Welcome back to How Writers Earn Money, in which I pull back the curtains and reveal closely-guarded secrets about writers’ incomes. I believe it’s better to have honest conversations about the realities of the incredibly low incomes most writers earn, as well as exploring other avenues for earning income beyond advances and royalties. I share real figures, facts and tips and stories from writers about how they manage to pay the bills while writing.
Tax time is always a fun reality check! This year I earned a little over $21,000 from writing-related activities which I have broken down in the chart below.
This financial year, teaching has accounted for more than half my income. This includes:
- academic teaching
- teaching for the Australian Writers Centre
- one-off workshops for Rockingham Writers Centre & Express Media
My teaching income has been significantly higher than usual (about double) because I’ve been doing some sessional teaching at Curtin University, where students in the School of Built Environment are doing an architecture unit based on my novel The Ark. (Aside: how cool is that?) Because I have a PhD I get really well-paid for teaching at uni. The rates are complex and largely incomprehensible, but it averages out at about $100/hour for teaching and approximately $50/hour for marking.
Australian Writers Centre
I teach Creative Writing 1 for the Australian Writers Centre approximately four times a year. It is a full weekend workshop with usually 10-12 students. AWC are brilliant to work for: the content is great, they’re well-organised, great communicators, their pay rates are very competitive and they pay really promptly without even having to be invoiced, which is a rare gift.
Last year I only did two one-off workshops: one for the Rockingham Writers Convention and one for Express Media. I usually charge Australian Society of Authors-recommended rates for workshops: $550 for half a day. I also did a two-day schools festival, again at ASA rates: $660/day. When I first started teaching writing I used to hustle a lot to organise workshops, but now I’ve been around the traps a little bit I quite often get invited to deliver workshops, which was the case with these events.
I’ll be doing another post soon on how to get teaching gigs so watch this space.
Approximately one quarter of my income was royalties. Don’t worry, you are not a flop if your royalties are much lower than this!
As you can see my domestic royalties were not very crash hot at a little under $200. But Whisky Charlie Foxtrot is almost five years old now, so frankly, I’m delighted it’s selling even this many copies.
My royalties income was pushed up substantially by my US figures, which are a freakish anomaly, explained in my detailed post on royalties.
In addition, because students at Curtin University were doing a project based on my self-published novel The Ark, a whole bunch of them went and bought the book. (A whole bunch of them didn’t, but…uni students…what are you going to do?!) So that was a most unexpected boost for a book that is 4 years old and has been a commercial DISASTER. On the plus side, because it is self-published through a platform called Gumroad, I get to keep about 90% of the retail price ($10). So my royalties add up a lot more quickly than they do with my traditionally published books.
Public Speaking, Freelance Writing & Consulting
The last quarter of my income (around $5000) comprises various bits and bobs including:
- Corporate social media
- Grant applications
- Freelance writing
- a piece commissioned by Writing NSW
- a reprint of a blog post
- Public speaking/chairing
- a local library
- two Perth-based festivals
- a WA writers group
- feedback on a debut novel
These are common ways for writers to earn money and I’ll be writing posts on how to get started and build up a profile in each of these areas in future posts.
WRITERS: I believe we all benefit from more transparency in this area. If we know what a ‘normal’ income looks like, we are much less likely to feel that we are failing. It also empowers us to ask to be paid fair rates. So if you feel like sharing your EOFY stats you’d be doing a community service. I hope to hear from you in the comments.