than a lot of other jobs. My goal is to provide a reality-check about writing as a career. You can’t draw broad conclusions from a single data point, but it’s better than nothing, right?
My Background: I’m a primarily “traditionally published” U.S.-based SF/F author with 13 books in print from major New York publishers. The first of those 13 books came out from DAW in 2006. I’ve also sold about 50 short stories. I’ve never hit the NYT or USA Today bestseller lists, but my last five books have been lead titles for my publisher. In late 2015, I mostly-quit my full-time day job. Since November of 2015, I’ve worked 10 hours a week for the State of Michigan, and spent the rest of my time as a writer and stay-at-home Dad.
2017 Summary: Writing doesn’t always provide the most stable income from month to month or from year to year. 2016 was my best year as a writer, thanks in large part to a three-book deal I signed with DAW. I spent 2017 working on those books, and didn’t sign any new deals. As a result, my gross income (after my agent’s commission but before any of my expenses) for 2017 dropped to $42,652.70, down from $76,777.32 the year before.
Here’s the graph of my writing income since 2002, which is as far back as I have records for.
The three largest checks for 2017 came from the mass market publication of Revisionary, the delivery payment for Terminal Alliance, and the hardcover publication of Terminal Alliance.
I do have another novel on submission, which I’d been hoping to sell last year, but publishing can be a slow creature. Hopefully that will turn into a nice boost for 2018.
- Novels (U.S. editions) – $32,512.01
- Novels (non-U.S. editions) – $6430.08
- Self-published Work – $1819.48
- Short Fiction & Nonfiction – $1641.13
- Other – $250
I didn’t actually sell any nonfiction last year; that $1641 is all from short fiction. I only sold a few stories, but they were to good markets. One anthology (Shadowed Souls) even earned out and paid royalties, which I believe is a first for me with anthologies that pay professional per-word rates.
Expenses: A lot of that income went right back out the door for quarterly estimated tax payments. The joys of self-employment, eh? As always, there will also be at least a few thousand dollars in other expenses, from convention travel costs to postage to other business expenses like website hosting, cellphone business use, and so on.
2018 Goals: I’m going to finish Terminal Uprising, though it’s likely that book won’t see publication until early 2019. I also have that novel manuscript my agent has been shopping around, and I just sent them a pitch for another project that could be a lot of fun.
Next week’s release of “Imprinted” will tell me how much of a market there is for novellette/novella-length stories in my existing worlds. I’m hoping to do more of that in the future.
Ultimately, I don’t have anywhere near as much control over the financial side as I’d like. But I want to refocus a bit, and push myself to try new things as a writer. I also want to remember to have fun with it all.
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