Search Results for: 2015 Writing Income

2015 Writing Income

For eight years now, I’ve been posting about my annual writing income. There’s a lot of misinformation about what it’s like to be an author, and not as much actual data. You can’t draw any broad conclusions from one data point, but I figure one data point is still better than none, right?

Previous Years: Here are the annual write-ups going back to 2007: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014.

My Background: I’m a U.S.-based fantasy author with eleven books in print from a major New York publisher. My first novel came out in 2006. I’ve also sold about 50 short stories over the past 15+ years. I’ve never hit the NYT or USA Today bestseller lists, but my last three books have been lead titles for my publisher. For most of 2015, I had a full-time job as a state employee, meaning I was not working full-time as a writer. I’ve self-published a few things, but I’m primarily “traditionally published.”

2015 Summary: I’m happy to say that 2015 was my best year yet, edging out 2013 by about $900 or so. Before taxes and expenses (but after my agent’s commission), writing brought in $61,756.93.

Annual Income Trend Graph

I didn’t sign any new book deals last year, but I did have two new books come out — the hardcover edition of Unbound (mass market edition comes out tomorrow!), and the tie-in novel Fable: Blood of Heroes. Other significant income included the Delivery & Acceptance payment on Revisionary, and royalties on Libriomancer, which was a $1.99 Kindle Daily Deal twice during the year.

2015 Breakdown:

  • Novels (U.S. editions) – $50,171
  • Novels (non-U.S. editions) – $7194
  • Self-published Work – $3368
  • Short Fiction & Nonfiction – $890
  • Other – $125

Pie Chart: 2015 Income Breakdown

I only sold one short story last year, since I was putting the bulk of my time and energy into novel-length work. That trend will probably continue in 2016.

One interesting note — interesting to me, at least — is that the self-publishing slice of the pie is more than double what it was last year. This is primarily thanks to Rise of the Spider Goddess, which I self-pubbed at the end of 2014.


As always, a significant chunk of that money will go right back into taxes. 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, bookmark printing, etc. But I won’t have final numbers on all that until I’ve done my 2015 taxes.

Looking Ahead to 2016:

There’s a very good chance that 2016 will be an even better year. I’m hoping to sign a new multi-book contract with my publisher. I also have my NaNoWriMo project that we should be able to shop around this year. And if I can make time, I want to delve more into the self-publishing side of things. The short story I put out a few weeks ago confirmed that there’s a market for tie-in work to my various series, and I’d love to go back and write a bit more in those different worlds.

Of course, 2016 will also be the first year where I don’t have the income of my full-time job, which is intimidating. But right now, I’m feeling pretty good about it all.

Any Questions?

I hope this is helpful. Please feel free to ask questions. And here’s to a wonderful and productive 2016 to us all!

Writing Hiatus and Other Changes

There’s no real news on the cancer front. If all goes well, Amy will get the next dose of chemo on Monday and Tuesday. But we have to wait a bit longer to see if and how well this is working. We’re also waiting on insurance approval for the CAR T-cell procedure she needs. In the meantime, she’s still pretty weak, but her pain is better managed, which helps a lot.

This last round – discovering the masses in her abdomen after six months of chemo and treatment – flipped a switch in my brain. Before, I’d been struggling to make time to write, squeezing in anywhere from 200-500 words a few times a week. But with this setback, I just stopped.

I’m not quitting forever. Terminal Peace is still under contract, and I’ve got an idea for a contemporary fantasy I want to do next. But…priorities, you know? I need to spend time with my wife. I need to be there for the kids. And I need to stop pushing myself to do ALL THE THINGS, and to stop beating myself up for not being able to do everything.

My editor has been incredibly understanding. So much love for Sheila and DAW! The longer gap between books two and three of this trilogy is going to suck, but c’est la vie. I just can’t worry about that right this minute.

Another change I’ve started looking at involves the day job. Back in 2015, I mostly quit my full-time job with the state. The ended up creating a 10 hour/week job I could do mostly from home, which gave me a nice, modest income and provided a little structure to my weeks. But Amy’s not going to be well enough to go back to her job in the near future. We’re trying to get her long term disability straightened out, but so far it’s been “under review” for three weeks. And we’re paying for COBRA coverage for dental and vision right now.

