A Money Entry of Sorts

A question from the peanut gallery:

You’ve had a couple of entries over the years where you’ve talked about how much money you make as a writer. Are you still open to talking about that and breaking down what you make?

As it happens, these days I’m not as open about it. Not because I’m uncomfortable about mentioning my income, but because at this point I’m often contractually not at liberty to discuss what I’m doing — I think most of you are aware I have those seekrit projects I can’t tell you about, of which Fuzzy Nation was only one — or what my exact compensation is even for the things you know I’m doing. Absent being able to break down my income and from there discuss how it relates to being a working writer here and now, there’s no point bringing up the topic. Suffice to say that a) I’m doing just fine, thanks, and b) my long-standing strategy of having multiple revenue streams continues to work well for me, and I recommend it for any freelance writer.

To be clear, mention of seekrit projects makes my life seem rather more exciting than it is, and I don’t want to over-inflate expectations or be accused of over-dramatizing my situation. My seekrit projects are seekrit simply because I can’t discuss them in any relevant way; it doesn’t mean they’re necessarily exciting. I don’t have a sideline gig as a ninja assassin or anything, nor (and more relevantly to this entry) am I going to be buying a personal jet with my seekrit proceeds. It just means I’m not able talk about some money stuff that I was able to talk about before. When and if that changes, and I expect it will in time, I’ll be happy to have that discussion here again. But for now it will have to wait.

33 Comments on “A Money Entry of Sorts”

  1. I don’t have a sideline gig as a ninja assassin or anything

    Wouldn’t you say that even if you did have a gig as a ninja assassin?

  2. As someone with experience working as a seekrit ninja assassin, I’d just like to mention that John’s advice to have mutiple streams of revenue is also excellent advice for people working in our line of work.

  3. There mustn’t be a lot of call for ninja assassins these days. I mean, sure, there’s the occasional massive payday where someone wants a shogun dead, but you don’t want to be relying on large, erratic payments like that when you have a family to feed.

  4. “nor (and more relevantly to this entry) am I going to be buying a personal jet with my seekrit proceeds.”

    Frankly we’d all be disappointed if you used the proceeds from your seekrit projects to buy a jet …. we’re expecting a seekrit lair . Not thart I want to start rumors that your office refurbishment is simply a cover for the construction of an underground base, and that the multitude of posts about the size and positioning of your desk are you channelling your frustration that you can’t annouce to us that;

    “today was the final concrete pour on the main cavern roof. The initial problems with the underground concrete pipeline appear to have been solved and the pour went smoothly.
    The concrete needs to cure for at least a month (did you know that concrete gets stronger the older it gets) before installation of the roof opening mechanism can start”

  5. As a side guess,and only a guess, I would imagine that your income level has reached a point where you realize you could alienate some of your fanbase. That and be the target of many people who would want to call upon your liberal side “to give a guy a break” and ask you for money.

  6. whodat:

    Well, the last time I mentioned my income I was clocking $164k, which I assume would be sufficiently high to alienate some. We survived as a community, I think. So I’m not too worried if I report it being any higher.

    As for people coming out of the woodwork for money, they would learn how fast I can say “no.” We do quite a lot of charitable giving, but aside from the occasional public fundraiser here, what I give to and how much is no one’s business, and I prefer not to be solicited.

  7. Two questions: Can you give us the link to the original post? I remember reading it ages ago but can’t find it now.

    Also, would you tell us which charities you support?

  8. I don’t see why people should care how much money you make. I got the impression that you posted your income in part as a warning to wannabe authors that they should not assume they will make tons of money. Patrick Rothfuss posted on his blog once that he was asked to give advice to wannabe writers. He said “live cheaply”.

    As a writer, you are self employed, so your income could dry up in a couple of years if your next book does not sell. It is not like you are making this kind of money as a VP for a large company where if you just keep doing what you do, you will maintain your income.

    Plus you have no benefits and you have to handle business taxes. I have my own business. So I know what that is like.

    If people want to read about how hard writing is as a profession, Charlie Stross has some good blog entries lately.

  9. I realize you can’t tell us you’re going to be the Creative Consultant on the joint NASA/ESA mission to Mars, but some of us do know about it.

    How do we know? We just know.

  10. I’m fairly new around here so I’d be interested in hearing you expand on what you mean by multiple revenue streams. Or if someone could link me to an old post expanding on it.

  11. Latasha Ewell:

    There’s also a much cheaper e-book version available.


    “would you tell us which charities you support?”

    As noted in the post right above yours, aside from the charities I publicly support here, who we give to is not anyone’s business.

