Last week Publisher’s Weekly published an article about the increasing inequity in advances for traditionally published authors. This comes in the wake of several years of writing income studies that are showing median writer income to be decreasing steadily. From the 2018 report by the Author’s Guild:
Median incomes of all published authors who were surveyed—including part-time, full-time, traditionally published, self-published, and hybrid-published authors—for all writing-related activities was $6,080, down 3% from four years ago. This is down from a $10,500 median income in 2009 according the Authors Guild’s last survey. Worse still, the median income for all published authors based solely on book-related activities fell from $3,900 to $3,100, down 21%, while full-time traditionally published authors earned $12,400.
This is a median income, which means that it is the middle number in the spread of responses. It’s fairly standard to use median numbers for income analysis. Without seeing the population distribution, you can only posit where most authors fall on this spread. My guess, based off of the Publisher’s Weekly article and some other conclusions in the Author’s Guild report, is that the majority of authors are falling near this number. The tail is long, my friends: if you make it big, you make it really big. If you don’t? Well.
I remember the last time I earned twelve thousand dollars, and it’s not a time in my life I would like to return to. There was a lot of soup involved. Yet I still hope to one day earn enough writing income that I can justify moving to writing as a full-time gig. I don’t delude myself that writing full time won’t involve me doing appearances or audiobook narration or editing to make ends meet. But increasingly I question whether even that would allow me to live my dream.
You can do everything right and still fail. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. So I’ll keep plugging away at it, and see where it leads.