Money Entry Addendum

To answer the question before it gets asked: The reason I talk about money I make as a writer is because someone should. People get weirded out about the topic and I think that’s damn silly, and I think it’s particularly silly in a field like writing, where authors sharing information about money is a net good. Then we all have an understanding about what people are making and what’s a decent amount of money to expect for one’s work in the writing field, and in the case of science fiction, in this particular genre. We’re in a business (or want to be); let’s make sure we talk about it as a business from time to time. I think the fact that people don’t talk about money is a large part of the reason some publishers can offer ridiculously low sums to authors and pretend like they’re doing them a favor.

The fact I made $67K writing science fiction last year does not make me a better writer than someone who made less in the field; it doesn’t make me a lesser writer than someone who makes more. I think we all understand that beyond a certain level of literary competence, the quality of writing and the popularity of writing are functionally independent from each other. Lord knows I’m not offering up the amount to brag; $67K is a decent chunk of cash but it’s not all that. Also, I’d look like a dick. And anyway, in my circle of writer friends I can can point to a bunch who’ve made more. I’m not under the delusion I’m king of the SF writing world (if I were, man, this world would suck).

It’s also to the point that I’m not worried that you know how much I make. I assume most of you aren’t so lame that you’d factor in my income when it comes to whether you’d wish to consort with me or not, and if you are that lame, well, of course, I’d rather you avoided me anyway. I’m not so naive that I don’t think money matters in terms of how people approach other people, or that it doesn’t matter in life. But personally I find it a poor indicator of personal quality.

I’ll tell you what I make because I know people are curious, and because I don’t see any reason not to share. There’s lots of stuff I don’t tell you about me, because it’s none of your damn business, but how much I make is trivial enough, and it might also be useful to some of you. I understand many people are not comfortable in talking about money, or have personal or strategic reasons for talking about it, and that’s fair enough; sometimes I’ll be strategically quiet about it as well. This, however, is not one of those times. I also accept some people find it vaguely unseemly when I talk about what I make. Since there are lot of things I write about that seem vaguely unseemly to people, I’ll just add it to the pile.

My point in talking about money is simple: I’m a working writer, and as a working writer I’m not particularly special — what I do is what any competent writer can do, with effort and with a little luck. This is me saying: This is how I do this. This is what I make. This is how I make it. Just in case it’s helpful for the rest of you to see how I get this thing done.

107 thoughts on “Money Entry Addendum

  1. $67,000? Come on, fess up, you’re rounding up. Doesn’t your contract with the devil (making a living off of writing SF, dashing good looks, smart + beautiful wife, smart + beautiful daughter, legions of adoring fans….) really pay $66,600?

  2. Thanks for sharing. I’ve also found that the, “we don’t talk about what people make,” was always an excuse to screw somebody (it may not be you, but chances are likely).

    Damn, you make a good living writing (just did my best earning year evar and made about the same, but that’s with ridiculous overtime). Could you share what percentage was from fiction and non-fiction? I mean, a few corporate consulting gigs, and that could boost the “money-in” column quite a bit.

  3. Steve Buchheit:

    “Could you share what percentage was from fiction and non-fiction? I mean, a few corporate consulting gigs, and that could boost the ‘money-in’ column quite a bit.”

    Fiction writing constituted about half my income for the year; all the other writing is in the other half, minus a small amount for appearance fees.

  4. Wow dude. I know $67k isn’t bad for a full time writer. But it sure points out the wisdom of keeping my day job.

    Maybe I don’t have as much time or creative energy to write as I would like, but jeeeeeeez!

  5. Jack William Bell:

    “Wow dude. I know $67k isn’t bad for a full time writer. But it sure points out the wisdom of keeping my day job.”

    Well, as a general rule I don’t recommend people give up their day jobs to be writers anyway, at least not until they start making a decent amount, and/or have a spouse with benefits and a damn fine job.

    As a point of clarification, however, the $67k figure is what I make from writing SF, not my total writing income.

    Paul:

    Chang does indeed seem to be one of the most enthusiastic of commenters.

  6. This came up at a reading/signing I did a few months back. A teacher had brought her class, and one of the students asked how much I made for my goblin books.

    So I told him. Gave him the numbers on the deal here and a few foreign sales. Then talked about taxes, the depressingly slow pace at which the publishers write checks, and the fact that benefits weren’t included.

    Someone later commented on how rude that particular student was to ask me, which I don’t get at all. It seems like part of the reason there are so many myths and misconceptions about how writers really live is that nobody talks about it.

  7. The talking about money thing is good. Heck, more talking about money from people who don’t make a full time living at it should happen.

  8. john, thanks for sharing. i was just thinking about this topic while sitting in traffic on the way home from my thankless job, wondering “if i ever got off my ass an tried to publish something, could i live off of it?” fortunately, my wife does have a great job with decent health benefits, so maybe some day…

  9. John,
    I started my own Handyman business a year ago and you can bet I talk to as many of my Peers as possible to make sure my pricing is inline with the rest of them.
    I think way to many people are “status concious” about how much they make instead of being concerned about what they do with it.

    Good for you on your efforts to educate people and in a way, level the playing field. Knowledge is power and you can bet that those who hold it will use it to your detriment if they can.

  10. As an aspiring SF writer (well, a writer, aspiring to a steady income from writing), I appreciate the salary info. Now that I think about it, it’s actually quite refreshing–why don’t people speak more about these things?

  11. How nice for you.

    Talking about money is a double-edged scalpel, because of the assumptions so many people bnring to the issue. What needs stating up front is that THERE IS NOTHING FAIR ABOUT WHO MAKES WHAT.

    A few years ago I picked up a book, on recommendation from a friend I trust, called “Publicize Your Book!” by Jacqueline Deval. There is, in point of fact, many good bits of advice in it, but–

    The prologue is titled: A Common Midlist Scenario To Avoid At All Costs. It goes on to describe this “common” scenario and its pitfalls. Ms Deval blows it for me when she blithely comments that her example author has recieved $35K for his first novel.

    I don’t throw books, normally, but I came close with that. This is not real. This is not the world. This is why so many people have the wrong idea about this job. If someone had paid me that much for my first novel, I would have hired an ad agency to promote me.

    As it is, I have never been paid more than $6K for a novel–more likely 3500–and because the publishers in question largely did nothing for promotion–because, let’s face it, ads in trades, etc are far more expensive than even a decent small press can afford–I have never received royalties on anything. (To be fair, ibooks would probably have eventually sold enough copies of my robot novels to do that, but Byron Preiss died and his company is gone.)

    The reality is that most of us really don’t make much more than chump change at this, which is why all the jokes about day jobs sting so often. One must be happy with the level one can reach, or do something else.

