Photo © Chance Agrella
One of the first things out of the mouth of people who find out what I do for a living is a question about how much money I make. I cannot remember any other profession in which I have worked that got this reaction. I have no idea why people feel they have free license to ask such a rude and inappropriate question, but I am not alone. Other writers experience this same phenomenon, and it leaves us all scratching our head.
Though it truly is a rude and inappropriate question, there are those who are genuinely curious as to what writers in general can make. The answer to that question is that there are simply too many variables involved for there to be one set answer.
There are many different types of work for writers, and many different genres and arrangements within each one. Some writers are freelance, and some are contracted/salaried. Some writers work full-time (or more), some only work part time. Some work primarily for print, other work primarily online. There is a world of options outside of books when it comes to writing. White papers, technical writing, advertising, slogans, press releases, web content, web articles, magazine articles, newspaper articles, scripts, graphic novels (comic books), resumes, songs/lyrics, poems, tests/quizzes, educational programs, newsletters, brochures, and so much more. One fact remains the same, however, and that is that most writers cannot get rich on their writing. Most cannot make a decent living as a writer, and must have another source of income.
Even if you write a book that is published, any advance may be small and spent long before the book is published, and afterwards, on average, authors are only paid about twice a year in royalties – remember that the advance was paid against future royalties. Very few published authors make a lot of money from writing, and of those, most need to continue writing for many years in order to keep money rolling in. Children’s book author J.K. Rowling’s success was a fluke in the writing world. Most authors are not that successful, even after many years and multiple published book titles.
For many writers, writing is not about money or getting rich quick. For them, writing is in their blood – it is their passion and as necessary to them as the air they breathe. They may be among the “starving artist” class, but they are joyfully so. They are living their dream and would not have it any other way.
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