Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Writer's Earnings

Posted on the bulletin board above my desk is my favorite Peanuts cartoon. I keep it there to make me smile whenever I get a letter of rejection. In the cartoon, Snoopy is on top of his doghouse typing a letter to the publishing house that has just rejected his novel. Snoopy writes: "Dear Sirs: Regarding your recent rejection. What I really wanted is for you to publish my story and send me fifty-thousand dollars. Didn't you realize that?"

Ah, yes.

Besides the obvious topic of rejection, this cartoon illustrates another myth regarding writing: money. I'm always amazed by the amount of misinformation on how much writers earn. For some reason, people seem to think that writers who don't make at least a six-figure income are doing something wrong.

Recently, I've come across a few authors who have graciously made the information about their earnings public. Jim Hines, a fantasy author with DAW, earned about $28,000 last year. YA author Kimberly Pauley reports about the same. Although this is not a bad chunk of change, it certainly is not enough to live on. Self-publishing authors, of course, make much less. SmashWords author V. J. Chambers reported that her yearly sales were a dismal $180.00.

Even a NYT best selling author has spoken out. Twilight Falls author, Lynn Viehl, blogged last April about how much she made on her book. Even I was shocked to hear that she netted only $26,000 from her first royalty statement.

So what about yours truly? I've not published with a major house (yet), nor do I self publish. My publisher, Mundania LLC, offers the same percentages as a large house, but - of course - the volume of sales is much less. Right now, I have only one book with them (thought I've signed contracts for two more.) While I'm not entirely comfortable giving the exact dollar figure for my earnings, I can safely say that it falls between the self-publishing Chambers and the DAW author, Jim Hines.

But, as I so often remind myself, I am in this business for love, not money. And I'll happily celebrate every victory - no matter how small.