    For the record, I’m not happy with the level I’ve reached, but I don’t want to do anything else. So…

    I am, however, at least above average. PW did a survey a couple years ago which has been spread around fairly widely now that broke the numbers of books sold down. The average book sells 500 copies. I’m doing marginally better than that. Next year, I’m moving to Lake Wobegon.

  12. John H:

    The $67k is money that makes it to me, after my agent takes his 15% (but before I pay taxes on it).

    Mark Tiedemann:

    “What needs stating up front is that THERE IS NOTHING FAIR ABOUT WHO MAKES WHAT.”

    This is one of the reasons I choose to emphasize that aside from any native talent/skill I have at writing, I’ve also been lucky, and I don’t pretend otherwise.

  13. I really appreciate your candor on this issue and wish it were a cultural value of our society as a whole, instead of using symbols of wealth as the communicative medium. (Maybe I’ve just been down here in Florida too long.)

  14. Thanks, John for sharing. I’ve often wondered what a working writer makes. I agree it can only help everyone’s cause for you to be open about it.

    I’m glad you are making a comfortable living telling us your stories.

  15. I’ve begun to think that Chang is actually a chatterbot a with very large parser grammer. How about it, Chang, want to take a Turing Test and see if you can play with the meat folk?

  16. I won’t even ponder what Stephen King makes, but then again he’s a writer’s writer – and prolific to boot.

    I DO wonder what somebody like Thomas Harris makes though, because he’s only written 5 books. Black Sunday was basically forgettable beach trash, Red Dragon and Silence Of The Lambs were much better, Hannibal less so – but still entertaining.

    He must have gotten gobs of money for Hannibal Rising (which I just finished), and personally I thought it was atrocious.

  17. When I was applying to grad schools last year, I had a couple awkward conversations with friends over money. How do you say, “Grad school X offered me this, but I don’t know if that’s good or not,” when both the money and the grad school can be construed as bragging? Even *getting* money for grad school is bragging in some circles, much the way having anything published might be.
    Thanks for posting these.

  18. I would imagine Thomas Harris is doing very well, yes. But then, so is Harper Lee, and she wrote only one book.

  19. That’s one of the things I miss about being in the military: everyone knew what you made. I was an E-5, with 6 years in. Want to know how much I was making? Easy, look at the chart, find E-5, track across until you get to 6 years, and Voila! you’ve found my salary.

    My current occupation is much more secretive, and I don’t really dig that.

  20. Hi there, delurking to post for the first time. :) Wanted to add my voice to previous comments thanking you for this information; I’m another newbie hoping to break into SF/F, and this information is very helpful in giving me realistic ideas about what to expect. Especially the “if I get lucky” part. So thank you very much!

  21. “I DO wonder what somebody like Thomas Harris makes though, because he’s only written 5 books”

    Several years ago it was actually published in the trades that he received ten million for “Hannibal.” I doubt he took a cut for “Hannibal Rising.”

  22. Harris’s got something for every single one of his books that I suspect throws a novelist’s career into hyperspace — sale of movie rights.
    As far as King goes, I recall an interview years ago wherein he described getting a couple-few thousand advance for Carrie from Doubleday, then almost a half-million in a subsequent and separate sale of paperback rights to NAL. Am I right, authors, that the chance of this scenario happening — for anyone — isn’t even possible now?

  23. Part of the problem with the money discussion for authors is that there are few sources of anonymized aggregate information. If I want to know what other engineers are making here around me, there are a number of good sources, starting with our local Chamber of Commerce and moving on to various websites. For writing, especially for fiction writing, that information isn’t as readily available.

  24. Mark, are you sure that discrepancy isn’t a genre issue? My understanding is that standard first novel advances in spec fic range from $8-$12K these days (it was $5K back when I went to Clarion in ’97, but rates have risen some), whereas they generally range from $25-$50K in mainstream lit. I believe that’s what my agent told me, and I’ve had it confirmed from various anecdotal editor sources since. So she doesn’t sound so far off to me.

    PLEASE NOTE: I’m not saying ‘give up on spec fic and write mainstream instead if you want to make money.’ I wouldn’t be surprised if it isn’t quite a bit harder to *sell* that first novel in mainstream than spec fic, due to the increased competition — just a much bigger pool of aspiring authors. And spec fic houses seem more inclined to support their authors overall than the big mainstream houses do, so that in the long run, you might end up having a steadier career with more long-term money in spec fic than if you’d gone with a big mainstream house that handed you a relatively fat advance. Advances are not everything. Sometimes they’re a very small piece of the overall financial jigsaw.

    And for those wondering why there isn’t more transparency, I do want to highlight the strategic aspect of all this that John mentioned. When I first sold my two-book contract to HarperCollins, I did a detailed breakdown of the finances in my online journal, in the interests of transparency and writer education, explaining why what looks like a six-figure deal really isn’t so much. My agent called in a frenzy and asked me to please please please take it down, because having the hard cold facts out there (detailing escalator clauses and the like that are used to make a deal sound better than it actually is) would apparently hinder his ability to make me sound like the hottest thing since sliced bread when he was negotiating film rights, etc.

    After some thought, I reluctantly took the post down, though I did end up e-mailing the details to writer friends, and I’m usually happy to talk about the specifics at convention bars and the like. Sometimes you end up balancing what’s best for your career against helping the general writing public. It’s a tough call.

  25. Jeff Hentosz:

    “Am I right, authors, that the chance of this scenario happening — for anyone — isn’t even possible now?”

    It’s very rare at this point that a publisher will not take both hardcover and paperback rights, along with electronic rights and any other rights you’d care not to have your agent police for you. What would happen now is that instead of getting the hal-mil for the paperback, the author would get a much higher advance on the next book. And also, of course, if the book is selling well enough to warrant such a bump in the advance, chances are pretty good the royalties are coming along nicely.

    Mary Anne Mohanraj:

    “When I first sold my two-book contract to HarperCollins, I did a detailed breakdown of the finances in my online journal, in the interests of transparency and writer education, explaining why what looks like a six-figure deal really isn’t so much. My agent called in a frenzy and asked me to please please please take it down, because having the hard cold facts out there (detailing escalator clauses and the like that are used to make a deal sound better than it actually is) would apparently hinder his ability to make me sound like the hottest thing since sliced bread when he was negotiating film rights, etc.”

    Yeah, this is true enough: There is a risk that people will look at these numbers and use them to triangulate from in dealing with me in various negotiations (or, generally, as evidence that it’s okay to lowball writers in making bids for rights). My feeling about this is that I’ll walk away from any deal that I don’t think is appropriate (and fortunately for me, my agent feels the same way). The relevant metric is not what I’ve gotten for something before, but what it’s worth to someone now. Again, this is why it’s nice to have an income outside of fiction writing; it increases my ability to tell people to take a hike when necessary.