All of which has me looking into going back to work full time. I’ve started having that conversation with my bosses, and it sounds like we should be able to figure something out. I don’t know what it will look like, exactly, but it should hopefully be enough for me to support my family.

It wouldn’t have been my first choice, but at least I have the choice. I don’t know exactly when I’ll make the change, either. I’ll be giving up some of that time with my wife and kids, which means I want to put it off as long as I can. But I might be able to continue telecommuting for at least some of it, which would help a lot. And I still have some sick time and FMLA I can use, if necessary.

Most of my books were written while working 40+ hours/week, so I know I can continue to do both, once things settle down a bit. For now though, we’re just gonna keep going one day at a time…

2018 Writing Income

It’s a new year, and that means it’s time for another look back at last year’s writing income. I’ve been doing this since 2007, because I think it’s important to have open conversations about trying to make a living as a writer — as well as dispelling the myth that we’re all making Rowling- and King-sized paychecks.

Previous Years: Here are the annual write-ups going back to 2007: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017. In 2016, I did a survey of almost 400 novelists about their income.

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.

2018 Summary: 2016 was my best year as a writer, thanks in large part to a three-book deal I signed with DAW. I spent the next two years working on those books. My agent has also been shopping around a middle grade project, and will begin shopping a second in the coming weeks, but those won’t boost the income levels until if and when we sign a contract.

In total, before taxes (but after any agent commissions), I made $38,812.29 from my writing last year, down about $4000 from 2017.

Here’s the annual income graph going back to 2002.

The biggest check of the year was for the delivery and acceptance payment on Terminal Uprising. The smallest, if you’re interested, was a $0.89 royalty payment from Smashwords in September.

2018 Breakdown: I added a category for Audio book advances and royalties this year, since that’s becoming a more important source of income for a lot of the writers I’ve talked to. The bulk of the self-published income came from the release of Imprinted early last year. Interestingly, I didn’t have any new short fiction sales in 2018; all of that is royalties, primarily from one anthology that’s done surprisingly well.

  • Novels (U.S. editions) – $26029.29
  • Novels (non-U.S. editions) – $4406.39
  • Self-published Work – $3569.10
  • Short Fiction – $810.62
  • Audio – $3396.89
  • Other – $600

Other Notes: With my wife’s health issues, I’ve written pretty much nothing for the past two months. I’m hoping that will change as she continues to get stronger, but this is going to continue to impact everything. I’m hopeful that 2019 will see the sale of at least one of those two middle grade projects, but like so much else, that’s out of my control.

Anyway, I hope this is helpful to folks.

2017 Writing Income

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?

Previous Years: Here are the annual write-ups going back to 2007: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015. In 2016, I did a survey of almost 400 novelists about their income.

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.

Annual Income Graph

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.

2017 Breakdown:

  • 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

Breakdown of 2017 income

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.

ETA – Related Links:

2016 Novelist Income Results, Part 2: The Large/Small/Indie Breakdown


This is the second chunk of data and analysis from the 2016 Novelist Income Survey. (Part one is here.)

I wanted to focus next on large press vs. small press vs. indie/self-publishing. The goal is not to settle the neverending argument about which route is better, because that’s a silly argument, and I’m not going to waste time on it.

Analyzing income data this way was tricky for several reasons. What qualifies as a large press vs. a small press? What about hybrid authors who choose multiple paths? And how does the self-selected nature of this study’s participants skew results?

The survey asked how many books you published with a large publisher, a small publisher, and through self-publishing in your lifetime, and how many books you published with a large publisher, a small publisher, and through self-publishing in 2016. Respondents used their own judgement to decide what large/small/self-published meant with respect to their work.

The majority of authors qualified as hybrid, with books in more than one category. So for this analysis, I looked at how each author had published the majority of their books during their lifetime. For example, with 12 books through large publishers, 1 small-press, and 1 self-published novel, my personal data went into the Large Publisher bucket. Someone with 4 large press, 5 small press, and 2 self-pubbed would be in the Small Publisher bucket.

(I also ran the same analysis looking only at 2016 publications, and the results were nearly identical. We lost some data there though, since a number of people had zero books out in 2016.)

