April 26th, 2019

The Reality of Writing for a Living Today

Laura Drake

I read a recent article from Electric Lit. As a professional writer, or aspiring to publication, you need to read it. It's HERE. Go ahead, we'll wait.

The facts the article was based on came from the Authors Guild 2018 Survey (you can read that HERE) which said that, "American authors ... incomes falling to historic lows to a median of $6,080 in 2017, down 42 percent from 2009." (Based on a survey of over 5k authors)

Wait! Before you run off to flush the flash key of your work, start a bonfire in the back yard, or give up, let's discuss this.

I have also noticed a trend (which was verified by an agent I spoke with), that NY publishers are abandoning the romance market (excepting the top sellers) to the indies. And I imagine this isn't unique to romance. Publishers can't compete with the indies' ability to price cut. This is not new news--the trend has been advancing for years; it started with midlist authors, and is moving UP the food chain--meaning what was considered a good print run has declined steadily, and the number of copies you need to sell to be offered a new contract is increasing.

New York (the Big 5, or 3, or whatever they're down to) is still buying debut authors, but only in hopes of discovering a winner. If your first book or two aren't blockbusters, you're most likely not invited back to the party.

I don't blame the publishers. They're in this for the same reason you and I are--to make a profit. That's just reality.

But for me, the more disturbing part in the article is the entitlement issue it raised. I have seen this as well. I began a Facebook group for readers 3 1/2 years ago and it's grown to over 11k members. There was a discussion begun there a week ago, about where to go to get free books...the poster basically bragging that they almost never paid for books anymore. They weren't talking about pirate sites, either. We founder/moderators jumped into the discussion, explaining the relationship between paying for product, and the continuing availability of it. Many readers were shocked to hear how little authors make on their books. They thought (when they thought) that the fat cat publishers wouldn't notice to loss of a book sale here and there. I hope we enlightened a few readers.

It began innocently (yikes, an adverb!) enough, as a marketing strategy. A way to get more readers by making the first of a series free, or almost free. The plan is to get the reader hooked and they'd go buy the rest of the author's series, then backlist. For the author, it was taking a gamble on their own talent. And it worked brilliantly (Ugh, another). For that author. Not so much the market.

Then, giveaways. Also a great marketing tool, with the same philosophy as above. But soon there were readers roving like packs of coyotes, skipping from group to group, only there for the free books. Many of them resold the books on Amazon below the publishers cost, which was a double hit for authors--they gave away the first, then a reader who might have paid, bought the discounted 'used' book, and the author got zero money on that, either.

Then came Amazon's Kindle Unlimited. A subscription service where a reader pays a monthly fee and can read an almost unlimited number of books. The majority subscription fees are put in a 'pool', and participating authors share in it. I was a CFO in my career; this never made sense to me as being in the author's best interest. And it's had the unforeseen consequence of cheapening the worth of the product in the reader's mind.

I'm not bemoaning the 'commoditizing' of books. We write as art, but if you've sold to a publisher, or offered your book for sale in the market, you know your book becomes a 'widget'--a commodity the minute it goes up for sale.

However we innocently we got here (3 adverbs in one post. I must really be upset), we're not going back. A market trend like this doesn't reverse (with the exception of innovation, and then, the majority of the price increase goes to the innovator).

Bottom line is black and white in the Authors Guild survey; excepting the few at the top, writers can't make a living writing fiction anymore.

So why am I being Debbie Downer, dumping salt in your morning coffee?

Because writers are angsty insecure people. I know many (and I count myself in the tribe) who were whispering to each other. I've heard it at conferences and group meetings: 'Are your sales down?' 'How was your last advance?' 'Did you sell through?' And that's after we chewed fingernails for months, trying to get up the guts to ask. See, it's bad form to ask about money if you're an artist. It's like asking a coworker how much they make. Also, payment is more than a living; it's a way of keeping score. And you want to know where you fit in the hierarchy, as much as you don't want to know. AND you sure don't want the person you're asking to know!

Facts is facts, and now they're out. In a weird, twisted way (hey, we're authors, right? We're used to that), it's a relief. I hear the whispers in the wind. It's not just me.

I wrote this post for a reason, not just to pee in your corn flakes. What can we do about all this? Two things:

  1. Don't quit your day job. The odds of you making a living wage, writing, though possible, is not likely.
  2. Know why you're doing this: There are a lot more reasons to write than to make a living. Is your reason enough to keep you going? Mine is.

If you came looking for answers, I don't have any. But let's discuss it.