    That said, if I were in a sensitive situation with a negotiation, and my agent asked me to keep a lid on things, I would do so. Your agent was looking out for your interests, and they can’t be faulted for that.

  26. Jack:

    Wow dude. I know $67k isn’t bad for a full time writer. But it sure points out the wisdom of keeping my day job.

    Perhaps, but note that the median US household income for 2005 was $46,242. It’s actually less in Ohio by about $3k.

  27. Um, Jack William Bell, I think you’re probably very much in luck with your day job. My perfectly respectable day job earns me less than half of what Mr Scalzi makes in SF alone. And I consider myself quite lucky already.

    I’m actually quite amazed (and proud! (which is odd, since I contributed nothing at all to Scalzi’s success) at what he’s making. Go John Scalzi!

  28. “It’s very rare at this point that a publisher will not take both hardcover and paperback rights”

    Largely because most large NY publishers these days publish in both hardcover and paperback. The days when your typical book was sold to a hardcover house that then turned around and sublicensed it to a paperback house are largely gone. In my eighteen years at Tor I think I’ve done fewer than ten deals for paperback rights with hardcover houses elsewhere.

    On the bright side, the new state of things does mean that authors generally get paid full royalties on paperbacks sold, rather than splitting the money 50-50 with their hardcover publisher.

  29. Plus, for those young writers dreaming, Stephen King is an industry of one. He is a publisher now, and owns a few radio stations, from what I’ve gathered. I would make a clone joke, but Joe sounds like a nice guy and I wouldn’t want it to come out the wrong way.

  30. Wow dude. I know $67k isn’t bad for a full time writer. But it sure points out the wisdom of keeping my day job.

    If you’re in a day job where you think $67k is low, you would definitely be wise to keep it.

    Meanwhile I’m in the same boat as marrije. Marine science doesn’t pay terribly well, alas, but the benefits are helpful. :)

  31. Plus marine science is way cool, MWT!

    My own job is way cool too, of course (we’ve done assignments for the queen), but we don’t exactly add to the body of knowledge on the planet. Or follow in the footsteps of good old Jacques Cousteau.

  32. Plus marine science is way cool, MWT!

    My own job is way cool too, of course (we’ve done assignments for the Queen!), but we don’t exactly add to the body of knowledge on the planet. Or follow in the footsteps of good old Jacques Cousteau.

  33. There is a parallel for this in the world of lawyers. Back in the early ’90, young associates at various firms were paid a good living (80k?), but nothing compared to what they make now. One of the major causes of the escalation to the current starting rate at a BigLaw firm was a message board called Greedy Associates. Suddenly, pay rates *were* transparent, as people contributed salary information from their firms. Law school students could (and did) go online and find out what they could expect to be paid.

    All this sparked competition among the firms and the current situation where, of the AmLaw 100 firms (the 100 biggest law firms in the country), only something like 10 are not paying ‘market’ – which for the top 25 or so firms, is $160k – and $145k in smaller cities and smaller firms. This for new law school graduates who know effectively nothing.

    Of course those associates are overpaid by just about any metric (although many of those associates have up to $250k in law school and college debt), but by openly sharing information about book deals, a similar situation could effect new writers. Or not – but in my experience, more information pretty much always benefits those who contributed that information.

  34. I had a money discussion on my blog once, and (some) people flipped out. My point was not so much about money, but how unstable life can be for disabled people who have a hell of a time getting and keeping health insurance. It was about policy, not me personally. I just used my family as an example. (I feed 3-5 people on any given day on around 30K, and pay around $600 in health insurance premiums a month along with a $1000 deductable.) People thought I wanted charity and I was like…Do you see a tip jar? A paypal account? anything that would even allow you to give? (Maybe they’re giving me ideas!)

    Anyway, my point is that people are weird about money. And I agree that what you make is largely arbitrary and has little to do with actual worth. I think that it is employers and corporations who have conned us into not sharing our salaries. But as you point out, its good for us to talk to each other about it, if only to have as leverage. I think it is probably especially important in a field like freelance writing where income is paid by the word/project and is left largely up to the publishing companies. So, yeah. Tell all. I’ve already figured out you make lots more money than I do. I don’t have any problem with that. It has been fun watching you find your niche in SF.

  35. Of course, John, you’ve also a reputation for talking the straight talk about many aspects of writing and publishing, not just the money, so given that you have become a Resource, your agent is likely to be more understanding.

    The dream of many an aspiring writer is to go full-time. On the other hand, many people need the stimulation of working with other people and getting out of the house every day in order to keep their sanity and their zeal for fitting in the writing.

    That and one’s break-even point is going to vary greatly. I teach physics, but I do so part-time because I don’t play the research/tenure game and to allow time for pursuits like writing. With a huge commute which swallows up a good chunk of my pitiful pay in gasoline costs, it wouldn’t take MUCH of a writing career to become cost effective. (grin)

    2006 was a banner year for me. I was paid for two published short stories and made a record $375. Woo-hoo! Another year like that and I’ll break four figures for my career total. (sn*rt)

    Anyway, John, we thank you for your openess — it puts some perspective on what reasonable expectations are. Now all I have to do to finance my ultimate SF writing lifestyle is to win the $177 million lottery drawing tonight… Who says I’m not planning ahead?

    Dr. Phil

  36. MWT, I make more than Scalzi does, but I’ve spent nearly 40 years in my field getting to that point, and I suspect he gets more time off than I do ;-{

    More seriously, a good part of the reason for the taboo against talking about money is that employers don’t want their employees to know how much other employees get; if you don’t know how much they’re willing to pay others who are similar to you, you’ll be less inclined to bargain up. And if you feel a vague guilt in talking about money at all, you’ll feel bad about asking for a raise.

    I’ve worked at several companies where it was a firing offense to tell another employee how much you were paid. No one I knew was ever fired for that, but then most professionals like software engineers (what I am) are employed with “at-will termination” contracts, which means they don’t have to give a reason, or any notice, or even a parachute, when they dump you out.

  37. I work freelance, so every job involves a negotiation for salary. My standard (which varies by the size of the project), is to tell the producer the minimum I’ll work for, but to specify that I’ll have “favored nations status” with someone whose job I deem equivalent in responsibilities. (Meaning if that person gets anything more, I’ve got to get it too).

    I always make sure the producer knows I’ll be talking to that person and that we’ll all know if anyone’s cheating.

    I’ve been told by a number of producers that I’m the first to negotiate with them this way (excluding people who have agents to do it for them), and that they prefer it. It saves them from the people who constantly knock on their door trying to re-negotiate their deals when they hear what other people are getting. (BTW, we’re not talking about hiring on as staff. This is about working 2-6 months on a production.)