As for the self-selection part? I cast my net as wide as I could, but that net went out mostly through writing boards and email lists and social media. Someone who self-published a single book as a hobby or for the fun of it would be less likely to hear about the survey. Likewise, authors who published a lot in the past but aren’t actively writing/publishing today wouldn’t necessarily be “in the loop” for this stuff. I can’t say exactly how this affected the data; only that, as I mentioned yesterday, it isn’t a truly random or representative sample. But with 381 authors weighing in, I still think it’s a pretty good one.


Here’s where our 381 authors fell on the large/small/indie scale:

  • Primarily Large Press: 114
  • Primarily Small Press: 55
  • Primarily Indie: 212

Pie Chart: Large/Small/Indie

Again, keep in mind that the information here is correlation, not causation. Deciding whether to try to publish with a large publisher, a small press, or to self-publish is so much more than just looking at the data from a single survey. Each path requires a lot of work, and I strongly recommend everyone do their research before deciding what’s going to work best for them.

Let’s Talk Money!

I started by looking at the gross income (before expenses) for each category. Well, that’s not entirely true. I really started by doing a poll on Twitter to ask people which group they thought would have the highest net income. I figured that could let us tap into common beliefs and compare them to the data. Here’s what the informal Twitter results had 74% of people expecting Large Press authors to be the biggest money-makers. Self-published came in second place, with 17%. Small Press was at 9%.

Twitter Poll Results

Before we look at the net, let’s start with gross income numbers. As before, I think the median is the most useful figure here, since the very successful outliers tend to skew the averages. Median gross income for each category was:

  • Large Press: $28,000
  • Small Press: $2,400
  • Indie: $29,000

Average income followed a similar pattern.

Median and Average IncomesI don’t think those numbers should come as a shock to most people. But they’re not the whole picture, either. We need to look at the expenses for each category as well. Self-published authors cover the costs of things like cover art, copy-editing, and so on, things a commercial press takes care of for its authors. Then there’s marketing and publicity and conventions and all the rest…

A handful of people left this question blank. They’ve been omitted from this part. If someone reported a 0 for this question, they were included.

The median expenses for each category were:

  • Large Press: $2,900
  • Small Press: $1,000
  • Indie: $4,000

Median and Average ExpensesHow does this affect the net income? Indie authors still have the largest median income, which was predicted by only 19% of the folks in our informal Twitter Poll. The large press authors once again take the highest average. (I think this is mostly because of one large press author whose income was significantly higher than any others.)

Here are those numbers, with median first and average in parentheses.

  • Large Press: $19,000 ($125,021)
  • Small Press: $975 ($19,166)
  • Indie: $23,050 ($108,210)

Net Income: Median and AverageChange From 2015

One of the questions I asked was whether people’s writing income had increased, decreased, or stayed roughly the same from 2015 to 2016. I think it’s encouraging that 53% of all respondents saw an increase, with another 20% reporting that their income remained roughly the same. Writing novels tends not to be the most financially stable profession, but only 27% reported seeing their income decrease.

Income Change Pie ChartI wanted to see what happens when we separate it out. Maybe indie authors are seeing more growth than large press? Maybe small press is surging forward?

This got interesting. 60.4% of indie authors saw an increase in earnings, compared to 50.9% of small press and only 39.5% of large press authors. Only 17% of indie authors saw their earnings decrease, compared to 27.3% of small press and 23.7% of large press.

Income Change by Author TypeLike I said, I’d be careful about drawing broad-sweeping conclusions from any of this, but it’s certainly an encouraging sign for my indie author friends. Realistically, though? Given the economy, the fact that all three groups saw more increases than decreases is a very good thing.

Coming Soon

I’ve got a lot more data to play with. I want to look at factors like genre, hours/week spent writing, hours/week spent on promotion, total number of books published, how long ago the author started publishing, and more.

Short version: I have plenty to keep me busy in the coming days!

2016 Novelist Income Survey Results, Part 1


There’s a lot of misinformation out there about the fabulous lifestyle of the working novelist. Everyone knows once you write a book, the money starts rolling in, right? There’s champagne and movie deals and hanging out with J. K. Rowling and Stephen King and Rick Castle.

