Thursday, March 27, 2014

Laura Purdie Salas Talks Money, And Gives Details On How She's Making A Living As A Writer

In Laura's recent newsletter, she included an article "How Much Money Does a Writer Make?" in which she lays out (full disclosure!) her income from last year.

It's a remarkably brave thing to do.

We are so quick in our culture to reduce and judge a person's success - and a career's success - in financial terms only. Because of this, and perhaps because of, as Laura says, a sense that talking about money is "impolite," the real nuts-and-bolts of HOW a writer's income can all come together (or not come together) doesn't often get discussed.

So it's very instructive to see how all the different financial career elements come together for her.

With Laura's kind permission, I share her article here:

How Much Money Does a Writer Make?
If you think it's impolite to talk about finances, skip this article!

It's hard for writers to figure out if they can make a living by writing (and related activities), because there's so little info out there. So every year since 2007, I've shared my income on my blog. I'm switching to sharing it here, since I'm trying to reach educators with my blog now. 

Overall, 2013 was a great year. A LEAF CAN BE... got lots of lovely recognition, and I'm starting to work my way in to the world of educators and feel comfortable there, and I think that's where I need to be to promote my picture books and poetry.

Here's the breakdown of what I earned in 2013.

Web Work: I used to update webpages through the Children's Literature Network. In 2013, this accounted for $2,100 of my income. My work with CLN has come to an end, as the Network itself is dissolving in the next year. Although it wasn't a big source of income for me, I will really miss working with the CLN founders and meeting so many wonderful writers through my web work.

Trade Book Sales: My trade sales totaled $8,944. That's almost double my 2012 number. I'm especially excited about this because my goal is to do more trade books and fewer work-for-hire projects. This includes anthology payments/royalties, advances for two forthcoming picture books, and royalties on A LEAF CAN BE... and BOOKSPEAK!, my two trade books that are in print.

Work-for-Hire Books: $600. This number is waaaaay down. I only did one wfh book last year, and it was an ebook about car racing that I wrote through a packager. I'm of mixed feelings about this. I miss the steady work, but, as I try to build my career as a trade book writer, I'm thinking it's a good time to decrease my number of wfh books. So I didn't pursue more wfh books last year and am still trying to cement my approach in this area. (If you're interested in doing writing for the educational market, learn more about my textbook for writers here.)

Assessment: $5,340. I did loads of assessment writing in 2013. I mostly write poetry and nonfiction passages, though in 2013, I also did some fiction and some item-writing, too. Assessment writing is very different from writing for magazines, even though the length might be similar. I'm thinking of writing a how-to ebook for writers interested in this area. Sadly, with standardized assessments multiplying constantly, the demand for good, dependable writers in this area seems to be growing.

Teaching/Speaking: $4,238. I had a great time speaking last year. I spoke at a couple of university children's literature conferences, the Minnesota Library Association annual conference, the Loft Festival of Children's Literature, and a few library events. It's awesome connecting with teachers and librarians, and I'm hoping to do more of this!

School Visits: $11,553. Woohoo! That was 19 or 20 days of school visits or young authors conferences. I don't have tons lined up for 2014, though, and I'm wondering what to do to promote my visits more. Many writers at about my level of publishing history are charging $1,000+ per day, and they're getting it. I charge $680 per day, but when my rate was higher, I didn't book as much. Not sure if it's because Minnesota has SO MANY wonderful children's writers, many of whom do school visits, or whether it's my lack of name recognition. Another area I need to figure out this year!

Mentors for Rent: $2,206. This is the hourly writers' mentoring business I run with Lisa Bullard. It's another income stream that is small but brings a lot of satisfaction. We've had several clients get publishing contracts (both with trade publishers and educational publishers) this past year, which is wonderful. We have a new ebook just out (see below).

Ebooks: $523. This includes both the MFR books for writers and my ebook on Writing for the Educational Market. I'd love to sell more ebooks, since they are already made and can bring in more income with very little additional work. But wanting and doing are two different things:>)

Print version of Writing for the Educational Market: $963. Even though the Kindle version is only $9.95, I still sell some of the print version. I get great feedback on it, and there's really no other comprehensive guide to this market. So, this book keeps chugging along.

Copyediting: $6,312. This is a new category for me. I've done a bit of copyediting on and off, since I have newspaper copyediting experience. Last year, I did a huge copyediting project for a book packager. It was stressful at times, but also really interesting, since it was a literacy curriculum for another country. I learned so much! I don't have steady copyediting clients, though this is an area of income I could probably grow if I put my mind to it.

Miscellaneous sales: $32. I started selling autographed copies of my wfh books online. Last year, I only sold a couple, but I switched to an Amazon Sellers account recently, and I've already sold 5 or 6 this year. I'm not going to make much money on this, but it will help me clear out some shelf space, I hope! (I'm just selling off my author copies.) I don't sell my trade books this way--only my wfh books. (I also donate a lot of these books.)

That's a total of about $42,811. That's a 26% increase over my 2012 income, which is awesome! My goal for 2014 is to hit $40,000 again. I know I'm not going to make millions as a children's writer. But if I work hard enough, I like to think I can earn more than minimum wage. I work my buns off and do a million different things. But if that also allows me a little bit of actual writing time and the opportunity to connect with kids, educators, and other writers, either in person or through my books, then I am the luckiest worker I know:>)

NOTE: This is gross income. This doesn't include any of my own expenses-travel, promotion, office supplies, etc. nor the self-employment or sales taxes I paid.

P.S. Please Share this issue of the newsletter with other writers you know if you think this info might be useful to them. They will not be automagically subscribed or anything like that. 

Thanks, Laura!

You can find out more about Laura Purdie Salas at her online home, and you can sign up for her newsletter here.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for being brave with this very vital information, Laura!

CA Clark said...

This is awesome. I am constantly asked about how much money I am making and when I say nothing they look at me in horror and then ask why I am writing. I tell them it takes a lot of time and effort to build "brand recognition" by networking and learning and being in places so this article is going to be of great assistance in my explanation that we are not all JK's or GRRM's (yet)

laurasalas said...

Thanks, sardyhar and Cecilia. I'm glad you found the info useful! My books have been on some nice lists and won or been finalists for our state book awards. So then my local non-writer friends are highly confused as to why, for example, I worked at Target over the holidays a few years ago for holiday $. Writing is rewarding in many ways, but the financial rewards are sometimes...elusive!

Wendy said...

Thank you for this post. It was interesting to see how diverse your areas of income are, and how your career is evolving. A "writer" wears a lot of hats!