2010 Writing Income
There are an awful lot of myths and misconceptions about writing, and one of the biggest is that writers are all rich, hanging out in their mansions and sipping champagne and role-playing with dice made from etched diamond. So for the past few years, I’ve been posting my writing income and expenses to provide what I hope is a more useful data point.
Posts from previous years are here: 2007, 2008, 2009.
I ended 2010 with a last-minute check from my agent for the French on-signing advance for Red Hood’s Revenge. With that added to the total, I made $25,718 in writing income in 2010, down about $3000 from the previous year.
Here’s the graph going back as far as I have data for:
2008 was a fluke. A nice fluke, but a fluke nonetheless, with a big spike due to the success of the goblin books in Germany. The princess books haven’t been as popular, and I think the ongoing decline of that particular income stream is part of the reason for the drop from 2009 to 2010. But let’s break down the 2010 numbers a little further:
Novels (U.S. Sales): $9297
Novels (Foreign Sales): $15876
Short Fiction: $200
Speaking Fees: $225
I still make the majority of my income through foreign sales (Thank you, Joshua!), but the balance shifted a bit this year. Foreign sales were a smaller percentage of the overall income, with the money from DAW here in the U.S. climbing a bit higher. I have no idea what this means for the long term, but it’s interesting.
That foreign income includes novel sales to France, Germany, and the Czech Republic, along with royalties from Germany and Poland. In general, individual foreign sales tends to be less than their equivalent U.S. deals … but those foreign sales add up.
Expenses were about $2000, with more than half of that going into conventions.
Of course, this is all before taxes. I have a higher deduction at the day job, which balances out a lot of the self-employment taxes I owe for the writing, but even so the numbers here don’t exactly represent the amount I put in my pocket at the end of the day.
So that’s 2010. A pretty good year, and I’m expecting 2011 to be even better, at least with the U.S. income stream. No clue what to expect with the overseas sales. And to answer a commonly asked question, no I am not planning to quit the day job any time soon.
Questions and comments are very much welcome, as always.
January 5, 2011 @ 10:42 am
Of books that you have in both print and electronic versions, what was the percent breakdown? Did ebooks seem to help or hurt your income stream overall? Any overseas ebook sales?
Jim C. Hines
January 5, 2011 @ 10:43 am
In the U.S., e-book sales make up about 3-5% of the overall royalties. I don’t have as much information about overseas electronic editions … I think at least some of those translations are print-only, but I’m not sure.
Andrew Zimmerman Jones
January 5, 2011 @ 11:34 am
This is great information, Jim. Thanks for sharing.
Shortly after I published String Theory For Dummies, a co-worker asked me during a lunch at work, “So why are you still working here?” My advance on STFD was about one-fifth of my annual salary at my day job.
January 5, 2011 @ 11:43 am
Thank you for sharing your income stats with us. I’ve always had a dream to work full-time as a writer and information like this helps remind me of the realities of authors and tells me to still work hard at my current day job because I may be needing it for a while. I never had aspirations to have Stephen King level income, but supporting my family would be nice.
That being said it’s still a bit disheartening knowing you have 14 or so books out and still not able to write full-time based on writing income. It’s a bit daunting. I know you mentioned a while back that you stayed with your day job mainly for the health insurance. At any rate, heres hoping for more steady income for you and your effort and hope for many more sales in 2011.
Jim C. Hines
January 5, 2011 @ 11:51 am
Actually, I only have six books in print, along with an out-of-print and small press mainstream book. Don’t know if you were counting the foreign translations or not.
If I were to go full time as a writer, I could probably increase the income significantly by writing more books & stories, and maybe picking up some nonfiction gigs. But the health insurance would still kill me.
Jim C. Hines
January 5, 2011 @ 11:53 am
I feel your pain. Every time I sell a book, or a book comes out, my coworkers take turns asking me when I’m going to quit the day job, or trying to convince me to stay…
January 5, 2011 @ 11:57 am
Ahh, I counted all the books you had showing up along the header of your website.