  38. Dr. Phil: Now all I have to do to finance my ultimate SF writing lifestyle is to win the $177 million lottery drawing tonight… Who says I’m not planning ahead?

    Sorry, doc – I’ve already bought the winning ticket…

  39. Now I don’t have to feel too guilty if I only check out your books from the library.

    My wife, who was a writer and then editor for a small town paper for five years, told me the average annual salary of a writer was 24K.

  40. In re my comment about aggregated anonymized data, has the SFWA or other organization ever looked into collating such information? Tbe American Institute of Physics has done that for my profession, and the results (like the 2004 information) were enlightening.

  41. There is one major problem with talking about how much money you make from writing.

    The personal finance bloggers will demand to know if you’re properly putting a portion of the income into a SIMPLE IRA.

  42. As someone who has written a book on personal finance, Stebu, you can be assured that I am on top of all of that.

  43. This might seem like a stretch, but bear with me. I think as we get older, we get more tight-lipped with things.

    In high school, we all shared grades. Everyone knew what everyone else got. We all went over each test with a fine tooth comb, to make sure we all got fair grades.

    In college, only a few people shared grades. It became this big secret. And when two of us tried to compare tests and talk to a prof about it, he said “you can’t compare tests!”

    And now, in the work world, no one talks about anything. It’s kinda frustrating.

  44. Grand Poobah: As someone who has written a book on personal finance, Stebu, you can be assured that I am on top of all of that.

    I sure hope you’re not referring to Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Plunges Into New Jersey

  45. Although the point is not immediately germane to Mr. Scalzi (who, I take it, is generally an independent contractor and not an employee), every working person should be aware that it is an illegal labor practice under federal law for an employer to discourage employees from sharing information about their compensation.Sam Heldman, who used to frequent the blogosphere once upon a time, discusses that and other interesting facts about your rights under federal labor law — even if you are not a union member — in this very interesting paper: http://users.starpower.net/sheldman/paper/paper.pdf

  46. And now, in the work world, no one talks about anything. It’s kinda frustrating.

    In a lot of companies you are forbidden from revealing your salary to a co-worker. It can be a “warning” or even a “firing” offense.

    Of course, who knows what the going rate to ork a cow is these days?

  47. I, for one, truly appreciate the candor. Money is one of the things non-writers and would-be writers are obviously curious about. I think many readers are curious about all aspects of the writing business: publishing, editing, book design, etc. and I always love to hear an author’s experience with and knowledge of those areas. I really appreciated reading Brandon Sanderson’s post about hardcovers vs. paperbacks and the difference it makes financially for the author. Again, this kind of stuff just satisfies curiosity. I’m sure all of us want our favorite authors, present company included, to be able to at the very least make a modest living so that they are writing as much as possible rather than working on the side at Mikey D’s. Thanks for the info!

  48. re: not talking. I think everyone’s afraid of being embarrassed if they are the low number in the discussion.

    Another thing to consider: I’ve just published my first novel (urban fantasy), so of course everyone NOT in publishing asks if I’m quitting my job. I point out that in order to do that and enjoy something comfortable, I would have to be GUARANTEED to have $100K each year for the rest of my publishing career in order to afford that:

    $100K – $35K (taxes, inc. FICA)= $65k – $12k (at least for private health care, probably more)= $53 – $6K (min. retirement savings to supplement Soc.Sec.)= $47K.

    To some, of course, that’s a great salary. However, I live in Boston where the cost of living is much higher than average. Even at that salary, I would be making much less than my current day job.

    $100K per year from publishing is a tough mountain.

  49. MarkDF, I’ve been getting the same question (science fiction, and I also live in Boston so I feel your pain). I have a number of responses including:
    *Hey, I just sold a book. Can we focus on that? It is sooooo not about the money.
    *I don’t write chick-lit, we’re talking about a four figure advance here.
    *I know this might sound crazy, but I like my day job. They pay me to do experiments in the lab. How cool is that?

  50. However, I live in Boston where the cost of living is much higher than average

    Yet another reason why a lot of full-time artists and writers live out here in the Pacific Northwest. Costs are lower, there are fewer artistes and fanboys to bug you, and there’s a pretty large community of like-minded people if you want to socialize. But we do understand hermits out here :-)

  51. I am glad to see you talk openly about money. It’s refreshing. Americans are so damn skittish about money. Talking about sex is okay, talking about money is not. Both are necessary for survival.

    I think this fear of money is the number one reason why Americans as a whole are so bad with money and finances. If we can crack the cover on the taboo of money a bite at a time…like how you did here, the world would be a much better place.

  52. Jaye:

    “Talking about sex is okay, talking about money is not.”

    Ironically, I never talk about my sex life. Except to say, you know. I’m for it.

  53. I agree that openness is good. Demanding that *other* people be open seems to work poorly, so being open yourself is what you can best do to promote it.

    There’s something of an American convention against discussing what one earns, it seems to me. And I agree it mostly works for employers.

    The other thing to note is that your numbers must put you in the top 1% of SF writers by income (I’m not counting just those who write full-time). Writing pays *fantastically* at the very top, and it drops down amazingly fast from there.

  54. David Dyer-Bennet:

    “The other thing to note is that your numbers must put you in the top 1% of SF writers by income (I’m not counting just those who write full-time).”

    I suspect that they do, yes, based on anecdotal observation and also discussion within SFWA. I’m appropriately pleased about this, and also a little sad that the field is not more generally remunerative.

  55. I appreciate you publishing this normally private information. But for anyone aspiring to be a writer it is very useful – especially about the diverse sources of writing income. Your post has all kinds of implications for new writers – such as the time it takes to succeed.

    By the way, could you tell if there were bumps in sales due to award nominations or reviews? Or do you think you got such attention because the books were doing well on their own. How much did the mini-review in Entertainment Weekly help? Most new writers don’t get this kind of notice.

  56. This one’s interesting for me, because while I aspire to a high degree of openness in my blogging about my writing life, I’ve never talked money, except perhaps in the most general terms. I’m very wary of doing so, I think because I’ve worked in business all my adult life (marketing, software and telecomm) and keeping financial info confidential is second nature to me, reinforced by the umpteen NDAs I’ve signed over the years.

    I will go so far as to say I made about $15,000 off writing last year, which is a small but respectable fraction of John’s income. It’s by no means a living wage. I would be terribly loathe to break that out by source for anyone but my agent or the IRS.

