When can I quit my day job?

The real answer to this question is not what new writers want to hear. The truth is...maybe when you reach 65.

Only a few writers make a lot of money. Just like only a few basketball players make a lot of money. It's a common misconception, but it does happen. So, if you'd made that first sale, when can you expect the money to come rolling in?

Here's the break down of how we get paid. Most major publishers of romance novels will only buy a completed manuscript from a new author. In general advances range from $2000 to about $5000. That is paid half when the contract is signed and half when the publisher says the book is ready to go to print. (A few revisions are normal.) Once the book is bought, it will be about a year to 18 months before it lands on the shelves. Then, you'll wait for your royalty checks. Most major publishers report sales to the author twice a year.

Okay, the money is coming in now. You've sold a second and a third book and you need more time to write. Can you quit now? Maybe.

It's a smart move only if you have enough savings to support yourself for at least a year. Or, your spouse can support you, has the insurance and retirement through his job.

Remember, out of the money you earn, 15% will likely go to your agent. Also, there is no taxes withheld from your monies so you'll pay self-employment tax and quarterly income tax. It can be a hassle being self employed.

Many of you know I reached the place where I quit my day job. I used up my savings at an alarming rate in the beginning, but I'm getting the hang of it now. I also write three to four books a year to support myself. I made a lot better money as a nurse. So is it worthwhile to be a self-employed writer?

You bet it is. May every one of you live that dream.

Not all writers write novels or wish to sell to big publishers. Some write articles or shortstories or publish with on-line houses. There isn't a great deal of money in this type of writing, but you can earn enough to make it worth while.

Find your nitch in the writing word and settle in for the long haul. It takes hard work, but the rewards worthwhile in more ways than one.


Roxann Delaney said...

And all that is why the word retirement isn't in my vocabulary. :)

I know a couple of authors who earned as much as $60K in one year writing category...before taxes. The downside is that it isn't always steady. If an author changes lines for whatever reason, it can take a while for "fans" to find her name on a different kind of book. Sometimes those books don't come out as often as they did, either. Then there's the iffyness of the publishing business and the iffyness of the economy. As romance writers, we've been lucky that a slow economy hasn't hit us as it has others in the publishing business.

As you said, Pat, it pays to have a backup, whether it be a spouse, a full or even part-time job or a big savings account.

Pat Davids said...

It is so true that the business is iffy. You can never count on your royalties. How many people buy your book is out of your control.

Reese Mobley said...

No doubt its a hard business to make a living at. At conference I learned at the Pro workshop that in order to make a living this writer (can't remember who it was) had to crank out a 100,000 word manuscript every 7 - 8 months. The successful ones are the driven ones.

Pat Davids said...

Driven is a good word, Reese. Once that big breaks comes, it takes a lot of work to stay in the publishing game.

Penny Rader said...

I imagine it also depends on who your publisher is, what kind of distribution they have, and if people can't walk into a bookstore and see your book on the shelf, how aggressive you are about marketing yourself.

My publisher is small press. No advance. I get paid only if someone buys my book. You can find it on online bookstores...but good luck finding it on the shelf of a brick and mortar store. (Though you'll be available to find it at Waldenbooks, Towne West, this Saturday, 8/22/09, at noon. {wink, wink})

Starla Kaye said...

Yes, making a career as a writer is an extremely iffy thing. Finding just the right market for what you enjoy writing. Working with an agent and bowing to their opinions, and giving them a share of your earnings (tax deductibe, remember). Getting lucky enough to have a publishing house decide to take a risk with your work. Each and every book is a big risk, no matter the size of the publisher.

I can't "quit my day job" (at least not completely), but I'm very happy with who I publish with and getting to write pretty much whatever I want. That's enough for me.

Pat Davids said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pat Davids said...

Starla is so right on. You have to be happy with what you write and why you write. Very, very few of us will find our fortunes in this business, but we can find joy.

Nina Sipes said...

I had wondered if you had become a full time writer. Thanks for your input on this one. I'm only now getting a chance to write--or feel like I'm not letting the farm down when I do. It is awful sometimes to realize that other's incomes depend upon your actions. But that's farming with family, I guess. Anyway, I'm afraid of full time writing. Suppose I do something awful? Like write really useless material. I am all admiration for those authors who put themselves out there. They are brave beyond thinking. And if I ever get that brave, well, I need that backorder of self discipline to come in soon!