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Q: How much money do good writers make? ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   5 Comments )
Subject: How much money do good writers make?
Category: Arts and Entertainment > Books and Literature
Asked by: fleasting-ga
List Price: $8.00
Posted: 17 Nov 2003 09:10 PST
Expires: 17 Dec 2003 09:10 PST
Question ID: 276735
What is the most "revenue" one can realistically expect from a career
of writing? Please consider fiction novels, short stories and business
books as the type of writing, and assume the quality to be very good.
How hard is it to break in if one is unknown? Is book writing on it's
way out as a way to make millions?
(Please excuse this cold approach to writing as a source of income
rather than an art form - I am just trying to find my calling in
life.) Thank you.
Subject: Re: How much money do good writers make?
Answered By: kriswrite-ga on 17 Nov 2003 10:00 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello fleasting~

Despite what some books and seminars might tell you, writing has never
been a good way to make millions. A small percentage of people make a
living writing, and an even smaller percentage make millions.

It is possible to make a fairly decent living at writing, but there
are many factors to involved:

1. What sort of writing you?re involved in (nonfiction, fiction,
technical, ads, etc.)
2. How strong your talent and craft are.
3. Whether or not you know how to be a pro.

You have named two very different areas of writing as your interest:
Fiction and nonfiction. Although much of the craft of writing remains
the same in both these areas, the business side of each is quite
different. It is, without a doubt, more difficult to be a truly
successful fiction writer than it is to be a successful nonfiction
writer. This has nothing to do with talent or craft, and everything to
do with demand. Whereas there?s a huge number of want-to-be-published
fiction writers and a limited market for fiction, there?s a huge
market for nonfiction and very few *good* nonfiction writers. That
said, with persistence and know-how, it?s possible to break into
*both* genres. (I speak both from personal experience, and from
watching the experiences of others.)

It would be very difficult to make much money writing short stories.
Although authors who already have big-names (from their novels) do
sell short stories for a considerable amount of money, such sales are
still rare. Those without a name in publishing can expect to earn
nothing or very little off of short story writing. The demand simply
isn?t high. However, it?s often wise to get a few short stories
published (even if the pay isn?t outstanding) if you want a novel
published. Just because you can write a short story doesn?t mean you
can write a novel, but editors like to have some idea of a writer?s
professional background and ability. (On the other hand, if short
story writing turns out to not really be your strength, you should
have no worries. Editors are very much aware that writing short
fiction is quite different from writing a novel.)

To break into novel writing, you simply must sit down and write.
Unless you are already a famous writer, you?re not going to be able to
get a publishing contract until an editor has read your manuscript. So
the first step is to work on your craft and write a polished,
professional manuscript. (The second step is to learn how to submit
your book professionally.) Many unknowns are published each year; the
?trick? is just to submit professionally and be persistent. Many
writers submit a manuscript for years before their first novel is

To break into non-fiction, it?s smart to write magazine articles
first. Editors like to see ?clips? (copies or tear-sheets of magazine
articles) on the topic of your proposed book. The more recognizable
the magazine name, the better. Therefore, you may wish to spend some
time ?moving up the ladder? in the magazine world. If you submit
professionally, it is relatively easy to get a magazine article
published, even if you?re unknown. Getting a nonfiction book contract
requires a little less work for the writer, since you needn?t have a
complete manuscript in tow. You do, however, need a very well written
book proposal and query, plus some sample chapters. You also need to
understand how to submit your work professionally. These are the keys
to getting a non-fiction book published. A famous names might help,
but it is definitely not mandatory.

