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Writers' Earnings

(19 Posts)
MovingBack Thu 25-Feb-16 13:54:48

Hypothetical question - in order to earn £15-20k pa as a writer what would my working life look like? Totally not dreaming of giving up the day job grin

Self/traditional publishing? How many books/how often?
Teaching/other bits and pieces - if so, what would they be?
Anything else as a lucrative income stream?

I don't write for the money (fortunately!) and am aware of the dire earnings of writers and so on... but wonder what it would take to be able to write full time. I know it's a bit of a 'how long is a piece of string' question!

ImperialBlether Thu 25-Feb-16 13:59:44

OK I'll have a go at this. To self-publish, you'd have to sell the books at at least £1.99 in order to get the 70% rate. So, to get £20,000 pa you'd need to sell about 30,000 books a year. That is almost impossible with self publishing, though the odd person does do it.

With regular publishing it's more difficult as you might get a UK deal and/or foreign deals too. You wouldn't know until it was happening, so you couldn't predict it.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Thu 25-Feb-16 15:17:49

I think there are lot of different profiles of writers that would result in that kind of income. With self-publishing there are the ones who write very fast and have 50 books out under a variety of pen names, all of which sell hundreds or low thousands a year, and those who have a few books out, of which each sells a few thousand.
There are writers who focus on their own projects and bring out a book a year, and writers who do various ghost-written or publisher-led projects adding up to a few different things a year each of which they get less than £5000 for.
There are highly successful literary fiction writers earning that much, maybe selling quite well but only managing to write another every few years, and others steadily bringing out a book a year but with lower sales.
The only thing I think is consistent is that it is unusual to be earning that much right at the start of your writing career. Obviously some people do get big advances with first novels (though fewer than you'd think - sometimes what is reported as a first novel is actually a first under their own name, or a first trade-published rather than self-published) but I believe it's a far more common pattern to build up to it gradually.

MissBattleaxe Fri 26-Feb-16 13:14:47

Such a tricky question. I don't think any two writer's salaries are the same.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Fri 26-Feb-16 13:16:04

Not to mention writer earnings often differing massively from year to year!

MissBattleaxe Fri 26-Feb-16 16:49:09

I think even many established writers might not even know what they are going to earn next year.

FrustratedFrugal Fri 26-Feb-16 20:04:07

I write books as a hobby, finishing my fifth book this spring. One of my books was shortlisted for a prize (not in the UK, I don't write in English) and has sold really well (10000+). It has paid for a few holidays and handbags but there's no way I would ever be able to rely on it. I've also done a lot to promote it.

If you want to write full-time (what a perverse wish) you need to look into professions where writing is a big part of what you do every day. The checks I get from my publisher are a fraction of my monthly salary.

MissBattleaxe Fri 26-Feb-16 23:30:31

Frugal- you are so interesting! I didn't know this about you.

ishallconquerthat Sat 27-Feb-16 21:27:15

FrustratedFrugal would you mind if I asked you in which language you write? I work as a journalist and write in English just fine, but I'm writing a book in Portuguese (my 1st language). Selling 10k in Brazil is a feat, so I'm just curious as to where you're selling that many books! (and congrats, BTW!)

PerfidiousPanda Sun 28-Feb-16 18:22:52

I ghost write so can't really speak about other advances in other genres, but fees have really gone down since I started ten years ago. I could easily have just written one book a year and got a decent income, whereas now I am often only getting 20% of that first advance as a fee.

Sales are down too - a few years ago, a book selling 30k in the first few months wasn't considered successful enough for a sequel; it's very different now.

FrustratedFrugal Sun 28-Feb-16 19:33:03

The far north of Europe, and non-fiction. And no, people don't stop me on the street for autographs. My publisher has done a lot, getting decent media coverage is key if you want to sell books. There is not much money in it but I'm fulfilling a childhood dream.

Just wanted to give a heads-up for everyone: I did a lot of writing during my maternity leaves and got to know lots of women with similar interests. At least five of my forum-mates from late 2000s have become published authors. In fact, I'm reading a detective story right now that is written by someone I remember from pregnancy threads!

MrsBattleaxe I didn't know you were a writer but it all makes sense now grin

ishallconquerthat Sun 28-Feb-16 21:10:24

Frustrated that's amazing, I hope in a few years you can read my books and say you've met me on MN ;) Do your books have an Ebglish translation?

Did you meet your mates here on in another forum? (I did write a bit during maternity leave, but nothing worth of being read). My plan, once I finish this book, is to approach publishers and if it doesn't work out, to self publish. I try to keep my expectations low but I'm getting excited about this story. Hopefully I'll get more realistic in the next few months.

Perfidious I know what you mean... I'm a journalist and the rate for word hasn't increased since I started working in the UK, in 2007. I wouldn't encourage anyone to write for a living. As a hobby it's fine though. It's a shame I don't think I can do anything else well enough, so I keep writing.

MissBattleaxe Sun 28-Feb-16 21:35:55

Thank you Frugal. I've always admired your encyclopaedic knowledge on the other thread I see you on and I like the lovely way you speak to people.

MovingBack Mon 29-Feb-16 13:30:12

Thanks everyone for having a go at this - I appreciate it's a nonsense of a question really as there are so many variables. It has confirmed what I already suspected - I need to focus on a career and write in my spare time I think!

MissBattleaxe Mon 29-Feb-16 15:43:06

Don't give up MovingBack!

FrustratedFrugal Mon 29-Feb-16 20:43:41

MovingBack I echo MrsB, don't give up. Writing will not make you financially richer but you will definitely be richer in experiences. My day job was not originally writing-related but I've managed to redefine it.

Ishall that was another forum (now defunct). We had local meetups (we wrote in Nordic languages). Our genres were travel writing, crime fiction, parenting, cookbooks and non-fiction. Publishers seemed more willing to endorse these kinds of writing from an unpublished author. We also found it easier to approach smaller publishers. One of the writers had a background in journalism and she went on to write two really well-received books. Another friend wrote a work-related book. We also assembled an anthology.

Writing can be really solitary. That early encouragement from a group of like-minded people was really important. Making writing more social really helps - setting goals with someone, sharing manuscripts, or asking someone to edit what you have written. I've also started going to writing retreats and giving writing courses.

Finally, if you come up with a unique idea, I think that is always worth pursuing. I came up with the idea of the book I am finishing now 15 years ago! You'll get there too!

FuckinNamechange1 Mon 29-Feb-16 20:56:40

Keep at it, you will regret it if you don't try, but look at it as an investment of your time. I have a relative who is a writer (children's fiction) and earns enough to be paying higher tax. However she has written a lot of books, has been doing it for at least thirty years and it took her about fifteen before she was making enough to live off. And she is still writing as she doesn't want to depend on her royalties. So if you start working towards it now you may be able to live off your earnings in a decade or so. But then that's not so different from a lot of other careers.

Corygal1 Mon 29-Feb-16 21:00:53

I'm on my eighth book and I am probably 'one of those people'. You earn f.all, you can't make a living from it unless you're one of about 10 people in the UK. Big bucks came as a surprise to them.

DaphneWhitethigh Mon 29-Feb-16 21:13:37

An acquaintance of mine makes a living from writing. He writes mostly pornographic text for niche fetish/porn/hookup sites. Pays well apparently, but maybe not what you have in mind grin. He says that the key to making an adequate income from bread-and-butter non-fiction writing is to be really reliable, know your worth and negotiate hard.

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