Laura Purdie Salas (laurasalas) wrote,
Laura Purdie Salas

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How Much Money Does a Writer Make?

If you're a person who thinks it's rude to talk about finances--skip this!

 I’ve been thinking recently that one of the things children’s writers wonder about is money. Usually because we don’t make any.

Of course there are exceptions. There are children’s writers who make a living solely off their book sales. I think there are 4. Which leaves the other 9,996 scrambling to put together an income off this crazy, wonderful, unreliable world of children’s publishing.

OK, maybe there are more than 4. But most children’s writers I know who actually make a living  off of writing do it by cobbling together an income from many different sources.

This has been on my mind even more than usual lately. Partially because I’ve had a few different students in my online classes ask how realistic it is to make a living at this. And partly because my husband and I sat down a couple of months ago to re-do our family budget and make it more realistic. I was feeling way too much pressure because I had been unrealistic about what I hoped to earn this year.

So in the interest of sharing specifics for those of you who are wondering whether to quit the day job, I’m looking back over my 2007 business plan and sharing my deep dark financial secrets with you. All of my various jobs are/were related to writing or children’s books in some way.

Minneapolis Star Tribune: I used to work part-time for the website of the Trib, and in 2007 (my last year there), I made $13,000 after taxes. But I didn’t have enough taxes taken out to offset my writing income, apparently. I no longer work there (newspaper industry is in the toilet, if anyone’s not already aware of that), and trying to make up that income elsewhere has been a major stressor in ’08!

Web Work: I maintain and update webpages through both Winding Oak and the Children’s Literature Network. In 2007, this accounted for $5,000 of my income.

Trade Book Sales: I received one advance for a children’s poetry book, Stampede! Poems About the Wild Side of School, plus a tiny royalty check for an old book. Total: $3,725

Work for Hire Books: $26,000. That’s the most I’ve ever made in a year for WFH books! That includes 10 poetry books for Capstone, Write Your Own Poetry and Scrapbooking for Fun for Compass Point, three life-cycle books for Picture Window, and a book on Gallaudet University for Trillium. So, a total of 16 books. There were also a few work-for-hire assignments in there that weren’t books.

Assessment: $2,150. These are passages I wrote for assessment companies.

Teaching/Speaking/School Visits: $5,450. This money came from some one-day writing workshops at the Loft Literary Center, some prepayment for an online class that I actually taught in January of this year, an appearance at a Young Scientists Conference, and a couple of writing conference appearances.

That makes a grand total of about $55,000. But I really hustled to make that and didn’t have very much time to work on my own writing projects that I’d really like to work on. Actually, really hustled is a kind way to put it. I maintained a brutal schedule all year. It's not a pace I could keep up year in, year out. Plus I didn’t pay quarterly taxes (I’d never needed to before), so I ended up owing about $9,000 in taxes at the end of the year, on top of the money I'd already been setting aside in my "taxes savings account." Yikes. I’m mailing in those quarterly tax payments now! (And yes, I do use an accountant, deduct my home office and all my expenses, etc.)

2008 is different. No Trib income, for one. And fewer WFH books. The poetry books were fun, but a fluke. Not many of those in educational publishing. So I’ve been trying to figure out how to maintain some kind of reasonable income as well as my sanity. Maybe I’ll check back in on this topic in January or February to see how 2008 compared to 2007.

I've always wished I knew how much money other writers make and how they make it, not from a nosy standpoint, but just from a career-planning and budgeting view! I hope this info's helpful to people really trying to figure out how to make a livable income off their writing!

Tags: money
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