Have you noticed this trend? How are you dealing with the reality? Have you thought about quitting writing? What keeps you going?


Laura is teaching her, 'First Five Pages' class online at Savvy Authors, beginning April 29 through May 12. Come polish those pages to a high shine, and learn advanced craft tips at the same time! Click HERE for more info!

43 responses to “The Reality of Writing for a Living Today”

  1. What an excellent article - honest and far-reaching and well-written (I happen to like adverbs, she says while blushing). Yes, it's a great article for all of us authors to read because as you say, we realize it's not just "one of us," it's all of us who make little money on our published babies. I have never, ever liked the idea of "giving away a book or a dozen" to increase sales and reviews. I've always stated that I work hard on my fiction, I love my characters and my plots and my work, and why would I just "give it" away? But on the other side, yes, I've realized that readers don't have a clue about how much work/time/sweat&tears it takes to write a book, nor do they realize how little we authors make in dollars. Many assume we get gobs of money from the publisher (not even understanding that many of us publish independently) and they think free books are great. Sigh.
    But I have never written for the money. Probably most of us don't. And most of us will never be able to give up our day job, but we LOVE what we do in our "spare" time - write our hearts out.

    • Laura Drake says:

      Well said Roughwighting! (and at least you didn't say, 'blushingly'). I think as long as you keep your eye on your goals of improving, enjoying the process, and trying not to have inflated expectations, you can get back to what made you start writing to begin with - and I'll be willing to bet you didn't start for the $!

  2. There’s so much I want to say in response to this important, well-researched, and well-articulated piece. It’s one that every writer (and reader) ought to keep close at hand.

    First, it’s absolutely true (adverbs be damned) that our culture does not value artists. I’m sure that what you describe is also true for painters, musicians, actors, etc. We are a commerce-based culture, and that’s not going to change, especially now. The idea that a doctor would need a second “day job” while she practices the craft she loves is clearly absurd. But no one blinks when they hear that a writer or musician must have a second job.

    Second, we are seeing more and more writers who supplement their living by writing-related activities like developmental editing and teaching workshops. I understand and support that, and have benefited from those services myself! The only problem, on the receiving end, is that the price of coaching and development editing has been steadily increasing. The need to earn a living is passed on to the next generation of writers, making it doubly difficult for them to enter the professional community.

    And third, there’s the question of whether writing is a profession or a “calling.” I encountered this question again and again when I taught social work—as if social workers shouldn’t “mind” their low salaries because their altruistic hearts were being fulfilled. Social work has tried to address this, and gain legitimacy, by establishing a system of licensure. We can’t do that for writers, of course, nor am I suggesting that we should, because there are many paths to the acquisition of writing skills.

    We find ourselves torn between passion for our art and the yearning to publish, sell, be buzzed and reviewed and talked about. I put the question out on Facebook recently: Why do you write? I hope to have a blog piece about that soon, but for sure nobody answered, “Because I want to make a lot of money!”

    People write because they feel they must. We don’t want to lose that, but how to honor that while living in the world?

    • Laura Drake says:

      Love your reply, Barbara. I'd make the case however, that it's never been easy to make a living in the arts. Look at Mozart, Beethoven, even Michelangelo, or Van Gogh. And they're the successful ones - the ones we know. How many millions died in obscurity? I don't think this is a recent problem, or that the 'old days' were better.

      I really like your Social Work analogy - so true. It's been said of teachers, too.

      I'm a huge capitalist, and think the market should set the price: buy what is at the right price for you, walk away from the rest.

      But when the price is being driven down to try to squeeze out the competition, or to manipulate the system, it's hard to take.

      But, it is what it is, and if you don't find shelter in that storm by remembering why you write, you'll stop. Sadly, it seems that simple to me.

  3. Edie Melson says:

    Laura, this is such a great article and so needed! In some ways, I’m in the small group who works as a full-time writer—or at least full-time in publishing. I have had numerous books published by traditional publishers (all but 2 are nonfiction), but I supplement that income with freelance writing gigs, speaking, coaching and directing several conferences. The lowest income I receive comes from my books. It’s a sad reality of the times in which we live.

    Your emphasis on remembering the why is critical to staying in the business of writing. Thank you for tackling this reality. I’ll be sharing this post as a resource for many months to come.

