Other Cool Blogs: Payday – Do Authors Make the Big Bucks?

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Payday – Do Authors Make the Big Bucks?

Y’all see that picture of money up there. That looks like a lot, until you realize they are all one dollar bills. About 30, maybe as much as 32. Do authors and editors make the big bucks? Refer to the above.

There is a reason nearly all writers (over 80%) who can sell professionally (meaning they made money on their writing at least once), have day jobs. I do taxes, which just finished (May 17 – can we stop going into extra inning for the taxes? I’m so burn out). My lean months are about to begin. Fortunately, I have picked up a weekend package delivery job during the pandemic; it’s not like I can attend conventions right now, so why not? My lean months are not going to be as lean as normal.

Most full-time writers have spousal support, in that their spouse has a VERY good full time job which offers health insurance and  enough pay regular bills get met. (Price) The writer (usually the male in my experience) is the stay-at-home parent while also writing. 

For the most part, writing careers are like sports careers. Everyone learns to do sports/writing in school. Some show early promise and get extra support and instruction. In high school, those better than average join the special teams – if their schools have the funds and their family has the time to devote to special teams. In college, further breakout happens – partially by skill, moreso by money and privilege to give time for training and health support, starting with the chance to go to college instead of jumping into earning money for food, shelter, and clothing.

Then the constantly narrowing pipeline tightens once more into pro sports, the adult career options – baseball, football, soccer, swimming, running, golf. And broken out from regional to national teams. A few superstars exist, paid tens of millions, but most of the team and the staff make much, much less. And the majority of those from back in high school, in the better than average group, most play sports on weekend with friends earning nothing. Maybe they do a marathon or something special to help raise money, and pay for the privilege. Some actually find a slot that gives them a day-job-with-sports overlapping: coaches, sport therapists, teachers, etc.

That constantly narrowing pipeline directs writing as well through native skill, monetary support, training opportunities, and availability of careers. Writing breaks out to bloggers, and newspaper writers, and fiction short story writers for anthologies, and editors of all sorts, and other support staff, as well as the highest prestige title “novelist”. Some of these categories produce enough work, like coaches, they can double as a day job, but most are, at best, part-time jobs. 

Most writers find something that lets them “play” on weekends writing; sometimes the writing “hobby” even brings in a little cash. And then there are superstars. But they are as rare as sports superstars, without the endorsement deals.

I managed to find a reviewing job along these lines – it’s not my first gig, or even my second gig, but it is a gig that when combined with my other 8 jobs manages to pay the bills. Specifically, in this case, my book bill, which is big enough having it partially supplemented makes a difference.

A survey of 5,067 professional writers showed a median income in 2017 of $6,080, with just $3,100 from book income alone (Nicolas, Steger-Strong). These are people who have been at it long enough to network into a professional organization. So “college graduate” level sports people. And bringing in less than half of a minimum wage job. And more than half of what they do make is from something related to writing instead of writing itself.

Like the editing and reviewing I do. Other options include blogging and ghostwriting. If you are an artist, web design and cover art can be added to what you do for others. (Rades)

So does writing pay the bills? For nearly everyone, no, it doesn’t. Does it pay some of the bills? Maybe, it could.

Some people garden, some people ski, some people bowl, some people do community theatre, some people do marathons. And some people, as their vocation outside of their day occupation, write. 


Nicolas, Sarah. “How Much Do Authors Make Per Book?” Book Riot. 2021 May 11. URL: https://bookriot.com/how-much-do-authors-make-per-book/ (last viewed 3/18/2022)

Price, Kalayna. “Full Time Writer? Leaving the Day Job VS Leaving the Career.” Magical Words. 2011 June 14. URL:

Rades, Alicia. “8 Smart Ways to Supplement Your Fiction-Writing Income.” The Write Life by selfpublishing.com. 2016 Sept 9. URL: https://thewritelife.com/8-smart-ways-supplement-fiction-writing-income/?utm_content=buffer97e4c&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer (last viewed 3/18/2022) ** COMMENTS ARE ALSO USEFUL 

Steger Strong, Lynn. “A dirty secret: you can only be a writer if you can afford it.” The Guardian. 2020 Feb 27. URL: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/feb/27/a-dirty-secret-you-can-only-be-a-writer-if-you-can-afford-it?CMP=share_btn_fb