For the last few years, I've joined other writers in documenting our writing incomes. The main reason is to help come up with a better expectations. If the only time you hear about income is with the million-dollar advances, it can get rather depressing when you are looking at a five dollar royalties check. Or at least, it was for me. The first of these posts that I had seen was Jim C. Hines (well, this is his 2019 version).
Here are previous years:
I'm neither traditionally published nor do I have an agent. Instead, I post much of what I write online in hopes that someone will enjoy it. Over the years, those stories have gotten me a semi-steady measure of income writing commissioned works for individuals though I have stopped accepting commissions for over a year now.
To hamper my potential as a writer, I'm also a dual classed Programmer/Writer. I write a lot of programs that contribute to writing, business, or just because I like finishing code. This also means that my free time is split between writing and coding.
I would consider myself to be the bottom tier of professional writers. I'm nowhere near making this a living and it doesn't look like that will change any time in the near future. However, I still love writing so I do it. It might considered a "hobby job" still.
Normally I try to get this post done in January. This year, it ended up being in April for a number of reasons:
- I've been trying to maintain one chapter a week for the last few years. With certain pressures of work, family obligations, and snow days, one thing lead to another and I'm struggling to keep that up while doing other things.
- I ended up redoing my accounting system to fit it better with industry practices. I also wanted to switch from doing monthly statements for Typewriter Press to per-author websites that give breakdowns of every sale I've managed.
- Writing ultimately is my third priority in life. A long time ago, in a doctor's office, I read advice from "Writer's Digest" that said pick three priorities and stick with those. Mine are: family, work, and writing. In that order.
All these numbers are rough estimates. I have exact dollar amounts because I have a fairly detailed accounting system set up to manage it, but it doesn't really add much.
In 2018, I had a gross income of $3,761. Most of it ($2,414) was related to publishing books for other authors. On a more personal side, I made $15 for 8 physical and 2 ebook sales. $55 was from Patreon. I got $581 for commissioned writing. The remaining $696 was from various services I provide (monthly writing obligations, final commissions). Previously the bulk of my income came from commissions which I stopped accepting last year.
This is contrasted by expenses of $4,452. The biggest was printing physical copies for $2,632. This was mainly other authors, who also got $547 in royalties checks from me. I spent $99 last year on advertising, which I also include convention costs (tables mainly). The other big expense was $588 for Internet services (virtual machines, domains, etc).
This means in 2018, I had a net loss of $691. With the depressingly few sales of books (… ten), it pretty much means my second worst year since I've been reporting income.
In contrast, 2017 has a income of $5,241 and expenses of $4,999 for a new income of $242.
I stopped accepting new commissions some time ago. I knew that it would impact my income and I wasn't disappointed. There was a relatively sharp drop in what I was bringing in, though I have some periodic income from two final commissions. Both of these were bigger ones that required monthly payments because of size or limitations of the commissioner.
2019 should see at least one of them being paid out. I expect that to happen by the middle year which means another drop. The last one… I honestly expect them to ghost me but it doesn't happen. The final commission is a large one, about 500k words, so it will take a while to finish it.
Typewriter Press is my little publishing effort. This was mainly created to manage my commissioned writings and to get me a FEIN but it ended up being used to help publish books from local (to me) authors since I enjoy the process of formatting, typesetting, and managing books.
… I like accounting.
I wouldn't mind if publishing ended up being a steady income, but that isn't going to happen any time in the near future.
One of the main reasons there are a large amount of expenses is because I decided in the beginning not to treat my time as "free". When it comes to publishing, I take into account how long it takes and give it the same rate I charge others ($20/hour). There are also costs for ISBN numbers, hosting services, and printing costs (all of these books are available in print).
My first trilogy (Sand and Blood, Sand and Ash, and Sand and Bone) started off as a "world building piece" while I waited for Flight of the Scions to be published however it ended up being a significant hunk of four years when I got it out through Broken Typewriter.
- Sand and Blood: $2.71 (2 print)
- Sand and Ash: $6.81 (3 print, 2 ebook)
- Sand and Bone: $5.85 (3 print)
This was not a good year for sales.
Patreon, Flattr, and Donations
Patreon has brought more money than printing this year however I had no change in patreons or income throughout the entire year. I still make $9/month from 4 patrons.
Writing remains a "hobby job" for me. It takes up a significant amount of effort but I enjoy it. There is something about getting the accounting, business, and writing processes together. It gives me a sense of purpose sometimes, just knowing that I've helped others get books published and also moving forward with my own efforts.
That said, 2018 was a very discouraging year for me. More than once, I had periods of depression as I doubted my skills as a writer and for business. There will be more in the future, I have no doubt.
Just keep swimming. - Dory, Finding Nemo