Paying the Piper: 2012 Writing Income

I was recently at an event at the day job and got the question I get there on occasion, “So, when are you going to quit and go off and write novels full time?”

This generally results in me laughing hysterically.

We have a very skewed view of how much money novelists really make, which is why I like to contribute to the yearly writing income breakdowns that some folks put out around tax time. You only hear about it when people get big advances. The actual realities of being in this biz don’t get talked about as much because stuff like broken distribution channels and late book checks just aren’t sexy.

I just added up my freelancing invoices and got my 1099 for book money, so I’ve got the final breakdown of gross income I pulled in this year. Note, again, that this is gross income – 10% comes off the top of all the novels and freelancing work, and I think we’re in a higher tax bracket this year, so the % we owe will go up, too.

Here’s what 2012 looks like:


As you can see, I did lot more freelancing work this year. So much that I’m drowning in it, and I recently raised my rates to ensure that I’m only taking on serious projects.

Compare that to 2011, when just 1% of my income came from freelancing work:


One of the reasons the writing income percentage for 2012 is lower than 2011 is because I have a bunch of outstanding checks due from my publisher (another thing you don’t hear about a lot). If I’d gotten that money in 2012 when it was actually due, my breakdown might look more like this:


Alas, that’s publishing. Never count your money before the check clears.

As you can see, even with on-time payments, nearly 80% of my income still comes from my day job. Though I can’t share exact figures due to day job policies, I can say that my big eye-opener this year, after going over the numbers, was to discover that if I sold two of the books I’m currently working on this year and had about the same amount of freelance work, there was a chance I’d clear six figures in gross income next year.

Like… whoa.

No wonder I feel so fucking busy.

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