All of the W-2s and 1099s and spread sheets have been sorted through, the whiskey has been drunk, and the tears of frustration wiped away, which means it’s time for the annual look inside the finances of a working creative in the 21st century.
I did this in 2014 and 2015 because I believe there is too little information about income out there in all of society, but especially in publishing. My income from novel writing is still too insignificant to do an entire post about it like Kameron Hurley, John Scalzi, or Jim Hines do, but I think it’s really helpful for new writers specifically to see how my income from fiction writing in my first few year as a published novelist compares to my income from my day job and my freelance editing business, both of which I’ve been doing professionally much longer than I’ve been publishing fiction professionally. So here’s the chart:
On the surface, this chart shows one intriguing trend. Every year, even as my income has risen, the portion of of my total income made up by my day job has decreased and the portion made up by my freelance has increased. I say on the surface though, because 2016, I think, was a fluke, and I expect 2017 to be more like the previous few years. That’s not bad, it’s still great, but not enough to harbor any realistic dreams of chucking the day job.
The novel income is still depressing. I made more this year editing books for a single publisher than most authors will make for writing books with that same publisher. I routinely get editing checks as big as most first novel advances. So it’s not just me. But each year I hold out hope that time + luck + talent will =$$$.
In 2016, my writing income was made up up three things: the delivery portion of the advance for RIOT LOAD, the signing portion of the advance for TRIGGER SWITCH, and three royalty checks. Yay that I’m getting royalty checks. MURDER BOY continues to sell very steadily. I haven’t seen a statement yet that includes the bulk of the sales for RIOT LOAD so that one is still a mystery to me, though I don’t expect those sales to be quite as awesome as those for MB. That book had been building up anticipation and an audience for YEARS.
The day job remains the same. I like it, it taps a different part of my brain, and it provides insane health coverage, which is important since I have a wife, three little kids, and a body in full rebellion for the way I’ve been treating it the last 30 years or so. It also provides me the freedom to only take on editing projects I truly believe in and enjoy and to keep my prices reasonable enough to be able to work with authors at all career and income levels.
I expect 2017 to look much like this, with the freelance chunk trending back down toward where it normally falls in the 30% range, and I expect the writing income to go up a bit as I’ll be writing some short stories, but I’ll be spending most of the year writing a book not under contract that I will hope to sell in 2018 that will hopefully increase that percentage even more.