Or maybe you’ve heard the opposite extreme, how all novelists are living on water and Ramen, making more money from scrounging couch cushions than we do from the books we’ve poured our blood and souls into.

For nine years, I’ve been doing an annual blog post about my writing income. I know a few other authors who’ve done the same. The main idea is to put the data out there to help build a more realistic picture of life as a working writer.

Those few data points are better than none, but this year, I wanted to go bigger. For roughly six weeks, I collected data from novelists who had at least one book published prior to 12/31/2016. Thank you to everyone who participated, and everyone who spread the word.

Are you read to start going through the results?


There were a total of 386 responses. Five of these were duplicates and were removed, leaving data from 381 individual novelists.

The survey asked questions about the number of novels published, how they were published (large publisher/small press/self-pub), income and expenses, genre, whether or not they used an agent, which country the novelist was in, and more.

As we go through the numbers, please keep in mind:

  1. This is not a truly random or representative sample. I have no way of reaching all the working novelists in the world, and not everyone who heard about the survey chose to participate. That said, I think 381 is pretty darn good.
  2. Correlation is not causation. The numbers might show that novelists with an agent make more/less money than novelists without. This doesn’t necessarily mean that having or not having an agent causes you to make more/less money.
  3. I am not a professional statistician. I’ll do my best, but if you see mistakes, please say something so I can correct them.

I know, I know. Enough with the disclaimers. Let’s get on with the yummy, yummy data!

Gross Income

Let’s start by looking at how much our authors made in 2016 before taxes or expenses. The total ranged from a few dollars to almost five million. Eight novelists made more than a million dollars (before taxes) in 2016.

  • I admit, I was a little surprised by this, and wondered if maybe people were exaggerating or hit an extra zero. Fortunately, the survey also asked for an identifier (name or other) and an email address for anyone who wanted to be informed of the survey results. Looking at who was reporting these numbers, I believe they’re accurate.

Average Income: $114,124

Median Income: $17,000

(I think the median is more useful than the average, here. The average is pulled up significantly by those very successful outliers.)

Distribution: As you might have predicted, the distribution is weighted heavily toward the left side of the graph. I removed one far-right outlier for this graph.

Income DistributionPercentile: Here’s a percentile breakdown showing the same data in another way.

2016 Novelist Income Percentile - GraphIn other words, ten percent of all respondents earned $200 or less last year. Before taxes and expenses.

Twenty percent made $825 or less. Thirty percent were $3393 or below, and so on.

If you earned at least $296,000, you were in the 90th percentile. And if your writing brought in $1,418,000 or more, you are officially the 1% among novelists.

Gross Income for Different Categories

Let’s play with those numbers a bit more. What happens if we separate agented and unagented authors, full-time vs. part-time, and so on?

Agent vs. Unagented: Of our 381 respondents, 151 were represented by an agent, and 230 were unagented. There’s a significant difference in these two groups, but be careful about drawing too many conclusions here. Does having an agent mean you make more money? Or does making more money mean you’re more likely to want an agent? Or maybe it’s both or neither.

Median income for authors with an agent was $42,000. For authors without an agent, the median was $7000.

Looking at the eight authors who made a million or more, five were represented by agents and three were unagented.

2016 Income: Agented vs. Unagented

Full Time vs. Part Time: We see a similar pattern here. Disclaimer: the question on the survey asked if writing was “your primary, full-time job” during 2016. I probably could have worded that one a little better, as it’s possible we had writers working 40 hours/week on books and also working full-time elsewhere. But in general, I think the data here are pretty accurate and reliable.

Median income was $3050 for part time writers, and $66,000 for full-timers. Also, all eight of our $1,000,000+ novelists were full-timers.

Does this mean quitting the day job will magically increase your writing income by 22x? NO! Bad reader! Back to logic and statistics class for you!

2016 Income: Full-Time vs. Part-Time

Anecdotally, I started trying to write full-time at the end of 2015. 2016 saw an increase of about 10-15% in my overall income. But much of that came from a deal I signed before going full time. What does that mean? Heck if I know…

Conclusions So Far…

  1. It is possible to make a really good living as a novelist…but most of us don’t.
  2. It is possible to make a million or more as a novelist, with or without an agent…but again, most of us don’t.
  3. About 80% of novelists make less than $100,000 a year. Half of us make $17,000 or less.

