fame and fortune — well….

I saw this today while researching for a game and thought of many of my LJ friends. If you hit the link, it will give you more information, but suffice to say, the government says the mean annual wage for writers in the year 2000 was $47,440. And this excludes those who might skew the numbers quite a bit – technical writers and public relations people. I wonder if this figure includes the day job…

6 responses to “fame and fortune — well….

  1. What the Sam Hill?
    My only guess is that they count as authors only people who list themselves as full-time writers on the tax return. That would cut the pool down to the moderately successful and above, as well as people supported by trust funds and lovers.
    If y kn rd ths, y kn bcm wrtr n mk gd do.

  2. Hmmm, this is data collected from employers (rather than from tax returns), so I wouldn’t think it includes most writers of fiction. Or so I would guess.
    This from an essay published in the NY Times a few weeks ago seems more relavent to our field:
    “Seventy-eight percent of the poets, fiction writers and creative nonfiction writers surveyed this summer by Poets & Writers had household incomes of under $100,000. Well, not so bad, you say. But let’s look at the survey results another way. On average, 14 percent of the authors’ annual income came from writing; only 11 percent said they earned half of their income from writing, while 54 percent said they earned nothing at all. Writing doesn’t bring them pensions or health insurance, though they get old and sick just like everyone else.”
    (I haven’t been able to find a copy of the survey.)

  3. Fiction writers can’t possibly be included in this– even if you toss in the Noras and Grishams and Kings, the number of those earning any other kind of income would drag the numbers down even lower, I’d imagine.
    Now, if they were talking primarily journalists with the big guns of fiction thrown in, I might buy it.
    B.

  4. I blame for this mostly. Her comment about the survey she was citing sent me off into my stacks of files for further info on the topic. Mostly on account of being curious. I am still debating whether I’m both inclined and/or have enough time to run something on our own client figures to see what our mean, average, etc. numbers are. So curious. Oh, and — you’re likely correct and the original figure I had included journalists. In any case…
    There’s an article over here, which is interesting, and among other things has the following stat from 1995 (from an article that I also have on file): “In the National Writers Union survey, we found that only slightly over 50 percent of responding writers had annual freelance incomes of more than $10,000. And these are not novice writers: close to 85 percent described their careers as ‘established’ or ‘moderately established.’”
    For the Canadians…. an article from 2000 says that the average Canadian writer earns $12,000 in annual income. It’s the same figure Lawrence Watt-Evans comes up with in his 1999 article.
    And there’s a lovely rant on Harlan’s site (guest-ranter) that is probably nearly as accurate number-wise today as it was in 1997. I think the average advance given for an sf/f first novel is still in the 5-10K range. It also includes this encouragine paragraph:
    “Writing isn’t easy, nor is it glamourous: it’s almost literally painful. Writing fiction requires the author to pull out big bloody chunks of his/her psyche and shape them into something presentable to the public at large, and that’s not a job for the typical computer programmer or waitress who assumes that coming up with an idea is all it takes to become successful. A successful writer is one who can get past the distractions, bypass the self-doubt, and still put ideas, characters, and situations onto paper in a form that might interest others. These are the people whom, when they receive rejections, don’t scream about conspiracies to keep their work from publication but ask themselves “What could I do to make this better?”, and throw out work when when they realize that the characters or motivations have fatal flaws. Considering the ease of telling everyone within the immediate vicinity that “I’m a writer” without ever having to write anything, the real writer is the one who writes first and gets accolades as they’re earned.”

    • I’m betting journalists, tech writers, specialists (things like Common Criteria and Sarbanes-Oxley documentation), etc.
      Because if the average fiction writer’s annual income is nearly $50K? I’m-a gonna take hostages….

  5. I wonder if the problem is that they’re looking at the mean rather than the median.
    Even just a couple $10 million a year people are going to pull the mean up quite a bit, more so the smaller the number of writers included.
    Plus non-fiction article writers, if they manage steady work, might actually hit something close to this, since their rates can run in the 50 cents to a dollar a word range. Ditto anyone doing corporate communications writing.

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