Thursday, April 14, 2016

Making a Living (or Not) as a Writer

The current issue of CEMETERY DANCE includes an interview with Ray Garton. I retro-reviewed one of his best-known novels, LIVE GIRLS, on VampChix in March:

Live Girls

Garton is a pretty big name in the horror midlist, a prolific, highly respected author. I was mildly shocked to read in the interview that he wants to get back into tie-in writing, not only because he enjoyed it, but because he "need[s] the work." He also commented that he has been increasing his short-story production lately to pay medical bills.

Another vampire author, one of my favorites, with a popular series that ran for a long time and an avidly loyal readership, posts frequently on Facebook about her financial troubles. She supplements her writing income with fannish-themed craft sales to make ends meet.

Inference from these two examples (and many others could doubtless be cited): Popularity as an author doesn't necessarily translate into financial security. Once the high-selling books recede into the backlist, the author can't live on their royalties. Sure, I knew this fact, but it's disheartening to notice fresh evidence of it.

I'm not sure whether to take some consolation (for my own modest sales record) in realizing even authors I consider successful can't live on their writing income or to feel discouraged over the state of the market. More the latter than the former, I think. It would be much nicer to see people whose work I admire receiving the deserved fruits of their creativity.

Author Brenda Hiatt compiles information about typical earnings for book-length fiction on her "Show Me the Money" site. Here's the page for traditional publishers (large and small, "tree" and electronic), updated to about a year ago:

Show Me the Money

The "median" and "range" earn-out figures are very enlightening and make it clear why most authors can't survive financially on writing alone.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

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