  12. I’m not interested in how much you make, but I am curious about one thing:

    How does it feel to roll around on a bed covered in money while giggling maniacally?

    Awesome, or overrated?

  13. On that personal jet thing…I must point out that there are other options..
    A piston powered personal aircraft would make those day long drives into a couple hour scenic adventure.

    I’ve owned and/or rented a succession of small planes since the mid 70’s and my income stream clocks noticeably less than 164k..

    You might want to check it out.

  14. John@17: Yes. It’s even worse when you’re writing software. If you misspell a variable name you have to misspell it the same way everywhere.

  15. John:

    Sorry, I was asking if there was a link on the main page to the charities I support. I don’t check in here as often as I’d like so I’m not sure which ones you’ve promoted in the past.

  16. First – I was always taught that it is incredibly rude to ask anyone what he or she earns.

    Second – It’s fairly obvious to me how much Mr. Scalzi makes from his writing: I believe I can say with a fairly high degree of certainty that he makes more than me but less than Stephen King. That should narrow it down quite a lot.

    Third – Mr. Scalzi is vastly more good natured about intrusive personal questions than I would be in his position.

    Finally – While Mr. Scalzi is not a ninja assassin and does not buy personal jets, I have it on good authority that he does have a sideline as an MiB and does own a black helicopter.

  17. Suffice to say that a) I’m doing just fine, thanks,

    That’s all I need to know! Yay!

  18. Randall,

    I’m more interested in how the whole thing works. I’d have been happy if he kept the whole thing to percentages. That is, i get n% of my income from this stream blah blah blah. iirc the original post talked about how advances work which is something I didn’t understand until he explained it.

    The other thing I think people mostly want to know is can you support a family on what you make and how much effort does that take. That and perhaps how long before you got a point of writing being a sole source of income.

  19. “nor (and more relevantly to this entry) am I going to be buying a personal jet ”

    Is that just because it’s not practical to land a jet in your yard?

  20. BA-609. Personal tiltrotor.

    You can do the takeoff and landing from the underground lair thing with it, without the giant net to catch your jet for landing and the giant catapult to launch you.

  21. Regardless of how much seekrit stuff you’ve got going on, the non-seekrit money stuff you’ve posted has been really interesting to me, and I appreciate reading it.

    And whether or not you continue to talk about $, you’re to be commended for talking about it in the first place. It’s so refreshing to read someone who’s not “weird” about money.

  22. Multiple income streams mean that if one book didn’t do well, I imagine that Scalzi would be just fine. That’s the point of having multiple projects going at the same time (which is, if I understand correctly, what multiple income streams in writing generally means).

    I’ve found this post: http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=607
    by Dean Wesley Smith to be pretty to the point about how someone can make a living in fiction (and he also advocates having multiple irons in the fire).

    There’s more to be found on the net, too. I know some other authors have discussed their income (Jim C. Hines does on his LJ, someone whose name I can’t recall posted about what being on the best seller list meant money-wise for her, etc…). It’s always an interesting topic because the answers and numbers vary so much.

  23. Is that just because it’s not practical to land a jet in your yard?

    Based on what few photos I’ve seen of the Scalzi compound, he lives surrounded by farmland in Ohio. He could at the least land a prop-job on a grass strip or nearby hay field.

  24. He could easily land a prop plane on the little used road in front of his house.

    The neighbors would stop plowing his drive, they’d all get stuck all winter and have to go all Donner party on us, but he could do it.

  25. Multiple income streams mean more than multiple books for Scalzi. It’s also ‘Creative Consultant’ income stream, AMC FilmCritic income stream, Royalties income stream, I feel like writing a Novella income stream, Things He Won’tTell Us About income stream, Historical Romance Menage Pen Name income stream, Fetish photos of Krissy’s big toe income stream…

  26. I am just building up my old library, via torrents, into an electronic one since I figure I payed for them once already. If I were an author I would be scared spitless how easy this is with a good torrent site and calibre. Does anyone have an idea about a new earning model in this new e-book age. By the way, I intend to buy new stuff, but it requires a lot of moral fibre I am not sure I’ll have when illegal downloading is so much easier.

  27. ***my long-standing strategy of having multiple revenue streams continues to work well for me, and I recommend it for any freelance writer.***

    As someone who’s weathered the last couple of decades being self-employed (and not as a euphemsim for “sitting on the couch”) I highly recommend that to anyone. The whole key to not being a wage slave is versatility in income streams.

    What you make and what you give are no one’s business but your own. As long as you don’t run for public office. (Root canal is preferable to that. Trust me. Even worse is winning public office.)

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