All this said, it?s difficult to give a rough estimate of what a
writer might make in these fields. Everyone?s talent, tenacity, and
professionalism differs. We can begin by acknowledging that the
National Writer?s Union says that only 15 percent of working writers
earn even $30,000 annually. (p. 61, Writer?s Market 2000, edited by
Kirsten C. Holm, Writer?s Digest Books, 2000) This is for all genres,
including technical writing (a lucrative field). According to Writer?s
Market, however, their own polls show that ?a substantial number of
writers? earn $30,000 to $40,000 ?and more? per year. Their figures
conclude that writers earn between $20 to $50 an hour when writing
books, and 20 cents to 4 cents per word on magazine feature articles
(on up to $150 to 2, 750 for larger magazines). They give no figures
for writing short stories, but they are typically much less lucrative
than writing magazine features. How often you work will determine how
much you earn, but the beginning writer (with few or no published
credits under his or her belt) can expect to earn very little in their
first year. In most cases, it takes time to build up a writing career.

Good luck!


Research strategy:
Researcher's personal knowledge of the writing field.
fleasting-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Thanks for the prompt response. I got the answer I was looking for.

Subject: Re: How much money do good writers make?
From: taxmama-ga on 17 Nov 2003 10:48 PST
Dear Kris,

I beg to differ with your income expectations. 

If a writer diligently pitches articles, sooner or later they will develop a
relationship with a variety of publications. As a result, they will have steady
work with a variety of them, whether in fiction or non-fiction. 

Each article or short story can be expected to generate between $200 - $500.

The writers that work at their craft and keep pitching, will often find 
themselves in a position to take over entire newsletters (if they market
themselves). Those will pay five figures per issue, depending on the
size and complexity of the publication and the audience.

Typically, the full-time writers I know (at least the ones who market
and are willing to do the small, quickie projects as well as the more
lucrative jobs) earn from $50,000 to $80,000 per year. 

Here's a realistic goal - try to establish yourself to sell and write
one article or short story per day - at an average of $300 = $78,000
per year.

Yes, it's not that hard. And, often, you'll find yourself working on bits
and pieces of several articles or stories at once, as you gather information
and ideas. 

Best wishes

Your TaxMama-ga

Research strategy:
My own experience and those of clients, and writers who interview me.
Subject: Re: How much money do good writers make?
From: taxmama-ga on 17 Nov 2003 10:50 PST
P.S. Oh, by the way, I also know many writers who are starving, too. 
Why? They are either going for the big projects and not getting them. 
And earning none of the small fees along the way. Or they are totally
depressed by their rejections and failures - and it takes about two
years to get out those troughs of misery.
Subject: Re: How much money do good writers make?
From: owain-ga on 17 Nov 2003 11:19 PST
This isn't realistic for most people, but "Harry Potter" author J K
Rowling  is the best paid author in history, according to a list of
Britain's top earners. Rowling, currently writing the sixth Potter
book, earned 125m last year - the equivalent of 388 for each word in
this year's Order of the Phoenix. She is also the 5th highest earner
in Britain and the highest earning woman. Her agent  is said to have
approached 12 publishers with the first draft of Harry Potter and the
Philosopher's Stone before Bloomsbury took him up on the deal, so
don't give up hope at the first rejection!

Subject: Re: How much money do good writers make?
From: czh-ga on 17 Nov 2003 11:37 PST
Hello fleasting-ga,

Here are the official numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Writers and Editors

Significant Points 
 -- Most jobs require a college degree either in the liberal
arts?communications, journalism, and English are preferred?or a
technical subject for technical writing positions.
 -- Competition is expected to be less for lower paying, entry-level
jobs at small daily and weekly newspapers, trade publications, and
radio and television broadcasting stations in small markets.
 -- Persons who fail to gain better paying jobs or earn enough as
independent writers usually are able to transfer readily to
communications-related jobs in other occupations.

The key point, as confirmed by the kriswrite's answer and the comments
on your question show, is that you have innumerable options on how to
become a writer and the financial rewards greatly depend on your
persistence and self-discipline.

Good luck.

~ czh ~
Subject: Re: How much money do good writers make?
From: kriswrite-ga on 17 Nov 2003 13:45 PST
Hi taxmama, et al~

You are right that nonfiction magazine writers can make a better
living. However, the customer wasn't specifically interested in
magazine writing. Note that fleasting was specifically interested in
what could be expected from a career writing short stories, novels,
and nonfiction books.


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