2011 Writing Income

Quick Announcement: I came across the German cover art for Snow Queen’s Shadow yesterday. Click the thumbnail to check that out.

Quick Thanks: My Fantasy Poses post has now been viewed well over 100,000 times, which is awesome. But I’ve noticed that as this continues to spread, I’m seeing a larger number of comments that … well, let’s just say I sometimes take for granted the mostly thoughtful, respectful, and fun comments and discussions from people here on the blog. Glancing at these other sites has been a reminder to 1) STOP READING COMMENTS ON UNMODERATED SITES! and 2) thank everyone here for being generally excellent people.


It always feels weird to talk about money. Partly this is because we’re taught not to do so. It also feels uncomfortably like boasting. I know a lot of people are struggling right now, and the last thing I want to do is rub their noses in the fact that I had a good year.

At the same time, there are so many misconceptions about writers and how much they make… I continue to run into people who assume I’m rich because I’ve got some books out, people who expect me to live in a mansion with solid gold robokittens and nuclear powered toothbrushes and so on. And I think it’s important to bust some of the myths about writing and writers.

I’ll put this behind a cut tag. If you’re interested, then read on…

My income posts from previous years are here: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010.

From a financial perspective, 2011 was my second-best year as a writer. Thanks in no small part to the on-signing advance for Libriomancer and its as-yet-untitled sequel, my writing income was $42,772 before expenses and taxes. Here’s the long-term breakdown going back to 2002, because graphs are cool.

Keep in mind that I’ve been writing and submitting since 1995. The jump in 2006 coincides with the release of my first book from DAW. The 2008 spike comes from Germany’s love of goblins.

Two messages I take from this graph are:

  1. It takes a long time to build a writing career.
  2. Writing fiction is not a terribly stable source of income.

Last year’s numbers break down roughly like so:

  • Novels (U.S.) – $22,000
  • Novels (Foreign) – $18,000
  • Self-Published Titles – $1370
  • Short Fiction – $760
  • Speaking Fees – $625

The biggest change from 2010 has been a significant increase in my U. S. book advances and royalties. This is the first time since I started doing these posts that my U. S. book income exceeded the foreign sales and royalties. But those foreign sales are still a very significant part of the overall pie, and for that I’ve got to once again thank my agent Joshua Bilmes. Germany made up roughly half of the foreign income, with France taking second place.

My writing expenses came to around $2000, with conventions being the biggest cost. This is pretty much unchanged from last year.

Because this is much more than I made last year, I expect taxes to be rather painful. I paid estimated taxes in 2011, but that was based on the prior year’s income. I’ve been setting money aside, but I’m still not looking forward to writing those April 15 checks.

I’m at the point in my writing career where, based on the past four years, I’d give serious consideration to quitting the day job … if I had a reasonable source of health insurance for my family. Since I don’t, I’m still not in a position where I can write full time.

I don’t know that there’s such a thing as a “normal” writing career, and you definitely can’t and shouldn’t draw broad conclusions from one example. That said, this gives you one example of an author with seven books in print from a major publisher, along with foreign sales to five different countries, a handful of short stories, and a few speaking engagements.

Questions and comments are welcome, as always.