And remember, these numbers are all before taxes or expenses!

In Our Next Episode:

I’ve got a lot more I want to do with the data, but it’s going to take a fair amount of time. (I’m also overdue on a novel deadline, so that has to be my priority.) I’ll continue to post results in sections, which should hopefully make it easier to digest. I’m planning to put the whole thing together and publish it as a big old report when I’m done as well.

I’ll also be sharing the anonymized raw data so other folks can play with it.

I hope this is helpful. If there’s anything in particular you’d like me to look into, let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best!

ETA: Here are the links to the next parts.


2016 Writing Income Survey

For nine years, I’ve been doing an annual blog post about my writing income. It’s not something we talk about very much, and I think the more data we put out there, the more helpful it is to other writers.

The trouble is, I’m just one data point. Better than none, of course. But this year, I decided to try something a little different, and created a 2016 Novelist Income Survey.

The process and goals are similar to the First Novel Survey I did seven years ago. (The results of that one are a little outdated at this point…) I’ll be sharing the basic data like the median, mean, and range of author incomes, as well as looking at patterns and other correlations. No personal or identifying information will be shared in any way.

If you’ve published at least one novel in any genre — it doesn’t matter whether you published through a large press, a smaller press, or published it yourself — please take a few minutes to answer the 21-question survey about your writing income for 2016.

I intend to keep the survey open at least through the end of the month. Possibly longer, depending on how many responses we’ve gotten by then.

Please feel free to spread the word to other authors and writer groups. The more data we get, the better the results!

Thank you.

Top Eleven Blog Posts for 2015

I’m not sure how to feel about the fact that about half of my most-visited blog posts for 2015 were related to the Sad/Rabid Puppies and the Hugo Awards mess. Mostly, I’d just like to see 2016 not be a repeat.

  1. Puppies in Their Own Words. The most popular post I did this year was a long write-up of the evolution and goals of the Sad Puppies, sourced to their own blog posts and comments. I pretty much expected this one to end up in the top spot.
  2. In Which John C. Wright Completely Loses his Shit over Legend of Korra. Mr. Wright was Very Unhappy that a cartoon that depicted war and murder and torture and suicide dared to betray its audience by suggesting two women were romantically interested in one another. Also, apparently “political correctness” really means “hating everything good and bright and decent and sane in life.” Wow.
  3. The Tor Mess. Basically, Theo Beale pounced on something the Tor art director said on Facebook, tried to turn it into a crusade and organized boycott of Tor Books, and ultimately failed to have any impact.
  4. Striking a Pose (Women and Fantasy Covers). Yes, the original cover pose blog post from January of 2012 is still making the top ten.
  5. Rape, Abuse, and Marion Zimmer Bradley. A mid-2014 post about the revelations/discussions of Bradley shielding a child molester and molesting her own daughter and others, and the importance of acknowledging and talking about these things instead of sweeping them under the rug.
  6. 10 Hugo Thoughts. More Hugo stuff. This post came out right after the final nominees were announced.
  7. 2014 Writing Income. The annual writing income post. Yes, I’ll be doing one for 2015 in the next week or so.
  8. Publishing 101. During 2015, John Scalzi signed a multi-book, multi-million dollar book deal. Certain pups tried very hard to paint this as proof of Scalzi’s failure as an author and human being. Rarely has the world seen such desperately twisted logic.
  9. Choosing “Sides”. More puppies. This time, I was looking at the Sad Puppies’ efforts to invent an Us vs. Them war in the genre. With the puppies as the heroes, naturally. Sadly, the world isn’t as simplistic as certain folks were trying to make it out to be.
  10. One-Star Wars. Apparently, some people were unhappy about Chuck Wendig’s Star Wars novel Aftermath because of a) the writing style, b) the decision that Expanded Universe works were non-canon, and c) Chuck included gay people in Star Wars. I mean, come on. Giant crime-boss slugs with fetishes for barely-clad humanoid females is one thing, but homosexuality? That’s a step too far, sir!
  11. Depression. A collection of thoughts about depression.

Thanks to everyone for reading and commenting. I hope you’ve had a great year, and I wish you all an even happier 2016.

