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How Much Do Novelists Make? Part 2

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.

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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. Harperreporting 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!?

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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.”

We’ll continue…


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