2009 Writing Income
This is the third year I’ve posted about the income I make as a fantasy author. (See the Money Posts from Year 1 and Year 2.) Money tends to be a taboo topic, but given all of the myths and illusions about writing, I think it’s important to get some actual data out there. Because knowing is half the battle!
The background: I’ve been writing and submitting my work since 1995. Goblin Quest was my first book with a major publisher, and came out in the end of 2006. 2009 saw the publication of my 4th and 5th novels with DAW. So while I have five books in print, I’m still an early-career author.
I am not a full-time writer, for reasons which will soon become apparent. I also write only fiction, unlike a number of authors I know who write both fiction and non-fiction (in part because the latter usually pays better).
Thanks to a last-minute D&A (delivery and acceptance) check from DAW, my writing income for 2009 came to $28,940.
Breaking that total down, I earned:
Novels (U.S. Sales): $7700
Novels (Foreign Sales): $20,200
Short Fiction: $520
Speaking Fees: $500
I’m rounding, so the totals don’t match exactly. The most important thing I take from these numbers is how much I love my agent, who is responsible for those foreign sales. Most of that money comes from Germany, where the goblin books continue to earn nice royalties. Any time I hear a writer saying s/he doesn’t need an agent, I think back to those foreign sales. My agent almost quadrupled my writing income this year. He’s more than earned his commission.
Expenses from 2009 were between $1500 and $2000. The biggest costs were from convention attendance and postage.
I also decided to put together a graph showing my income over the past eight years (as far back as I have spreadsheets for):
Things didn’t really start to build until 2006 when the first book came out. But what’s most fascinating to me is that bump in 2008. 2008 was the first year my writing income exceeded the income from my day job. This was mostly the result of some very nice deals in Germany, including the release of the goblin books, my short fiction collection, audio books … basically, Germany + Goblins = Love.
This wasn’t something I expected to repeat in 2009 (not that I would have complained, mind you). Fiction income isn’t the most steady or stable in the world. 2008 was great. 2009 wasn’t bad, don’t get me wrong. However, there’s no getting around the fact that I saw a $25K drop in income.
These things happen. My French publisher dropped me, and Germany hasn’t been as excited about the princess books. This is why I keep the day job. (If it was just me, with no family and no medical conditions that require insurance, I might think about going full-time. But that’s another post.)
I hope this is helpful. Questions, observations, and random comments are all welcome. And if previous years are any example, we should see a handful of other writers posting similar info and giving a few more data points.
Paul Michael Murphy
January 4, 2010 @ 6:01 pm
Thanks for the information. There’s not much out there about author incomes, except for the exceptions. It’s nice to see the figures for someone who also has a day job, as most writers do.
January 4, 2010 @ 6:12 pm
Hey, I love your princess books! They are a terrific read and full of fun twists and turns. Keep up the second job for sure! I can’t wait to get the goblin books now too!
Jim C. Hines
January 4, 2010 @ 6:34 pm
You’re very welcome. Glad it’s helpful!
Jim C. Hines
January 4, 2010 @ 6:35 pm
Thank you! So glad you’re enjoying them!
January 5, 2010 @ 10:41 am
Well okay, I guess I can share too. In 2009 I sold 24 words to a twitter mag called @Outshine, netting me $5.00. Well, $4.50 after paypal took their cut.
Here’s a tip for cutting on the expenses. Mine were greatly reduced by using a pen and a scrap of paper from a notebook I use at my day job. I don’t know how they’d feel about subsidising my moonlighting, but they don’t have to worry yet. While a 21c per word track record leads me to believe I’d do quite well writing full time, I also have a family and need good healthcare. I will be setting some aside each month however to purchase a pen and some scrap paper of my own some day, but they don’t have to know that…In the meantime I will be sending my 140 characters around to see if I can find an agent who will pitch my work to Germany. What’s $4.50 in deutschmarks?
Jim C. Hines
January 5, 2010 @ 10:44 am
Did you remember to pay your $1.00 or so to the government for tax purposes? 😉
Also, you might look into leasing a pen, at least while you’re starting out.