Balancing Writing and Parenting

I’ve been asked on multiple occasions how to balance writing and family, and I’ve given a number of answers. “One day at a time.” “Prioritize and organize and schedule.” “Hell if I know!”

When you get down to it, the most honest answer I could give based on my life and experiences is, you can’t. Balance is a lie. An illusion that taunts us with its song. It’s freaking Shangri-La.

As a father, balance suggests to me a mystical state of equilibrium where I’m giving my children all of the time and attention they want and need, while at the same time devoting enough time to my writing and career. The trouble is, there’s no such thing as “enough.” There’s always more I could be doing with or for my kids, whether it’s quizzing my son on his multiplication tables or taking my teenage daughter out to start showing her how to drive, or just sitting down to play a three-way brawl on the Wii.

Then there’s the writing. I’ve got three short stories and three novels on my To Write list at this particular moment. Then there are the blog posts, the emails I’m chronically late in responding to, conventions I’d love to attend, anthologies I’d like to contribute to, at least one anthology I’d love to edit, and so much more.

The sad truth is that no matter what I do, I’ll never have enough time to write everything I want to. I’ll never have enough time for my children.

I quit my full-time day job a month and a half ago, and it’s helped some. I’m finding my writing groove and increasing my wordcount. I’ve also been able to do things like walk down to meet my son at the bus stop and pick up my daughter after school. On the other hand, I’m now the one who gets the phone call when something happens at school. I get the text messages when someone misses the bus. When the puppy horks up a big clump of half-digested grass — well, you get the idea. There are more interruptions and less stability and predictability in my day than I had before.

Just now, in the middle of writing this post, my son interrupted me to share some of his thoughts on pigs. It’s frustrating, because writing productivity is all about momentum. And it’s awesome, because I love him, and he has creative, often surreal thoughts about things.

Sometimes I resent the writing for taking time away from my kids. And yes, sometimes I resent my kids for taking time away from my writing. And I feel guilty about all of it.

Writing isn’t unique in this. I watched my coworkers struggling to find good day care for their kids, and I listened to their struggles to balance the need for a career with their role as a parent. But it never seemed quite the same. Maybe because writing still doesn’t feel like a legitimate career. I mean, we all recognize the need to work and support the family, but we don’t tend to recognize writing as real work.

I’m relatively successful as a writer, and it’s my primary source of income to help support my family. It still feels harder to justify spending hours focusing on the writing than it did spending hours sitting in a cubicle. Both take time away from my family and kids, but one is a “real” job. The other feels like a luxury. It feels selfish. This is something I want to do.

The guilt was exponentially worse when I was struggling to break in. When I couldn’t point to advances and royalty checks to justify the time spent in fictional worlds, away from my wife and children.

Part of the quest for healthy balance means getting that guilt under control. As parents, we can’t devote 100% of our time and energy to our children. Sometimes it feels like that’s what we’re supposed to to, but it’s not healthy for anyone. We need time to take care of ourselves, and as they grow up, kids need time to become their own people. It’s okay to take time to focus on writing. And it’s okay to step away from the computer to spend time with my family.

The Quest for Balance has no end point. No Big Boss you can defeat. It’s a daily struggle, and it changes from day to day. Do I have a deadline coming up? Did my son have a rough day at school? Is there a writing project I’m super-passionate about? How long has it been since I got to do something fun with my daughter? Is my email at critical mass? Is my son giving me puppy-dog eyes and asking me to play Mario with him?

How do you balance being a writer with being a parent? You keep trying. You accept that you’re never going to get it perfect. You listen to your kid(s), your editor, your partner(s) if you have them. You listen to yourself. You communicate. Sometimes I have to say no, I can’t play Mario until after dinner. When I talk to my editor and agent about deadlines, I talk about and factor in not only the time I need to write the book, but the time I need to spend with my family.

Balance is a process. Learn to set boundaries. Expect disruption.

In my case, I keep reminding myself that writing is my career, and damn right it’s legitimate. I remind myself that taking time to do something I love isn’t necessarily selfish or awful. I also try to recognize that spending too much time on myself can be neglectful, and I try to monitor that from day to day.

I love my children. I love writing. And it’s okay to love both.

Other posts from the Parenting and Writing/Editing Blog Tour.

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:

Jim C. Hines