  4. Terry Odell says:

    An eye-opening post. I started writing late in life and never had any expectations of getting my work published, much less make money at it, but my critique partners insisted I submit. I got my start when e-publishing was making itself known (NOT Amazon--there were no Kindles; people bought from publishers' websites and read on PDAs. Digital publishing got its start with erotica because of the privacy issue.) I didn't write erotica, but I did get some books published. Never made money, but I was retired and didn't "need" it. Then came Amazon and the Kindle. Then the Nook, then Kobo. Indie publishing gave authors the power to bypass the rigidity of traditional publishers.
    I was fortunate to get into the "golden age" of indie publishing in the 2011-2014 timeframe and made damn good money. But I never considered it anything but a temporary windfall (and most of it is still in my savings account).
    I do follow the 'first in series free/discounted" model if I have 4 or more books in the series, and it's giving me good carryover sales.
    I try not to think about those who fill their ereaders with free books. If they're not buying, they're not worth my time.
    But, as I said above, I'm not putting food on the table with my writing. My income is 'gravy' and sometimes it's watery, sometimes it's thick and creamy. However, when I first started writing seriously and joined a local RWA chapter, there were very few members making a living at it, despite being traditionally published. It was a major milestone when one would announce she quit her day job. Even then, about 20 years ago, about 80% of the writing income went to 20% of the writers. (Maybe it was 90/10, but whatever the actual numbers, writing was a labor of love, not to be done with the expectations of wealth.

  5. Laura Drake says:

    Feet on the ground, Terry - good on you! Wishing you rich, creamy gravy!

  6. Maggie Smith says:

    The mention of Mozart and Michaelangelo brought to mind the old system of patronage and as the saying goes, there are no new ideas - I've noticed several writers (as well as artists in other media) soliciting for monthly Patreon subscriptions. It's a small monthly amount you contribute to support a writer of your choice, usually with some "benny" like a flash fiction piece you get that only their patrons have access to. (making you feel special, which is nice) One writer was attempting to make $ 4,000 a month and is already up to $3600. Amanda Palmer's book The Art of Asking talks about the same phenomenon, I've often wondered what would happen if someone gave me a physical book with information about the hours spent writing it on the inside cover and then a pay pal account where, after I'd read it, I could contribute based on the enjoyment I'd gotten. After all, if I hate the book, why would I pay them and if I loved it, they deserve a lot! I think frank discussions with readers about how much authors make on their books like Laura did in her group is also a good idea. I for one want to pay writers for the enjoyment I get from their books but I don't read a book a day like some voracious readers do. Don't know the answer but love the fact it's getting traction as a discussion topic.

    • Laura Drake says:

      Maggie, Patreon may gain favor, and become the wave of the future. It'll be a future generation than mine though...I'd hear my mother in the back of my head, saying it's begging. It's not - that's just what she'd say.

    • Virginia says:

      Wow! I love that idea "information about the hours spent writing it on the inside cover and then a pay pal account where, after I'd read it, I could contribute based on the enjoyment I'd gotten." I have to confess I've downloaded a lot of free books from Book Bub, and if I enjoyed them I usually either did a review or bought the sequel. I heard once that Dickens got paid a penny per so many words, which is why his books tended to be very long. If you work out the income for one book by a published author per hour of time spent writing, editing and marketing, it would probably be pennies per hour. No other occupation would stand for it. I think this is a message we need to keep hammering out to our readers. If you spend hundreds of dollars for a concert ticket that gives a couple of hours entertainment, why do you think a book that entertains you for a few hours should be free? It goes beyond the idea of trying to get a bargain. We all do that. We need to value ourselves and our own work before someone else will.

  7. Holly Robinson says:

    Such a thought-provoking post, Laura. Like many writers, I support my fiction addiction by writing other, more commercial things--ghostwriting for celebrities and business people, writing articles for college alumni magazines and newspapers, developmental editing, etc. And, like someone else pointed out here, I realize it's true that artists have always struggled (I happen to be writing historical fiction about a painter in the 19th century, so I've been researching how painters made their living then--or, rather, did NOT make a living, and either starved or were supported by their families--even the greatest Impressionists who draw huge crowds to their exhibits today.) It's also true that nobody expects mechanics or dentists to have day jobs to support doing what they love.

    Where does that leave us? I've had novelist friends (both indie and traditional) say they are going to quit writing because they can't make any money at it. I say, "Good for you. There are lots of other, possibly more fun ways to NOT make money." On the other hand, there are those of us who can't imagine not writing, because to us, writing is like breathing. Writing also gives us a magical portal to other worlds, which makes the dreary politics or domestic triva of daily life more tolerable. We're here to stay, to keep telling stories and reading them. I feel lucky to be doing exactly that, whatever the financial outcome.

