Let’s continue our empirical investigation into novelists’ income with the League of Utah Writers (LUW) 2004 Survey.
The results of a survey that the League of Utah Writersconducted in 2004 with 234 writers re-confirm the plight of non-technical writers.
The survey found that the average income received from writing over 12 months for all writer members was a pitiful $2,705.
The writers who participated in the survey wrote in the following genres: Magazine and newspaper articles (33%), Editing and consulting (11%), Novels and books (32%), Short stories (6%), and Other (18%).
“The average income from writing received over the past 12 months for all writer members who actually reported any writing-related income [is] $5,213.28 ,” LUW reported.
So how can a writer write full-time when she earns such an unrealistically low income?
The answer is – she doesn’t.
Only 5.24% reported writing as their “main source of income.”
44.1 % said writing was their “hobby.” No wonder.
And 14.41% said writing “supplemented” their main income derived from another source.
Even those who said writing was their main source of income reported earning only $29,291 a year.
In 2004, the median household income in Utah was $45,726 – a figure above the national average of $41,994.
This means that, even by local standards, full-time authors made 36% less than what an average Utah resident made that year.
Those LUW members who said they wrote to “supplement” their main income reported earning $4,831 a year, or 89% lower than average Utah income.
The “hobbyists” reported earning $351 a year (99% lower).
*** Author’s Guild (AG) Survey
Science Fiction author Tara K. Harper, reporting on the Internet about the results of an Author’s Guild survey, does not mince her words: “A novelist generally is writing on spec. A first time novelist may actually wind up owing money to their publisher if sales are not sufficient.”
What a frustrating and sad realization it must be to work day and night for years to write and publish a novel only to find that YOU owe the publisher money, and not the other way around!?
Harper reports that, according to the AG study she mentions, “the average author earns about $10,000 a year.”
“However, because author incomes vary so wildly, you’ll get a better picture if you look at averages within categories. From the various stats I’ve seen, a beginning, low-end, or one-off (one or two books only) author makes $4k to $10k a year – before taxes, before agent commissions, and before the costs of doing business.”
“Experienced, well-established midlist authors who write a book only once every year or two seem to fall into the $20k to $40k a year range — again, before taxes, agent commissions, and the costs of doing business.
For prolific authors who publish several books a year, and who have been publishing for 15 years or more, the gross income is closer to $60k to $100k.”