    *However*, I am the sole wage earner and provider of benefits for two adults and a child. Even if I were making well into six figures off books (!) I couldn’t afford not to have a day job, because both the Child and her mother have chronic health conditions which pretty much mandate that they receive insurance through non-qualifying (ie, employer sponsored) groups. I’d have to make enough money to be confident of being able to pay $2,000-3,000 per month in free market health insurance costs for *years to come* before I’d begin to consider writing full time.

    Ain’t gonna happen.

  57. Thank you for posting this.

    I am within 2-5 years of being able to retire from the day job. I want the money from the 401(k)/pension to cover most/all living expenses. I don’t want to have to depend on writing income for much of anything. If I earn lots, great. If I don’t earn lots, that would be ok too.

    I am speaking for fiction, only. And I am more risk-averse than most.

  58. Jay Lake:

    You know, Jay, with your output, you fake being a full-time writer excellently well.

    You of course make an excellent point regarding benefits, etc., that come with full-time employment. Again, this is why I’m always reminding people that a “day job” can be a writer’s best friend, so long as he or she is a disciplined writer.

    Jim Harris:

    “By the way, could you tell if there were bumps in sales due to award nominations or reviews? Or do you think you got such attention because the books were doing well on their own. How much did the mini-review in Entertainment Weekly help?”

    In terms of reviews, I’ve often said that I believe the most influential review I got was by Instapundit, because his many readers trusted his taste and caused a run on Old Man’s War when it first came out and this led to a cascade of blog-based recommendations, and Tor acting to take advantage of the situation. I don’t doubt other reviews were important as well but Instapundit’s was the right review at the right time.

    Awards and nominations: I think being Hugo-nominated was a big boost for my SFnal credibility; Tor is trumpeting my Campbell win on all my covers now, so clearly that must provide some tangible marketing advantage as well, although again it’s hard to quantify, since I have no other sales record to compare it against.

    I think it all matters to show that the work is of quality and that does provide the books a boost with wary would-be buyers, relative to other, less-heralded books (regardless of the inherent quality of the text therein).

  59. The key fact to remember is that income distribution among writers is not a normal distribution, but some kind of bizarre power function from hell. Here in the UK, the Society of Authors figure that 80% of novelists earn under £20,000 a year; yet that cohort includes J. K. Rowling (tens of millions), Terry Pratchett (probably single-digit millions), and so on. And lots of people who are semi-retired or have day jobs or whatever who sell a novel every couple of years for £3000.

    In-between those extremes are folks like me who earn a reasonable middle-class income (aspiring to the dizzy heights of an airline co-pilot, or a low-level manager, when things are going well). But it’s a bit unpredictable, and where you end up can have as much to do with whether you were able to get a good agent to handle your first book deal and they got your editor over a barrel as with whether you’re a good writer or not.

  60. Charlie Stross:

    “where you end up can have as much to do with whether you were able to get a good agent to handle your first book deal and they got your editor over a barrel as with whether you’re a good writer or not.”

    Indeed. There’s quite a lot about succeeding in the publishing world that actually has almost nothing to do with the inherent quality of the writing (aside from, as noted, a basic level of competence).

  61. What Scalzi and Stross said. I made as much as John one year and most years of this decade about half of that. But that was also with a full-time job that took up a lot of my time but also provided literally another income-and-a-half.

    I think talking about the money is a good thing, frankly. We need more transparency sometimes.

    JeffV

  62. David D-B: Demanding that *other* people be open seems to work poorly, so being open yourself is what you can best do to promote it.

    There’s something of an American convention against discussing what one earns, it seems to me. And I agree it mostly works for employers.

    It’s not just an American thing, we’re the same in Britain; was walking home today with a friend and we were talking earnings, she brought the subject up, but I still had to append “if you don’t mind me asking” to the “so how much do you make” question.

    Conversely, I learnt on a mailing list a few months back from some Scandinavian friends that there, your tax code is fully open knowledge, and your tax code is determined by your earnings, ergo everyone knows how much you make.

    Initially, it horrified me, but now I think that’d be a good idea, would deal with pay equality issues immediately, and freeloaders would be caught out by those beneath them in payscale, etc.

    John? On the ‘I got lucky’ front, to an extent you’ve made your own luck, I’m here, and buying and recommending your books, because you’ve commented on sites I like and I’ve followed my way back here, I’m now 100% convinced that niche market suppliers (and SF is a niche, unfortunately) benefit from blogging, forums and the whole “web 2.0″ thing a lot more than a mainstream supplier does.

    But still, a great discussion, and proof to any doubters that day jobs really do matter…

  63. Er, I meant if I hadn’t had a full-time job, I might’ve made even more from the writing. Hard to tell. There’s also a kind of law of saturation.

    JeffV

  64. MatGB:

    “On the ‘I got lucky’ front, to an extent you’ve made your own luck…”

    Well, this is certainly true, and to a very large extent I’ve been not shy on capitalizing on luck, either, which a important thing. Luck sometimes opens doors, but you’ve got to be willing to walk through the doorframe.

    KevinC:

    Yup, saw that. Andrew Wheeler must have had fun writing that headline.

  65. I don’t feel ‘funny’ listening to you talk about making a decent living from your writing. It makes a refreshing change from the standard obit about the genre writer who ground out the work, got screwed every step of the way, and died in poverty after developing an allergy to cat food and extreme cold.

    And if writers are going to behave like there’s something faintly disreputable about talking about money, then don’t be surprised when nobody else takes seriously the idea writers deserve to be fairly compensated for their labour and intellectual property.

  66. Mary Ann,

    You may be correct about it being a genre issue, but to the general public–out of which newbie writers come–a writer is a writer is a writer. Admittedly, it would be perhaps crude for someone like Ms Deval to say in her book “This is only true for a certain kind of–non-genre–writer.” And pretty much, then, useless, because then people like me would not find her book useful.

    I’m with Charlie on this–pay distribution for writers follows a Lovecraftian curve that goes through the nether realms before re emerging into the “real” world.

    The thing, too, about mainstream which may be worth noting is that genre writers may have a slightly longer career curve. A mainstream writer who doesn’t do well seems to disappear. We genre writers can, at times, linger on and on through the various layers of small to micro press publishing. So mainstream gets more money up front, quicker–and dies quicker, too.

  67. Well, but Mark, it’s more as if she were (implicitly) saying, “This is only true for the vast majority of you newbie writers.” Which is probably true. I suspect that she’s not even aware of spec fic advances, nor is she targeting her book towards the small percentage of spec fic writers among aspiring writers overall.

    It’s reasonable, I think, when talking about fiction advances overall in a general-purpose marketing/publishing book, to focus your discussion on the largest category of advances, which I’d guess would be those paid to mainstream and lit fic writers.

    Keep in mind that romance novels comprise over 50% of the fiction publishing field at the moment. I don’t know offhand what percentage spec fic is of fiction publishing overall, but I’m guessing it’s a pretty small percentage, based solely on the average shelf space it occupies at most general bookstores. (John? Any clue?)

