How Much Do Writers Earn #2

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My posts on author earnings are among the most popular on my blog, showing there is a great deal of interest in this subject and very little transparency. I feel like most of us would feel better of we knew how much little other writers earn.

When I first posted my income from writing in 2013, I earned around $7000. After a couple of dismal years where I earned much less than that, my income from writing in 2016 was up to $20,000, thanks mostly to my novel Whisky Charlie Foxtrot being chosen as a Target book of the month when it was published in the US. It turns out a lot of Americans buy books from Target, and I am still receiving substantial royalties from the US, more than two years after publication. By contrast, my Australian royalties are practically non-existent, as you can see from the tiny red slice in the pie chart below.

To be honest, it is an ongoing source of disbelief that I am actually making a substantial amount of money from a book because for a long time I thought it would never happen to me. I am thrilled about it, of course, but I am not expecting ever to be so lucky again. I won’t have a new book out in the next financial year, and US sales will probably slow down and I’ll be back to royalties being a tiny slice of the pie.


Every year I receive a few hundred dollars from Educational Lending Rights and Public lending Rights, paid by the Australian government, based on the number of copies of my books held in libraries in Australia. I also earned a small fee for having a post from my blog reprinted.


This includes money I have earned from teaching regular courses for the Australian Writers Centre, as well as one-off workshops at libraries and writers’ centres, and guest lectures at universities.

Other writing-related activities include private mentoring, consulting on grant applications, chairing at festivals and live storytelling.

In the next few weeks I’m going to launch a blog series on How Writers Earn Money in which I’ll be drilling down into some of these activities, including how to get started, pay rates, and how to go about doing them. If there’s anything you’d like to see included, please let me know in the comments. Or, if you feel like sharing your own income, it would be great to expand the conversation.

6 thoughts on “How Much Do Writers Earn #2”

  1. Another great post, Annabel. Thank you. It’s fantastic to see you receiving royalties from the US. Even with those, –and you are doing well!–it amounts to a modest income. Writing for me is a continual financial dilemma that I could not afford to do if I didn’t work away for several months of each year. I feel very thankful for the ACA grant I received toward my novel-in-progress. Without it I would not have been able to carry out the research. I read a statistic some years back that only a dozen or so Australian authors make a solid income from their writing, without needing to bolster it with other income earning means.

    1. Yes, I feel so lucky to have those US royalties. I am supported on and off by grants but also lucky to have a partner who works full-time and has a steady income so I don’t need to be a major wage-earner for our household. I’m always interested by those statistics and whose those 12 people are! I’ve heard there are some fantasy/sci-fi writers who make pots of money but are not household names at all. I no longer have expectations of making a living from writing but I do still have hopes to not have to work too many hours to support my ‘habit’!

  2. So pleased to see you getting nice royalties from W&C. I love reading your candid posts on author earnings; they remind me that the amount of work involved in writing, be it fiction or non-fiction, most of the time far outweighs the earnings to be made from it. First and foremost, writing needs to be a passion, I guess. And maybe the best writing comes from an author who is passionate about the art of writing?

    1. Thank you, Steve. Yes, if you break your money down to an hourly rate, it is the worst paid job in the world! But it pays richly in other ways, for me anyway.

  3. Interesting post. Thx for sharing, Annabel, and well done getting into the US market. I left AU shores this year to chase o/s markets for my 5th. The UK picked me up, which is quite different in many way. I hope to blog about my UK exp as we go. I hope it’s good to me!!!!!

    1. Thanks Jenn. When you say ‘left Aus shores’ do you mean you yourself left or you just looked elsewhere for an agent and/or publisher? congrats on getting a UK publisher – I’d be really interested to hear about your experiences there. I hope it’s good to you too 🙂

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