Friday, April 11, 2014

Different views on how much writers make

How much will you make from writing?

There are many different studies at what authors are earning right now. I thought, for convenience's sake, I'd put the ones I've seen recently together, so you can get a look at different perspectives. Note that many of these surveys have wildly different results, and even similar ones have different conclusions.

Brenda Hiatt's Show Me the Money (last updated 7/13)--shows the advances and royaty rates paid from various YA and romance publishers, including the big 5, from a voluntary, anonymous survey. Edit: Also, her Show Me the Money for indie authors (last updated 7/14).

Beverly Kendall's self-publishing survey (covering 2013; posted 1/14)--looks at income of authors, analyzing in a number of ways, including by number of books, by cover/editing (pro vs nonpro), traditional vs small pub hybrid vs big pub hybrid, and more

Hugh Howey's 7k Report (published 2/14; covers and analyzes the earnings from Amazon's top 7000 earning authors of all types, from a single day); his 50k Report (published 2/2014; covers and analyzes earnings from Amazon's top 50,000 authors, from a single day); and his Barnes and Noble Report (published 2/2014; covers and analyzes earnings from 5400 B&N's top authors). Edit: His July 2014 report and B&N report; his January 2015 report. The October 2015 report looks at a variety of markets. And a report looking at debut vs tenured author incomes. For simplicity's sake: the Author Earning's website. There are a lot more reports posted than I've listed here.

Digital Book World's paper, which stated most self-published authors earned less than $1000 a year, and GalleyCat's breakdown of the data (actual survey requires purchase and costs $295). Data analyst Beth Weinberg from Digital Book World analyzes the survey (posted on 2/14).
Added 1/29/15: Digital Book World posts another report, covering 2014, stating that most indie authors (percentage-wise) earn very little (but there's a huge data spread).

Traditionally published author Jim Hines publishes his own income for 2017 (posted 1/2018), 20152014 (posted 1/2015), 2013 (posted 1/2014) and for 2012 (posted on 1/2013). Hines also surveyed 400 authors about their incomes in 2016. Author Mark Lawrence posts on Reddit about what he makes (posted early 2013). Author Brian Keene writes a blog about what his own income is and advice on what writers can expect to earn (posted 1/2013) (All three authors are traditionally published fantasy authors.)

Edit 5/1/2014: Author Patrick Wensink shares his income from his best-seller.

The RWA does an annual report on how much romance, and other genres, earn as a whole.

Edit 7/10/2014: The Authors Licensing and Collecting Society, a United Kingdom-based association, publishes an article on the decline of professional authors' incomes as compared to 2005. However, as with all articles posted, this article has critics.

To be fair, all the links have critics. This may be at least partially explained by the fact that the reports contradict even one another, all have different viewpoints and therefore different biases, and focus on different segments of the publishing population. In short--analyze and weigh the evidence with a critical eye, and be prepared to make your own judgment. 

But there is one thing they all agree on: Writing isn't lucrative for every author. It's only your chances of making good money and your maximum potential earnings that vary among the reports.

Last update to this post: 11/9/2015

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