    I understand that you feel like she wasn’t talking to you — but that’s probably because she really *wasn’t* talking to you. That’s what you have SFWA and the Rumor Mill and the conventions for, to tell us the specifics for spec fic, as opposed to publishing overall.

    It’s best to just accept that you’re swimming in a small pond and tailor your expectations accordingly when reading general writing/publishing texts.

    For what it’s worth, I published erotica for ten years before switching to mainstream lit, and that was a much tinier pond than spec fic! :-) There are advantages to that too — it’s much easier to become famous within the genre. And also to know the majority of the people (and work) of interest within it, without too much effort.

  68. Mary Anne Mohanraj:

    “I don’t know offhand what percentage spec fic is of fiction publishing overall, but I’m guessing it’s a pretty small percentage, based solely on the average shelf space it occupies at most general bookstores. (John? Any clue?)”

    All spec fic (SF/F/H) is I believe maybe 15% of the market, although it may be less than that. The percentage I’ve heard for romance is 40%, but I don’t find 50% to be unbelievable.

  69. In terms of books sold, romance comes in somewhere in the 40% range. In terms of paperbacks, it’s about 52%.

  70. I’d like to back up Jay Lake’s comment about the need for health benefits. I’m not working at the highest paying of day jobs (nor is special education teaching particularly the easiest, or most compatible with writing). But…it does come with health benefits.

    I also think it’s a good idea for writers to talk openly about what they make. Or don’t make, as the case may be…While I’ve yet to sell that first novel, I’m pretty open to both spouse and anyone who asks about the writing business as being a sideline I’m developing a.) for myself and my sanity (note the special ed job above) and b.) as a potential retirement supplement.

    Any more than that these days I think is beyond what I can aspire to. Maybe.

  71. In my comment above I must have come over as sounding like I am really raking in the bucks. In truth, I do make a good income as a Senior SDE, but not amazingly more than John’s $67k from writing SF. (And, as he pointed out, that isn’t his only writing income. So we may be on par. Almost certainly are if you consider that I live near Seattle; a much more expensive COL.)

    What I didn’t mention was the medical insurance issue, since raised by Jay and others. But, considering my wife’s illness, that is actually the biggest problem for me!

    Hell, I can’t even afford to quit and take another job because then I have to cover chemo out of pocket (again) for six months before the ‘previous condition’ rider kicks in. Right now the insurance is doing a good job and I can’t afford to screw with it…

  72. Hmmm.

    I earned a little over $200 from writing last year.

    I think I may have a ways to go yet…

    Seriously: interesting discussion and thanks for starting it off, because one thing I have noticed is that NO-ONE talks money in this field.

    $67k would be a perfectly comfortable living salary for me, but then I have the good fortune to live in Europe, where socialised healthcare exists and even (much of the time) works. In the US, I appreciate it’s an entirely different matter.

    The real trick is to move somewhere with a lower cost of living (but decent standard thereof), while still earning US or European salary rates. The only problem is that once you’ve done that, you’ve probably priced yourself out of a move back. But, hey, I kinda like the idea of retiring to South Africa.

  73. I was under the impression that successful writers earned a lot more than I am reading here. But I guess I should not kid myself. I played in several semi-successful bands in my youth. And I figure my entire musical career has maybe earned me 67k USD. But if I do the math and factor in the blood, sweat and tears that were part of that era in my life then it equals out to .000000033333 cents an hour. But then again I never really did it for the money. I did it because it is what I love(d) to do. Is that not the primary motivation for any art? If money is a result then cool!
    I do have one comment about what tchernabyelo said about living in Europe as I do and work as well. It is nice that all Social Services are included but the tax hit is HUGE!!! Something like 50%. The bummer part is that it does not cover insurance for my wife and daughter in the States. That also comes from my pocket.
    All this income of course comes from my daily guest appearance to my place of employment sitting in the Network Engineer’s chair.
    Anyways I hope all writers and such keep on writing regardless because I truly love to read!

  74. The numbers I’ve seen have romance at 50% of fiction. RWA has good numbers on this. But I’m not sure that romance writers actually make more per book. It looks to me like they put out a lot more books. 1+ year is the norm. That’s how they build an audience.

  75. Clearly, you have found some lucky penny the rest of us haven’t come across yet. Anyone who can make a living doing what makes them really happy is pretty goddamn lucky in the first place. Secondly, you live in beautiful rural America, you have legions of adoring fans, and you also have a gorgeous, intelligent, young wife and gorgeous, intelligent young daughter. In addition to this, you’re in a position to spend a lot of time with them. Also, you make a living writing science fiction. I point out that most people feed their addiction as a hobby and a drain on their wallets, not as a mainstay.

    Whenever you feel that your income is inadequate, go look up what astronauts make. It works surprisingly well. For me, anyway.

  76. “All spec fic (SF/F/H) is I believe maybe 15% of the market, although it may be less than that. The percentage I’ve heard for romance is 40%, but I don’t find 50% to be unbelievable.”

    I wonder how the crossover writers compare to those whose work is primarily in one genre or another? It would be fascinating to see figures on Nora Roberts’ income from *just* the work she writes as J.D. Robb.

    (Are you going to do any SF romances?)

  77. For those of us just dipping our toes in these waters, this sort of entry illuminates some of those murky depths and is, at least by me, much appreciated, as is the thoughtful comment-ary. Thanks.

  78. Anonymous: the tax hit in Europe isn’t as bad as you think. (There’s a lot of FUD about it spread by folks in the US with a specific agenda to push, namely tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the hyper-rich.)

    By and large, anywhere in the developed world the government will take you for between 35% and 45% of gross. A couple of the Scandinavian countries go slightly higher, but the level of social care available on tap there is a real eye-opener. (There are no homeless folks because the state gives people who’re down on their luck a house, and healthcare, and unemployment pay so they can eat. When I visited Sweden I didn’t see any beggars — not one — and not because the police were rounding ‘em all up and shoving them in camps: these countries have more or less abolished poverty, as it is understood in the USA or the UK. How much would you be willing to pay to live somewhere where there are no absolutely poor people?)

    But back to the topic in hand: we’re talking about writers.

    If you’re a full-time writer you’re self-employed, by definition. And you get to claim various deductibles. I reckon my income tax bill comes to somewhere in the range 17%-25% of gross, after everything comes out of it. Sales tax at 17.5% hurts, but property tax is (despite grumbling) far lower than in many parts of the US — I nearly fainted when I heard what one of my editors thought it was reasonable to pay in local taxes.

