The Stabby Pen

We write. We rant. We wrestle the magic.

How to Be a Successful Writer and Probably Die Anyway

No one usually goes digging through the Bureau of Labor Statistics by accident. Usually, it’s on purpose and for nothing remotely resembling fun. I tried digging around there for how much writers earn in a year, as I was pretty surprised with the salary numbers. That got me thinking about how much money the ‘top’ scribes earn around the world, and just what kind of content they’re churning out. All that dough can’t be coming from just books…can it?! Let’s take a look at the richest writers and the rest of us.

Median Salary for Writers and Authors

According to the federal government, writers pull in $55,490 a year, as of 2012. If you’re more in line with an hourly wage, that breaks down to a little less than $27 per. Total number of jobs available with the word ‘writer’ in the title? About 129,100 across the country.  Now go through your mental role call of all the people you know who scribble words for a living. How many of them are actually raking in a middle class income solely on the back of their creative (or otherwise) work? I don’t know many and I actually have an advanced degree in that arena. Even when I was at my busiest as a freelance writer, I didn’t come close to that ‘median’ figure.

So, who’s earning all the coin and offsetting the scales?

James Patterson

Top Earning Writers in the United States

The number one culprit, according to Forbes at least, is James Patterson (pictured above). The novelist pulls in close to $100 million annually and put out 14 titles in 2011 alone. That kind of prolific production rivals only the man second on the list of highest earning scribes — Stephen King. He sneezes ideas and they turn into film adaptations and successful television series. Patterson might earn his money from straight book sales, but King hauled in $39 million on a couple books and a boatload of movie/TV residuals last year. Suspense writer Janet Evanovich rounds out the top three with a cool $33 million earned this past year. It’s a tough life, but good work if you can get it.

Neil Gaiman meme

How Do I Make it as a Writer?!

No idea. If I knew that, I’d already be applying the formula and working my way up the list. Success in anything requires of you several key components: tireless commitment to your craft, an ability to meet deadlines and the desire to be great. If you don’t want to be successful, it won’t simply happen by accident. Even authors who didn’t expect critical praise or commercial success still loved their stories. They still worked on them without end to get the endings just right, to perk up the dialogue and brighten the narrative.

So go think up some interesting ideas. And when you have more money than you know what to do with, just send it my way.

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5 comments on “How to Be a Successful Writer and Probably Die Anyway

  1. Aubrey Evely
    March 20, 2014

    Well Jon I see two things you need to do then. 1) Continue writing and 2) Look into getting a movie or t.v. show deal for Demos. Which will be known as the King route.

    • Jonathan Lister
      March 20, 2014

      Please feel free to forward my information to any movie/tv producers you might have in the family! 🙂

  2. alexnaderwrites
    April 13, 2014

    I Think this year my writing skills should bring in a net income of around -$236.28. So when you figure out that magical formula, please forward It my way.

    • Jonathan Lister
      April 13, 2014

      Even if you earn a living with writing, and strangely enough I manage to, the IRS will take whatever you don’t squirrel away.

      Literally. Hide your writing money inside squirrels.

      • alexnaderwrites
        April 14, 2014

        Squirrels? Crap, I went with hedgehogs. I put all my money in hedgehogs. ALL IS LOST!

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