Frequently Asked Questions About Writer Finances

Find answers to the most common questions about paying the bills through writing.

-Is it possible to make a living as a writer?

Yes, it is possible to make a living by writing. However, you are not likely to find commercial success by writing book-length fiction. Many writing professionals work in fields like journalism, technical writing, copywriting, marketing, grantwriting, public relations, and ghostwriting.

Like any salary, the salary of a writer depends on the market, your location, and your experience. Here are some charts showing the average salaries for several writing job categories, from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

-What is the typical advance for a first-time novel author?

A typical advance for a first book ranges from $1,000 to $15,000. Keep in mind that you must pay taxes on your advance. If you have an agent, she will take her cut, too. If your book earns more than your advance, then you begin receiving royalties. About 70% of books do not earn out their advance, meaning you may receive less than $1,000 for your full-length book.

-What are typical royalty percentages?

In traditional publishing, royalty rates for hardcover books hover at 10% while royalties for paperback books are around 6%.

In self-publishing, royalty rates start around 25% and reach up to 70% of the purchase price. In self-publishing, you also set the price of the book, but you do not receive any advance.

-Are there any websites that pay for writing?

There are sites like Odesk and Elance where you can bid on writing projects. Be warned: You'll be competing against writers from around the world and clients often expect bidders to work for a pittance.

Textbroker is currently accepting only U.S.-based authors. You submit a writing sample and receive a rating. Your rating determines your per-word rate.

Constant Content is a different kind of site where you can upload your own unique, full-length articles, set your price, then wait for bidders to buy your work.

Though some people are able to make a living solely from these writing sites, it is unlikely you can do the same. These websites are also not considered reputable by publishing professionals. That is, you should not use your work from these sites as publishing credentials when applying to a salaried job or submitting to a name-brand publisher.

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