  8. All that you have said, Laura, is spot on and so very frustrating. Most of us do not expect to get rich, but being paid of our labor would be nice! In terms of economic theory, it seems that the industry should eventually get to the point of killing the proverbial golden egg laying goose, but will any of us be alive to see it? Who knows? Artists, like teachers, nurses, early childhood workers, and large animal vets, are not paid their true worth because they "love their jobs." Living on love - ain't it grand?

  9. LivRancourt says:

    In a way, this post gives me a sense of freedom. I tend to write for a niche of a niche of a niche (like, a gay romance set in 1955 Seattle), but with my newer projects, I've been trying to aim for something my agent can sell. But if no one's making money anyway, i might as well write what I want.
    Thanks for the post!

  10. I came into the writers' world with no misconceptions about it being a get-rich-quick scheme. Of course, it all depends on how you define "rich." For me, this is a second chapter in my life. Corporate America now lingers in my past and I'm leveraging what I learned there on this new journey. In just a few years, I've discovered that I've become "rich" with new friends, new knowledge and new adventures. Being a NYT bestseller would be gravy, but we all know we're supposed to avoid gravy these days. Being a favorite storyteller to a smaller group of readers is my meat and potatoes. And that's a meal I can eat every day.

    • Laura Drake says:

      So with you, Chris. When you get a message from a reader who was touched by something you wrote - whose day was a bit brighter, who said, 'yes' while reading, who didn't feel quite so alone...that's when it's worth it. Right?

  11. Julie Glover says:

    I for one am tired of being told, "There's never been a better time to be an author!" Yes, there has been a substantial expansion in the ability to get your books out there and find your niche. But there has also been a cost of authors not earning enough because of undercutting by other authors, publishers, Amazon, etc. It feels at times like everyone is making money off books—cover designers, editors, publishers, distributors, booksellers—except the person who produced the book.

    AND YET, I am still writing. I know people making a living at this gig. I know others making a good side income. Maybe I won't always be writing full-time, but I will be writing. Because something long dormant came alive when I began to write in a more intentional, dedicated way. And I want to share my stories with whoever will read (well, pay and then read) them. 🙂

  12. Rick George says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Laura. I'm just now getting traditionally published and trying to find the balance between the energy I put into marketing and the energy I put into continuing to write. The days have gotten longer and the tendency toward anxieties (will my book sell?) has increased. In an ironic way, the information you share in this post frees me up to let some of those anxieties go. I have more fun writing. I can't abandon the marketing, but I can let myself stop obsessing about it. That we cannot realistically contemplate earning even a modest living as fiction writers strikes me as unfair, but that's the gig we signed up for. I suppose it's an opportunity to find out just how strong our passion truly is.

  13. Jenny Hansen says:

    Laura, I love this post for a lot of reasons. I love that it's honest, and I love that it encourages writers to be honest with themselves about their motivation.

    I realized a while back that I want to be paid for my writing. I don't particularly care if that writing is web copy, a blog, a short story or a company case study, but I have an expectation that if I spend time I want to make money. That was a very important thing for me to realize. When given a choice between writing for hire and writing because I dig a story, I will write for hire every time. However, I have a family to help support right now, so maybe that will flip once I get closer to retirement.

    On the other side of the fence, I went to a workshop at the California Dreamin' Writers Conference, given by Anthea Lawson, where she talked about how to make money from writing shorter pieces. She is, in fact, "putting her son through college solely on her short story writing," which is HUGE to me.

    This new electronic world rewards short writing. Anthologies and magazines (including e-zines) are very willing to give new life to existing short works. She has figured out how to make a single short story (under 5,000 words) do double-triple-quadruple duty and earn her four and five digit income PER story.

    To do the math (which I know is not a writer strong point), that means that instead of an 80K manuscript earning $1000-10,000, the equivalent number of words in the form of 16+ short stories can earn a minimum of $15,000-25,000. Yes, it takes the productivity of doing that alongside the longer manuscripts, and identifying the proper markets, but my eyes went wide when I realized that those markets are even there.

    And we go back to the fact that I like being paid to write enough that I'm motivated to look for creative solutions to meet that goal. Yes, I still make more as a software trainer, but I'm doing it less and less as the other aspects of writing for a living allow me to make more.

    • Laura Drake says:

      Wow, I did not know that. I mean, wow. Can you smell the brain cells burning from there? I need to do this. Thanks, Jenny!

