Knowledge is power. But it may not make you rich. For that you need articles like this:
by Chuck Wendig
Two pieces of reading homework before we begin:
First up, the ever-smart Kameron Hurley — the Cold Equations that govern publishing.
Second, the big news surrounding the Author’s Guild survey that suggests more and more authors are getting paid less and less, and something-something poverty line.
Kameron’s link — I got nothing to add except, high-five to her for talking about this stuff.
The Author’s Guild survey — nnnyeah, I’m not really willing to count that as meaningful information. The data in that survey, according to Publisher’s Weekly, skews this way:
The survey, conducted this spring by the Codex Group, is based on responses from 1,674 Guild members, 1,406 of whom identified either as a full-time author, or a part-time one. The majority of respondents also lean older—89% are over the age of 50—and toward the traditionally published end (64%).
Note that I am not a guild member. I’m not sure I know many (any?) guild members.
It’s a very narrow slice of the author cake, and made even narrower when you consider how many of them are strictly traditionally-published, and how many are over 50 years of age. (I’m not suggesting any age-ist critique, but rather, I’m noting that the more you dwindle survey participants, the shallower the pool becomes of meaning.)
That said, regardless of the depth (or lack of depth) the author’s guild survey possesses, I think once in a while it’s a good idea to wad up all the financial realities that surround a writer’s existence, cram them into a cannon, and then fire them top speed into your solar plexus.
I am a full-time writer.
I do pretty okay for myself. I support my family with my words, which is pretty cool — and, no doubt, pretty rare. I am aware and have been privy to the many peaks and valleys of a writer’s career, and the key to surviving as a writer is learning how to survive the valleys — either figuring out how to glide from peak to peak, or having a plan to weather the lean times when things go down. Surviving the peaks is easy — everyone enjoys good news. But some authors can’t navigate the stark elevation drop and, understandably, move on to more stable ground.
Let’s talk about the financial realities that you’ll deal with — both peaks and valleys.
On advances, sure, there still exists those advances that are $100,000, or are up over a million. But if you’re a new author, you’ll probably find yourself in the $5k – $15k range. And if you’re a practiced, published author, you might drift higher, which is from $15k-35k.
You’ll note that none of those numbers individually make for good full-time money.
You can do okay on $35k, but depending on where you live, it might strain the budget.
(And here, a digression: where you live actually matters to the writer. It doesn’t matter in terms of BEING CLOSE TO THE ACTION — your proximity to NY Publishing is not as important to an author as proximity to LA MovieLand is to a screenwriter. No, it matters because some parts of the money cost less than others. If you are one of those writers who wants very badly to live in New York City or its surrounding environs, be prepared to discover that your book advance will pay for 14 minutes of rent, and you’ll be able to maybe afford an apartment that is roughly the size of a dented Porta-potty….