    If I was really determined to reduce my tax profile, I could claw back a good chunk of the VAT I pay by registering as a VAT-raising business. Businesses get to claim back VAT on goods and services they buy, and charge VAT on stuff they sell … but books and magazines are zero-rated in the UK, so VAT-registered authors tend to drain money out of the tax system. (But you have to be willing to religiously file a VAT return every three months and spend a lot of time managing your accounts, which is why I haven’t done this.)

    And then there’s Ireland and the income tax exemption arrangement for some writers and artists …

    Seriously, writing off Europe as somewhere to live because “taxes are too high” is a big mistake for a writer.

  79. There’s something of an American convention against discussing what one earns, it seems to me. And I agree it mostly works for employers.

    It’s not just an American thing, we’re the same in Britain; was walking home today with a friend and we were talking earnings, she brought the subject up, but I still had to append “if you don’t mind me asking” to the “so how much do you make” question.

    It’s not just an American thing, but it is not quite universal either. I recently skimmed the Fourth European Working Conditions survey and I found this graph interesting:

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v164/nordhus/Nonrespons.gif

  80. Mary Ann said: “I understand that you feel like she wasn’t talking to you — but that’s probably because she really *wasn’t* talking to you. That’s what you have SFWA and the Rumor Mill and the conventions for, to tell us the specifics for spec fic, as opposed to publishing overall.”

    Yes, I quite get that she wasn’t talking to me, although the advice in her book is intended to be somewhat general. And as I said, some of it seems useful. It was that starting set of assumptions that threw me off.

    The thing is, I suspect she wasn’t talking to most writers. Category romance, last I talked with a few writers who did that, often pays less than SF (but then many of those authors will write four to eight novels a year). Mystery pays better on average than SF, but for beginning novelists it’s still nowhere near 35K for a first novel. Go down the list then for the other genres, and if mainstream/lit comprises what is left–I’m guessing here, maybe 20% (probably less, depending how you categorize things) of the fiction market?–then that advice was aimed at a pretermined elite.

    Don’t misundertsand, I did not begin ever thinking I’d get that much for a 1st novel, or even for a 5th novel. As for advice from SFWA about such matters, it still all ends up a matter of where you end up publishing.

    If you nail a reasonable contract with a decent sized publisher, after that you have some control over what happens next–some, not a lot. Without that, though, you are almost entirely at the mercy of the Forces That Be. And they are fickle and make no sense.

    My original comments were intended as supportive of what John is doing. These kinds of discussions let people know at least what the ball park looks like, and that’s a step in the direction of knowing where you’re going and maybe how.

  81. I have always thought it incredibly stupid that people don’t talk about money. My parents would never discuss it. I never learned ANYTHING from them about money and money management. How is anybody to learn if nobody talks about it???

    *I* always tell sincere people how much I make, and where it goes, so they can understand. I want to help them budget their money, and I like others to tell me how much they get and what they spend it on, so *I* can understand! :D It is all part of my deep interest in studying people. I want to know why people do what they do, and the only way to find out is by askin and gettin an answer! :)

    ~Cindy! :)

  82. Mark, I think we’re talking past each other a bit, but let me try one last time to clarify:

    My experience is that there are *far* more aspiring writers in mainstream/lit fic than in any other genre. I’m basing this on the various students I’ve taught in MFA programs, community centers, and elsewhere over the last decade, as well as all the other folks who I’ve met who are trying to write The Great American Novel on the weekends. Not to mention the 300+ literary “little” magazines, as opposed to the 5-15 significant ones in any other given genre. So it makes sense for a general writing book to be aimed at that massive audience of aspiring writers, and to give them the info helpful to them. I don’t think they’re any kind of elite — the opposite, in fact!

    It may well be true that those areas comprise only 15-20% or so of fiction publishing sales overall; that just means that those writers have an even tougher time getting published than most genre writers, and probably need all the help they can get! Rather than being frustrated by her aiming a book towards those writers, I’d pity those writers instead — they don’t have the marvellous supportive atmosphere and collective wisdom of conventions to draw on. They have to rely on whatever random writing books they run across!

    And while it’s true that of the tiny fraction of those writers who do get published many may end up with small, or micro presses, there are enough bigger houses in mainstream that it makes sense to aim for those first — in that context, as I tried to say originally, a $25-$50K advance for a first novel is not unreasonable to aim for.

  83. Charlie Stross:
    “Seriously, writing off Europe as somewhere to live because “taxes are too high” is a big mistake for a writer.”
    2.5 things..
    1)
    I am an American living and working in Europe and I really do feel the Social System here is excellent. And homeless people are here. Maybe not as many as in the US but they are here. Panhandlers as well. But from my income standpoint it is still is somewhat painful to see half of what I earn vanish. When I was working in the States I think about 40% went to taxes and benefits and such.

    2) The good thing about writing is you can do it from anywhere. ;)

    2.5) I was the Anonoymous post. I posted from a PC that did not remember me.

  84. What an interesting discussion! Thank you.

    I bought “Old Man’s War” today, Mr. Scalzi. Very much looking forward to reading it, and happy to contribute in small part to your making something like a living from your novels. :-)

  85. There has been some discussion of the distribution of income among writers, both genre and generic.

    I’d say it’s a Zipf distribution (based on my calibrated Mark I eyeballs, of course). In other words, if we graph it on a log scale, the relationship between #s of people and #s of quatloos (dollars, whatever) would look like a line. On a linear scale, the graph would appear to hug the two axes. Few people earning many units, many people earning few units. You can jigger the depth of the curve linking the two long legs and the angle of those legs by how you define your set of writers.

    Is the hard worker without a completed product to sell included? He or she earned zero.

    I have earned a middle-class income including money nonfic/specialty writing (I wrote aviation and aerospace news) from time to time. It’s never contributed more than $30k to my bottom line at year’s end. I did get a lot of interesting contacts, and took a lot of interesting trips, on behalf of my publisher (for which I exchanged vast quantities of news and commentary).

    I have other sources of income (or loss!) so I don’t write full time. For example, I’ve owned businesses, and I’m winding up a career in the National Guard (which has been a net loss over the last few years due to uncovered medical bills). I agree with two of John’s points very strongly. Your talent needs to be lubricated with a little luck to turn into earning power, and that writing is a career for someone with the discipline to, well, write.

    Articulate people are common. Clever ideas — well, I bet everyone reading this has an idea in him or her that could be as novel (no pun) as what John turned into Old Man’s War. What’s not common is the discipline to turn the idea, and command of the language, into a salable manuscript.

    I daresay like most of us, I am glad John has the discipline to bring his books to a close. Heck, I probably accounted for two or three of those dollars, and I’m as proud as a new papa….

