The Tough Financial Road For Writers

Types_of_Freelance_Writing_Services[1].jpgI learned a long time ago that when it came to writing and income, I’d be taking more risk than I wanted in trying to earn a living from writing and publishing fiction. When I started getting paid for my published short fiction, the average paycheck was about $100, which meant I’d have to write and publish far more stories than I could possible manage.

After sharing my paltry income experience with a writers’ group back in the early 90’s, one of them loudly announced that she didn’t want to hear it. I learned then that not all writers want the truth about writing income. Since that time, I’ve read of, or even met, writers who wrote fiction as a means of earning needed retirement income. I worried for them. In fact, I worry for anyone who is depending on writing income, especially given the latest stats to come from the Authors Guild 2018 Author Income Survey. In a nutshell, the survey shows that writers’ incomes are dropping significantly. Keep in mind that this is one survey, but I’ve read of similar results from UK, Australian, and the occasional Canadian survey as well.

If you don’t want to know what the Guild report says, then stop reading here. I don’t mind. If you want to read the entire report (it’s interesting), you can find it HERE.

I want to focus on three highlights: 1) the median income for American writers in 2017, was $6,080, down 42% from 2009. 2) book earning incomes fell by 21% to $3,100. 3) on average, self-published authors earned 58% less money than traditionally published authors. A number of reasons are cited for these circumstances. Like many of us, the authors who took part in this survey supplemented their income through teaching, speaking engagements, and writing reviews.

I can certainly attest to the significant decline in ebooks sales for indie authors. In 2008 when I published Fatal Encryption, readers were trying their new e-readers and Kindles, and authors were buying one another’s books and reviewing them regularly, which Amazon eventually frowned upon. I used to sell paper copies on Amazon too until they decided to allow secondhand booksellers to sell my books at a cheaper price. It was either learn from this and adapt, or quit. I’ve chosen to adapt.

After reading the Authors Guild Report, I want to mention two things. One is that most authors (of course there are obvious exceptions) haven’t made a decent living from their work for well over a century. You can find references to what your predecessors have endured going back to Charles Dickens’ time and earlier.

My second point is that the desire—if not urge— to create won’t stop writers from expressing themselves in whatever form they choose, despite low income potential, nor should it. Dream big. A decent income does happen for some authors. It might not be easy and could take years of work, but nothing worthwhile comes easily, but then you already knew that, right?

Five Reasons to Write Short Fiction

Writing Clip Art(2)jpgFor the first decade of my writing life, I worked solely on short stories and the occasional personal essay. I wrote everything from 100 word ‘postcard’ fiction to 3,000 word pieces in different genres. I wound up with fifty published short stories, and even won a few writing competitions. It was a great training experience for full-length novels, and here’s why:

  • With only a limited amount of writing time, it allowed me to create finished, polished work
  • I learned how to make every word count
  • I learned to meet deadlines
  • I learned to accept rejection and benefit from editorial critiques
  • I built a list of publication credits, which helped acquire a book publisher

Back in the day, I was fan of Canada’s literary magazines and subscribed to a number of them, so many in fact that I had stacks of unread issues, which took a long time to get through, but I did. I also learned that guidelines are firm rules, not suggestions. If my 2,000 word piece was actually 2,200 words, it could be automatically discarded.

One big reason for publishing success was that I listened to editorial advice. If I was lucky enough to receive feedback, I incorporated suggestions, resubmitted, and wound up published. The experience certainly helped me understand the process when I worked with book editors.

These days, I spend too much time working on novels to return to short fiction, but I still love reading the work of others in my writers’ groups. They remind me of those early days. They inspire me to think that writing both short fiction and full-length novels is doable at this stage of my career.

This must be why I was drawn to the attached link from, which lists Canadian literary magazines and journals now accepting fiction. Regardless of where you are in your career, I recommend giving short fiction a try.