A Year of Finances – The Reality of a Writer & Editor

I've talked about this before on Google+, but I think it is something worth revisiting on my blog. Finances are something a lot of people don't want to talk about. It's something that scares a lot of people. For some, there is a fear that not making a lot of money will somehow cheapen their skills and hard work. For others, there is a fear of being ostracized by the community.

Maybe I'm stupid, but maybe I'm brave. Maybe I feel that the truth about my finances will help others understand the reality of being a writer. I feel like I'm a very average self-publishing author. I can't survive on my writing alone, although I've been making (and implementing) plans for 2014 to help me make my novel writing a true career.

I'm going to be extremely honest about my household, our finances, and the burden my writing puts on the household.

My husband is the breadwinner. He expects me to work hard and pull my own weight. I have to pay for all of my novel-writing finances. I have to contribute to bills and household repairs. When I fall short (and I do more often than not) we argue. His expectations are perfectly legitimate, fair, and reasonable.

He makes approximately $80,000 plus bonuses. In 2013, this will probably be close to $100,000. (I don't have an exact amount for you because I won't get his t4s until later, so it's an educated guess based on his every-two-weeks paychecks and bonus estimates.)

He's a software developer, in case you were curious. He has been extremely supportive in the face he has floated the household while I've been desperately trying to make my own way in the writing world.

It hasn't been easy on either one of us.

I have 2 weeks of missing data on my income for 2013, but it's close enough to give you a really good idea of the reality of my work-at-home life.


There, I said it. That's my earnings from January 1st, 2013 to December 14, 2013. $5,812.51.

In Canada, that income level is so low that the basic tax credits for poverty-level individuals will waive all owed amounts. I will owe $25 to Revenue Quebec for some health care fee. (This is with a spouse tax credit transfer.)

Here is the breakdown of my earnings:

I earned $2,650.00 from client editorial. Most of my projects were for $200 a piece, taking, on average, 80 hours per project. One project was for $1,000, with an 18 hour turnaround time. So, this represents 11 clients, some of whom are in phase two of their edits, which means I haven't received the second half of my fee at this point. Some clients gave me a bonus, which is super awesome!

All in all, this $2,650 represents 818 hours of work. This is 20 weeks (or 5 months) of 40 hour weeks of editorial work. That's a big $3.24 an hour. That isn't a complaint, by the way. I made the decision to set the rates I did in 2013 for a reason. It's also a part of why I increased my rates in 2014 to a minimum of $500 per project.

When I'm seriously working, I put in 14-16 hours of work in a day, just so I have time to work on my novels.

In 2013, I released two novels. In order to produce those novels, I needed to gather funds to pay my cover artist and editors. Generous friends, family, and Google+/Twitter/Facebook peeps contributed $2,442.73 to make these two novels a reality. This almost exactly covered my costs for my perks, my artist, and my editors, as well as other little production fees. Shipping ate a little of my editorial funds, as I had significantly underestimated the costs of shipping paperback books. The one shipment cost $400.00. Oops. (Let's just say my husband was really unhappy about that and leave it at that, shall we?)

What does the $2,442.73 dollars in indiegogo contributions mean? It means I started my novel writing career even. My costs were covered.

So, how did my novels perform in 2013?


The Eye of God released in July of 2013, and has made $181.07.

Storm Without End released in November of 2013, and has made $293.29.

Whenever I receive funds for my novels, I earmark editorial income and reserve that amount in my paypal account to pay for my novel fees. My entire income for 2013 from my novels will pay two of my proofing editors for one project.

I plan on releasing four novels next year.

What does 2014 hold for me?

It's somewhat easy to project how the first part of 2014 will pan out for me. I'm already booked through June for client editorial work. I'm going to list all clients at the $500 mark in order to keep things confidential. Not all of my clients have opted for the $500 payment level, but most of them have. That's all I feel comfortable sharing.

I have double booked myself for two months during 2014 so far for various reasons.

So, for five months, two of which are double booked, I will make a minimum of $3,500, . This is already a lot better than 2013 for me! Believe me, I'm waving pompoms and otherwise doing a dance of glee.

Then reality struck, and it struck hard. Here are my production expenses for 2,014.

Cover Art: $2,000 ($500 per cover.)

Editorial: $2,400. My base editorial fee is, on average, $200 per editor per book. I am looking at hiring three proofing editors per book next year. It'll actually be a bit more, likely, but those are expenses I will cover on my own.

Copyright Expenses: $240. $60 per copyright.

Grand Total: $4,640

$3,500 != $4,640.

Now, assuming I'm able to book one client a month for the rest of the year, I'll be okay. I'll make more than $7,000 for the entire year. But, that financial situation is terrifying. I want to release 4 books next year to build my backlist and treat my novel writing like a true career. I can handle two books in a year, especially when I control the number of clients I take on at one time.

It is a reasonable number.

My answer to the novel-funding dilemma is to once again go down the shadowy road of crowd funding, although on a much simpler level than before. I'm going to use it as a preordering system instead of a perk system. The perks are, as expected, copies of the novels. This lets me open sales up to those who want e-pubs and don't want to deal with amazon's system.

(I really hate smashword's requirement to brand their distribution system directly in the front pages of my novel. Long story.)

I doubt I'll make goal. But, every dollar helps, even with the 9% that indiegogo will siphon off for not reaching my goal. It'll help me stockpile all of the funds I need to pay artist and editors. It'll put me on a somewhat firmer ground financially.

It'll help me contribute decent money to the household.

I wish I knew how much royalties I would make on my two current novels, but some things will remain a mystery until after time has gone by.

Writing isn't an easy career, not at all. That said, I don't regret it, even if it causes a lot of frustration and tears few may be aware of. Either way? I'll make it, one way or another.

Leave a Comment:

1 comment
Gina Drayer (@GinaDrayer) says December 15, 2013

Thanks for sharing. I’m with you. I think more authors should talk about the business side of writing. On think I’ve learned from other indie authors is that having a more titles will help with your earnings. I know as a reader, if I find an author I enjoy, I unusually go out an buy older books they’ve published. You might think about doing some short stories to go with your series to sell as digital only copies.

I think you way undercharge for editing though. I understand the need to build a business base and get customers who you can give as references, but editing is an incredibly time consuming task. I hope the raise in editing rates works out better for you. 🙂

Good luck for 2014. I’ll have my own data to share by then!

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