  86. There has been some discussion of the distribution of income among writers, both genre and generic.

    I’d say it’s a Zipf distribution (based on my calibrated Mark I eyeballs, of course). In other words, if we graph it on a log scale, the relationship between #s of people and #s of quatloos (dollars, whatever) would look like a line. On a linear scale, the graph would appear to hug the two axes. Few people earning many units, many people earning few units. You can jigger the depth of the curve linking the two long legs and the angle of those legs by how you define your set of writers.

    Is the hard worker without a completed product to sell included? He or she earned zero.

    I have earned a middle-class income including money nonfic/specialty writing (I wrote aviation and aerospace news) from time to time. It’s never contributed more than $30k to my bottom line at year’s end. I did get a lot of interesting contacts, and took a lot of interesting trips, on behalf of my publisher (for which I exchanged vast quantities of news and commentary).

    I have other sources of income (or loss!) so I don’t write full time. For example, I’ve owned businesses, and I’m winding up a career in the National Guard (which has been a net loss over the last few years due to uncovered medical bills). I agree with two of John’s points very strongly. Your talent needs to be lubricated with a little luck to turn into earning power, and that writing is a career for someone with the discipline to, well, write.

    Articulate people are common. Clever ideas — well, I bet everyone reading this has an idea in him or her that could be as novel (no pun) as what John turned into Old Man’s War. What’s not common is the discipline to turn the idea, and command of the language, into a salable manuscript.

    I daresay like most of us, I am glad John has the discipline to bring his books to a close. Heck, I probably accounted for two or three of those dollars, and I’m as proud as a new papa….

  87. Mary Ann:

    Okay, I see what you’re saying. In that case, yes, I agree. It would be interesting–though I don’t know how one would actually do it–to see a breakdown of “aspring writers” by genre. That might put an interesting spin on such discussions as these.

  88. More seriously, a good part of the reason for the taboo against talking about money is that employers don’t want their employees to know how much other employees get; if you don’t know how much they’re willing to pay others who are similar to you, you’ll be less inclined to bargain up.

    SpeakerToManager,

    Actually the reason isn’t that they don’t want people to bargain up, it’s that large corporations can’t afford increasing people. It’s typical that starting value of a position goes up faster than the annual increase so in two years time, people starting will come in at a higher rate than the ‘experienced’ people and sometimes not be as effective. This causes much anger and horrible morale. But if you’ve ever tried the negotiation tactic of “So-n-so makes X and I think I am worth more” I’ll tell you from experience, it doesn’t work well. And managers hands are tied by corporate policy. It’s not that they won’t want to bump you up if you are worth it…

    Most people don’t realize that most of the time, your only opportunity to negotiate is when you are coming in the door. Or when you are leaving, if you are good enough. Otherwise, you are stuck in an annual 4-10% increase. (Unless you are in a commission based job)

    The result of this is what has created such a high turnover rate in jobs. Because the problem is, typically, 10% of crap salary is about equal to 4% of decent salary…

    Writing income is different because it isn’t salary. It’s sales. You are selling a product. It’s good to know what the potential market value of a product is. But again, as Mary Anne states, sharing too much information could affect your own deals.

    A mainstream writer who doesn’t do well seems to disappear — if they are smart they take on a psuedonym and have at it again. ;)

    Thank you for sharing John!!! Great posts and wonderful comments!

  89. At RWA Nationals every year, they have a great panel called “Show me the Money.” Over the year, they take data on how much each publisher is paying in a range of advances and how much the authors earn out over a period of years. They do handouts and all the data is written down every year.

    Romance writers seem to have zero issue about sharing money earned and anything else about the business of writing. Even if you have no intention of writing romances, you can learn a ton about the business in general over there.

    Also, by subscribing to PublishersMarketplace.com, and following all the deals every day, you can get a real sense of the range of money in publishing not only in science fiction, but outside the genre.

    Fun discussion.

    Cheers
    Dean

  90. I wonder how the crossover writers compare to those whose work is primarily in one genre or another? It would be fascinating to see figures on Nora Roberts’ income from *just* the work she writes as J.D. Robb.

    My guess is that Roberts makes the biggest chunk of change from the backlist. Yes, the new Robb and Roberts releases are the ones on the bestseller lists, and I bet she’s being paid well for them, but when you have a hundred category romance novels being repackaged as “twofers” and sold over and over with different covers and in different permutations, that’s got to help as well.

    There is actually a “seal” on the new books now to indicate to fans that it’s NOT a reprint, but an original novel. I think that’s a great idea and I know her die hards appreciate it.

    Most romance novelists– the regular, midlist or category kind– write 3+ books a year. Category novels have a very delineated earnings window, and there are websites which show what they are. It varies more in single title.

  91. MatGB:

    Conversely, I learnt on a mailing list a few months back from some Scandinavian friends that there, your tax code is fully open knowledge, and your tax code is determined by your earnings, ergo everyone knows how much you make.

    This is true in Sweden but not in Denmark. Don’t know about Norway, Finland, or Iceland.

  92. Jay Lake / John:

    INcome and health insurance aren’t the only good reason for a day job. A day job forces you to be out in the world and interacting with people. That’s a writer’s raw material.

  93. Thanks for the transparency, Mr. Scalzi. I just got a huge shock when I brought up the possibility of intra-firm salary transparency in a class I’m taking. Out of thirty people, only one classmate thought it was worth a serious thought. There are virtues to transparency and opacity both, in talking about money, sex, security, what have you, but to simply dismiss positions as hippie nonsense or prudishness dismays me.

  94. I found my way here from Nephele’s livejournal, who I found through Shannon K. Butcher, who I found through Jim Butcher… long line there… Anyhow, I’m an aspiring young writer, and I’m about to make my first attempt at a book…. The writer’s salary seems to flip-flop through a wide range from what I read here. I’m actually looking for some advice regarding getting published. First of all, is it easier to get your books/series published if you have more than one ready to put in the market when you first come to the publisher? Also, can anybody point me towards an article or something regarding good outlining technique? My book is… I guess Fantasy, perhaps some Science Fiction, so I’ve been working on a history for my world, though I have the main idea basically figured out. Any answers would be appreciated. If this isn’t a good place to ask these questions, tell me and I’d be more than happy to repost at another part of.. anywhere.. Good Day!
    Alex

  95. Great posts, and I definitely think writers should talk about money. Transparency is good. In many other professions, unknown to most folks, there’s a lot of public sharing of salaries. Academia is one example — salaries at public universities are often actually public information (i.e. no privacy at all). Corporate executive (i.e. CFO, CEO) salarie are now detailed in SEC filings. When the law changed about CFO salaries, one of the things people noticed right away was that it gave individuals an enormous data advantage when negotiating for their own salaries with companies.

    free-lancers need to know what others are getting paid.

    bj

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