If you’re a person who thinks it’s rude to talk about finances–skip this!
A while back, I blogged about my income from 2007. I did that because money is such an off-limits topic to many people, and yet, when you’re trying to figure out whether you can survive as a writer, you need people to talk about it.
And now it’s time for the update. It’s August, and I’m finally taking a bit of time to look back at my 2008 income and give a recap. Like most writers, I scrap together a patchwork income from many sources. Looking back at my 2008 business plan, these are the totals I find. Keep in mind this is gross income only. It doesn’t include any of my office expenses, travel for conferences, etc. Here goes:
Web Work: I maintain and update webpages through both Winding Oak and the Children’s Literature Network. In 2008, this accounted for $8,500 of my income.
Trade Book Sales: I received one-half of my advance for a children’s poetry book, Bookspeak: Poems By and About Books, plus a tiny royalty check for an old book. Total: $1,750
Work-for-Hire Books: $13,350. That’s a big step down from last year on work-for-hire, reflecting the fact that I didn’t spend quite as much time on it and that I didn’t have the set of 10 poetry books for Capstone, which had been a large chunk of my 2007 work-for-hire income. In 2008, I wrote 4 science songs, 2 ecosystem books, and 4 animal classification books for Picture Window Books (all for K-2), plus 4 alphabet books for Capstone Press. I think that’s everything. Well, everything I got paid for during the calendar year, anyway. So that’s a total of 14 work-for-hire books. There were also a few work-for-hire assignments in there that weren’t books.
Assessment: $1,500. These are passages I wrote for assessment companies.
Teaching/Speaking: $13,030. This money came from some one-day writing workshops at the Loft Literary Center and numerous online classes. This was a big jump from last year. I enjoy teaching and speaking, but I’m still trying to find the right balance!
School Visits: $1,900. 2008 was the first year I did enough school visits to make a separate income category for them. I’ve done a bunch so far in 2009, and this is one area I’m trying to increase, since they’re a great convergence of connecting with kids, promoting books, and making some income.
So that’s a total of about $40,000. That’s down about 28% from the previous year, which is not good for the family budget. But that’s the life of a freelancer.
Right now, I’m considering an ongoing freelance position of about 10 hours per week in marketing/PR. This possible job would be decent, regular money, with a company of good people doing interesting work, which is a nice thing. The problem is, I’m already working more hours per week than I really have available. So something would have to go. But every single one of the scraps of my patched-together income offers me something besides just money. And the job would stretch me past my current skill level in the marketing/promotion arena. That makes me anxious. But it also interests me, and I know my own book promotion efforts would benefit from some of the skills I would expand doing this job. So I’ll keep pondering how best to find the balance between income, love of writing, and interesting, challenging work.
It was really helpful for me to lay out here the various income streams I’m relying on and how each one is going. I hope it’s helpful to some of you out there who are considering writing (and all its related tasks) as a possible career.