02 Apr

the money entry

Last night after we got home I started working on getting our bills caught up, and then scanned all my 1099 income statements and w2s and generated all my expense reports and mailed them out to my accountant. The last one got wrapped up and sent out at 6:30 am, at which point I did collapse in bed.

I’ve long admired John Scalzi’s openness in talking about how much money he makes writing (something I’ve somewhat mentioned/talked about openly in the distant past, when I was making a few hundred dollars off short fiction), and I meant to follow suit, but things happened and I fell far enough behind on the books I wasn’t sure myself. I was reasonably sure I’d pretty much drastically increased my income by going freelance, but I wasn’t sure of the exact figures.

Why talk about money? Well, as Scalzi said, someone should. And a lot of this is stuff that people try to ask me, awkwardly, anyway. That’s why ‘how much do authors make’ is the #2 way people find my site thanks to my novel advance survey (#1 is, thankfully, Tobias Buckell).

Well, after last night they’re branded on the back of my eyelids, so in the spirit of Scalzi’s post, here goes.

This is all pre-tax earnings.

In 2005 I made $23,900 working 10 months as a tech and learning support manager (of 20+ students) for a small University.

I made $4370 as a writer (a novel advance, some short fiction, some speaking fees). Obviously quitting to become a freelancer would be the Dumb Thing To Do ™.

That decision was out of my hands, though. But, the best revenge is thriving, and 2006 looks to be (my accountant hasn’t confirmed, but I think I added it all up right) thus:

In 2006 I made $12,973 working 4 months as a tech and learning support manager.

I made $30,998 as a freelancer, writer and blogger.

Okay, so what does freelancer, writer and blogger break down as?

Well a third of that figure is blogging income (actual posts, editing posts, and new media consulting).

The 2/3 of it from writing is a mix of a novel and short story money, freelancing, and mentoring students at Seton Hill. Novel related income was about $8,200 of that (doubled from last year, but not exactly make a living off the novel money).

So I came very close to doubling my income. Working at the university held me back for the first quarter. Looking at my averages, my big hope is to make ~$60,000 next year from that mix of freelancer, writer, blogger. Here in midwest Ohio, that would be a very nice chunk of change, where the prices for everything are lower, and a good planner could make mid $20K work as a salary.

My main goal is to pay off a ton of debt run up from the tail end of my education and then moving into a house while working the 2005 job, which was brutal in trying to make month-to-month ends meet.

When I made the jump, many people cautioned me about taxes and health insurance, but as my wife also has a dayjob we’re okay for the health. The taxes are a bit more complicated, but my accountant seems to be on top of it all, and since I almost doubled my income, the looming threat of self employment taxes are really a non-issue.

All in all I’m quite pleased, as we were able to buy new furniture for the house, afford some home improvements, travel a bit without stress, pay off a car loan, pay off a bunch of debt, and go out a little more this year. Hopefully the trend will continue!

As always, however, I’d love to see fiction writing take over more of the overall equation. While the novel income is nice, it’s a quarter of the pie, however I understand that for the successful freelancer, having multiple income streams is smart. So I imagine having it be no more than 1/3 of what I do would be savvy.

As Scalzi says “There are lots of ways this income could go away. Writing SF isn’t a great way to have a stable income.” And I agree, I work on the blogging/freelancing for steady income, and the novel income is just regarded as bonus money that goes into savings, home improvement, or travel funds.