      • Jenny Hansen says:

        You would rock at this, Laura. She has found markets where a short work of 5-20K in words can be published in a magazine, then later in an e-zine and then repackaged again in an anthology and then later be put out on Amazon. As in the same story can earn $500, $300, $800, then ongoing royalties. It was pretty astonishing to realize that this was even possible and permissible, based on first publication rights only or rights reversion within 1-2 years. I will ask her if she would be interested in doing a post.

  14. johntshea says:

    “Bottom line is black and white in the Authors Guild survey; excepting the few at the top, writers can't make a living writing fiction anymore.”

    I note the 'anymore' and the 'today' in this article's title and ask, when were things really different? When exactly were the Good Old Days? I'm no spring chicken, but I never remember a time when publishing admitted to prosperity, except when addressing shareholders rather than authors, of course!

    The Author's Guild survey was widely critiqued when it appeared, by author John Scalzi among others (https://whatever.scalzi.com/2019/01/07/author-incomes-not-great-now-or-then/).

    In 1967, British SF author John Brunner wrote an article in which he noted:-
    “Consider, meantime, that a reliable source (the Bulletin of the Authors Guild of America) has published an estimate that there are 250 full-time writers in the whole of the United States.”

    I don't have the US Governments statistics to hand, but I know they number full-time US writers in the tens of thousands, hundreds of times the Author's Guild estimate 52 years ago.

    All our mileages vary, of course, but comparing with eachother or any statistical average seems a particularly fraught exercise.

    • Laura Drake says:

      Of course, John, I wasn't suggesting any one writer falls in the mean, and they only got responses from 5k writers. I know many writers who were making a living twenty years ago now I don't know any. Even very successful indie writers in popular genres I've talked to aren't making what they did five years ago.

      I can argue details, but I don't argue with the overall conclusion, that the majority of writers aren't making enough to live on. Do you?

  15. Fae Rowen says:

    I started writing just for me. I never intended to publish a thing. Once I did, I get excited about every single book someone buys. It's about getting my stories out there. Though...I must admit it would be nice to be able to make a living at it. And my true goal is to see at least one of my books on the big screen. A pretty good payday would probably be attached to that.

  16. Laura - I took one of your Savvy Author courses. Very helpful. What do you think about the changes in Hollywood regarding authors and their agents? The situation is fluid. https://www.npr.org/2019/04/13/713030206/uncharted-waters-union-tells-hollywood-writers-to-fire-their-agents

    • Laura Drake says:

      Glad you found the course helpful, Susan! I have a friend who has worked for Hollywood, reading scripts in the past for a producer. She has a pilot to pitch, but is waiting. She doesn't want to sign with an agent under the current terms, and if she goes straight to a producer/director, she'll be seen as a scab. I applaud the writers, for standing up for themselves, and I hope they hold out until they win.

  17. Elizabeth Conte says:

    The publishing industry is dying. Plain and simple. It is a dinosaur! We are on the verge of a new industry. The Renaissance is coming... and as writers, we need to help define what that looks like. Do I know, yet? Nope. But I think this discussion, and many more, will get us there. All arts have been treated this way. (My sister is a fine artist and it is worse for that industry.) Writing is essential to our civilization. So, no fear we are obsolete (like camera film.) But it has been devalued-by the industry itself; by dinosaur thinkers and corporations. Times have changed, and they haven’t. Thus, they kept devaluing the one thing they need to make money: writers. Once a commodity is short (money) they ration... and soon the emergency room waiting room is full of waiting patients...with the ones that are young and have more potential given full care, while the rest of less “desirable” patients wait in long lines for service. Meaning, unknown/new writers are getting less and less services/money, and doing more on their own, and the more valuable ones getting all the attention. But now, the industry is sooo bad, even they are getting less money, less services. Again, the industry is dying. Time to create a marketplace that offers services in a new way. Innovation springs opportunity and success. That is MY goal. The marketplace loves to read. The demand is there...and stronger than ever. The industry just stopped being innovative! People didn’t stop buying stuff. But Sears & K-Mart died! Walmart came in and did it differently. Then Amazon came into town. INNOVATION sparks creativity, igniting sales, and more opportunity. It’s time for change! It takes too long for our work to get out into the world In traditional publishing. Creativity, fresh work, what’s new is old by the time it sees the shelf of a book store! Self publishing stabbed traditional publishing in the gut...it is now slowly dying. But like a mob overturning a government, the mob has to develop into a civilized, productive, respectable force to rule. Self Publishing has had to develop and learn to become more ”civilized” to be respected and productive. It has opened up ingenious businesses and opportunities for as small publishers, co-ops, etc have developed changing the industry, opening doors for more work, and more, new writers. The formula for success is still out there. The writing industry isn’t dead...it just needs innovation. We have a product to sell. The marketplace exists-Hungry readers willing to pay. It is our job to create value in their eyes... so they want to buy what we are selling. What that looks like moving forward, I don’t have a clue 😑. But change is here...and we need to stop complaining and start reacting. Publishing is going to be different, but it doesn’t have to be bleak.

