It’s that time again – for fifteen years now I’ve been writing an annual blog post about my income as a writer. Money tends to be an uncomfortable, even taboo topic, but I think it’s important to help counter the myths that we’re all multimillionaires living in Glass Onion-style mansions. (Side note: If anyone wants to pay millions of dollars for my book, I’ll happily update this blog post from my private island mansion.)
Remember, every writer’s career is different, and I’m only one data point.
In 2016, instead of a personal income write-up, 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 15 books in print from major New York publishers. The first of those books came out from DAW in 2006. I have an agent, and have been with them since about 2004.
I’ve self-published a middle grade fantasy and a few short collections. I’ve also sold about 50 short stories to different magazines and anthologies.
I’ve never hit the NYT or USA Today bestseller lists.
I’m currently the sole parent of a teenager (at home) and a 22-year-old (at college). I have a day job that’s just over half-time, both for the paycheck and the benefits.
2022 in Summary: There’s no gentle way to say this. The last several years have kind of sucked. Losing my wife to cancer in 2019 completely derailed my writing. I was hoping 2022 would be a comeback year, but life had other plans…
I did write and sell two new short stories and one nonfiction piece, which was nice. I’ve got a finished middle grade book that’s been on submission for a while. I finished a standalone fantasy that’s been sitting with my publisher for a while.
Normally, my editor is pretty quick about responding, but last year wasn’t normal for DAW, either. DAW was acquired by Astra House. A lot of their time and energy went into that deal. I’m hoping for the best, but things still haven’t settled into the new “normal.”
Last year did see the release — finally — of Terminal Peace, the third book in the Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse series. I’m thrilled and relieved to see that book in print, but it came out right in the middle of the Astra House acquisition, which may have impacted things like promotion and publicity.
I also finished the first draft and started revising a new standalone middle grade fantasy with series potential.
2022 Income: The biggest check was the publication payment for Terminal Peace. All total, before taxes and various expenses, the writing brought in $13,957.16. While that’s absolutely nothing to sneer at, and I’m grateful for the success, it’s also a dropoff from the past couple of years. To be blunt, if you look at the cumulative graph, things have been slumping a bit.
Expenses came out to roughly $1000. A chunk of that was renewing website hosting for the next three years. I only attended a couple of conventions, one as a Guest of Honor, and the other as Toastmaster, which kept con costs minimal. And yes, I paid my quarterly estimated taxes, though I’m expecting (hoping!) to get some or all of that back.
Patreon has been a small but steady and helpful source of income. My thanks to everyone for that!
As usual, my U.S. novels are the biggest piece of the pie. The short fiction category is a bit higher this year, thanks to those two new stories. I didn’t self-publish anything new in 2022, but if that middle grade book doesn’t sell, I’d like to publish that one later this year.
- Novels (U.S. editions): $8,542.83
- Novels (Non-U.S. editions): $473.25
- Self-Published: $1158.24
- Short fiction: $892.86
- Audio: $521.04
- Patreon: $1668.94
- Other: $700
Goals for 2023:
I mentioned earlier that things have been in a bit of a slump, and I need to focus on breaking out of that. Some things I can’t currently control. Tomorrow I could wake up to an offer from DAW on the book they’ve got, and maybe an email from my agent that the middle grade title he’s been shopping around went to auction and got a six-figure advance. But I can’t make these things happen.
Priority #1 is to keep writing. If I’m not doing that, other goals are pretty much moot.
Priority #2 is to figure out some alternate options. It may be time to put more time and effort into self-publishing as a complement to my traditionally published work.
The biggest thing making me anxious is that I’m pretty much out of contract. The paperback of Terminal Peace comes out this year, but for the first time in about 15 years, I don’t have the security, the luxury, or the deadlines of a signed contract. In some ways, this is freeing: I can write whatever I want. But there’s no guarantee as to when things will see print. Submitting to the traditional publishers is a long, slow process…
From talking to other writers who’ve been doing this a while, I’ve learned that pretty much every career has its ups and downs. Personal, pandemic, and publisher issues have been a bit of a perfect storm for me these past few years, but I’m not going anywhere. After 27 years as a writer, I’m excited to see what comes next.
I hope this has been helpful. As always, feel free to share the post and/or ask questions in the comments. And if you know of any other authors doing an income roundup, let me know and I’ll add those links to the post.
ETA – Other 2022 Author Income Posts: