Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Don't quit your day job.

By R.J. Harlick

What advice would you offer a new writer wanting to get their first novel published in today’s highly competitive publishing environment?

Like the subject line says, don’t quit your day job. Sorry to be such a downer to all of you aspiring writers hoping to make the big-time with your writing. It ain’t going to happen. Only a small percentage of published novelists, either traditionally published or self-published earn enough to support themselves.  And those that make more than $100,000 annually are in the top 2-3%. 

The Writers Union of Canada recently released the results of a survey of its members that sadly reported that the average writing ncome was $9,380 in 2017, down 27% from three years ago and 78% less than in 1998.  It concluded that 'despite the book publishing being a $2 billion industry in Canada,  it is now almost impossible for professional writers to make a living soley on their writing income.' If you want to read more go to The Writers Union of Canada.  

Canada isn't alone in low and declining writer incomes. In the UK, the Author Licensing and Collecting Society also reported similar declines in writers’ incomes, 15% since 2013 and 42% since 2005, with the median annual income at £10,500 or $11,300 US.  Only 13% earned enough to support themselves.  For more details go to Publishing Perspectives. 

And in the US, the Authors' Guild also reported a similar decline in writer incomes in their 2015 Wages of Writing study.

All the previous surveys looked at all types of writing income, but the 2014 survey by Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest focused on book income. It is equally discouraging, in fact more so when It reported that 77% of self-published and 54% of traditionally published earn less than $1000 per year.  The chart gives a breakdown of income range for self-published, traditionally published and hybrid - a combination of both. And if you want to learn more go to this link  for more details. 

Still want to be a writer? Like I said at the start, don’t quit your day job, advice by the way I was told at the start of my own writing adventure.

But, let's face it, very few of us start out writing with money in mind. All we want to do is write and hopefully eventually see our hard fought words in print. And once we're published and the reality sinks in, we keep writing because we love writing, love creating our own fictitious worlds with nothing but words. 

If you decide to pursue the traditionally published route, be persistent, very persistent and remember if you use an agent you will be giving them 15% of your royalties, which is generally 10% of the book cover price. A traditional publisher handles all the editorial, book design, printing and distribution costs and has a greater ability to get your book reviewed in established media outlets, plus it will ensure your book is distributed to bricks ‘n mortar booksellers in addition to online sellers.

Self-publishing while much easier to make happen will incur a variety of costs from editorial to book design and printing. But authors receive a much higher percentage of the book price, so more money can be made by selling fewer books. However, few established media outlets will review self-published books, though that is beginning to change and most booksellers other than online ones will only take self-published books on consignment. 

My apologies again for being so discouraging. But don't give up. Keep writing and have fun while you are at it. Write the best book you can and perhaps for you the gods will align.

On a more positive and fun note you might want to give this a go, an algorithm for writing a best seller.


Dietrich Kalteis said...

Well said, Robin. Money's nice, but you have to write because you love to do it.

Susan C Shea said...

You're not being discouraging. You're being realistic. This reality is depressing for writers who want to make a living this way, but as Dietrich says, we write because we love to do it. My own path was to work hard at the 'day job' (days, nights and weekends in some cases) and squirrel away enough so I could eventually quit the day job and write. We do it however we can.