Jim C. Hines
January 5, 2011 @ 11:59 am
Got it. Some of those are translations, and at least one is an anthology that includes one of my short stories.
January 5, 2011 @ 12:16 pm
Well it looks impressive across the top 🙂
January 5, 2011 @ 12:50 pm
This kind of information is always interesting to see. Thanks for being so open about it.
January 5, 2011 @ 1:46 pm
“But the health insurance would still kill me.”
Wait… isn’t it suppose to prevent that? 😛
Having grown up with a writer, I’ve known since I started down this road that it would be a long while before I could quit my day job. Luckily, my wife was a killer job and might be getting a promotion that could make it easier for me to make the transition… in 10 years… or so. 😉
I do like these kinds of posts though. It really does help show the reality of the life of a writer and many writers are not willing to publish that kind of information for their readers.
Jim C. Hines
January 5, 2011 @ 1:48 pm
“Wait… isn’t it suppose to prevent that?”
Nope! It’s supposed to make money for insurance companies. Saving lives is a much lower priority.
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January 5, 2011 @ 8:06 pm
Oy. I’m on the precipice of making one of the biggest decisions of my life, and this is both helpful and terrifying, lol. I really appreciate your honesty with it all, though. Better to be scared and informed than scared and ignorant.
Jim C. Hines
January 5, 2011 @ 8:09 pm
I’m glad it’s helpful, even if it’s also scary. Good luck with your decision!
January 5, 2011 @ 10:16 pm
If we pick up a copy of one of your books second hand, should we send you a quarter or something? (OK,so far I’ve bought them all brand new from
respectable book storeschains.
Jim C. Hines
January 5, 2011 @ 10:49 pm
Oh, definitely not. (Thanks for the thought, though.) Second-hand means someone, somewhere bought that book, and I’ve already gotten my royalty. I’ve got absolutely no problem with used book sales, and you owe me nothing.
January 6, 2011 @ 7:48 pm
Friday Free for All for January 7th, 2011 | T.N. Tobias
January 7, 2011 @ 9:11 am
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January 7, 2011 @ 4:54 pm
I have to say that the bigger myth (from my experience) is that all writers are poor or will be poor. NOT TRUE. I’ve been quite successful as a ghostwriter. I write full-time and haven’t had any significant drops in my income since I began in 2005. In fact, more often than not, I have more work than I can handle.
I think writers need to get out of the mindset that being ‘rich’ is the goal. There are plenty of ways to make a good living, though it might mean they don’t always have their name attached to their work.
I’m okay with being a ghostwriter. It pays the bills and slowly, so slowly, I’m writing my novel too. Best of luck to all writers! It is possible to make money doing what you love to do. I promise.
January 16, 2011 @ 3:55 am
I checked if the Goblin books were available as ebooks in Germany, and they weren’t. It doesn’t surprise me. Ebooks aren’t really a thing over here. Amazon.de doesn’t sell them; I heard they are currently looking for someone who might start getting together something for them.
I am trying to get into ebooks, but it’s highly frustrating, particularly that I am not permitted to buy ebooks from a lot of US publishers, including the one of the Princess series.
*heh* Looking at that cover…
See, one German publisher has a pseudo-series with a particular style of cover, and “the [insert name of fantasy species]” here as title, and I get the impression your publisher mimicked that, apart from putting a goblin rather than a weappon on the cover.
I’ve been avoiding those books. I picked up the orcs one, which collected stuff by Stan Nicholls, and the whole thing starting with a graphic ritual rape-murder kinda put me off. Even if I know in my head the books have nothing to do with each other.
Jim C. Hines
January 17, 2011 @ 4:47 pm
I wonder why it is that some countries haven’t jumped on board with e-books the way others have. The regional limitations frustrate me too. I sort of understand the rationale, but as the author, I just want everyone to be able to buy and (hopefully) enjoy my books as easily as possible, you know?
I haven’t tried Nicholls yet, but that doesn’t make me eager to pick up a copy…