    • Laura Drake says:

      Very thoughtful reply, Elizabeth, thank you! Change is a disruption, and it's painful. The innovation of ebooks and self publishing was a disruption to the norm. But that market is maturing now, as well. The reason indies (I believe) aren't getting the notice they were, and they should, is the glut of books on the market. It seems everyone is writing a book, and there is innovative, brilliant work being done - and some true garbage (oh come on, you've read some too). I believe when the suppliers stop glutting the market, OR innovation makes it easier for a reader to cull good books from bad without actually buying them, the market will stabilize.

  18. littlemissw says:

    My younger brother likes to tell me that writing is my hobby. But, if it were a hobby, I wouldn't agonise and edit and rewrite. The truth is, I would like to make money from my writing (if anyone ever publishes me) .I know that makes me shallow. That said, I'm realistic. And, I was once a high school teacher. I know that just because something is under valued, doesn't make it valueless.

    Interestingly, I recently read a report that said that the more skill a job requires (think computer programming vs. factory line) the less financial renumeration effects happiness and productivity. Opportunities to be innovative and work life balance we're shown to be much higher influences.

  19. Laura Drake says:

    Littlemiss, because you want to be compensated for your efforts makes you shallow? How did we get there? NO! Would anyone go to work every day for nothing?

    And I like your programming vs. line analogy...I think that's where the idea that it's okay for teachers to be paid less, because they're 'shaping children's lives', comes from - as if that's compensation.

    It's not.

    But until lack of adequate compensation influences teh number of writers offering books, I'm afraid supply and demand rules.

  20. Laura - I always enjoy your posts and your refreshingly honest attitude about being a writer. I was just having this very same conversation with a friend this weekend. Since it has become incredibly clear that I have no power over how much money I will make on my books, I have to focus on what I do have power over - my writing. I stresses me and makes my 'job' no fun when I start down the rabbit hole of the latest way to get known/sell books/become a phenom, so I'm letting it go. Worrying about that makes the writing a misery and I'm too old to spend any time on something that makes me miserable.

    So! Write for the joy of it, for the writing 'magic', for the high, the rush of wonder, and for the kindred spirit who says, "I loved you story." Royalty statements come next week. And for the first time I have no idea what it will be. I haven't bugged my agents and I haven't pre-spent my money. If it's paltry, I won't take to my bed. If it's substantial, I will be pleasantly surprised.

    thanks for the post and the reminder that I'm not the only one who feels this way!

    Blessings on ya (and the rest of you too).

  21. johntshea says:

    Thanks for your response and question, Laura. That most authors do not make a living from writing does not surprise me, though I did not need the Author's Guild to tell me that and I did not see that as their report's main conclusion. That main conclusion seemed to be that things are getting worse. Like I said in my first comment, that conclusion was widely debated when the report first came out at the start of this year. I am not alone in suspecting more authors make a living now than in most of the past, but the Author's Guild report does not capture most of that.

    “I know many writers who were making a living twenty years ago now I don't know any. Even very successful indie writers in popular genres I've talked to aren't making what they did five years ago.”
    You don't know ANY writer who's making a living? Yikes! I'm very sorry to hear that and I fully accept the validity of your experience, but I would not infer the whole state of publishing from that, any more than I would from the experiences of very successful authors.

    It has never been easier to be published, regardless of the quality of one's writing, so I expect the proportion of writers who make a living from it to be smaller than before. But their absolute number is a very different matter. A decade ago print publishing was widely and loudly written off and predicted to be dead by now. We were supposed to be living in the Publishing Post-Apocalypse now! Instead I note new and interesting ways to tell and retell stories, some mentioned by commenters here, including short stories and movies.

    And amen re the WGA! Tens of thousands of screenwriters organized and defiant. We could learn something from them, though exactly what I'm not sure at the moment.

    Incidentally, this publishing debate echoes a more general debate about the economies of the USA and other countries. The statistics there are fascinating. Never before have so many people done so well while thinking they're doing worse and worse!

  22. dholcomb1 says:

    I knew the odds when I started, and I"m in it for the long haul.

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