The Truth About Books, Money, Awards (And Not Quitting Your Day Job)

Illustration for article titled The Truth About Books, Money, Awards (And Not Quitting Your Day Job)

Authors seldom discuss how much money they actually make writing science fiction or fantasy. But on her blog, Kameron Hurley breaks it down, listing all her advances and how much she actually ended up with. And she explains how winning an award can change the game, and why she won't quit her day job.

Top image: The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley

In a nutshell, Hurley's advances went way down after the 2008 publishing crash, and then spiked again after she won a couple of Hugo Awards. (And just in case you hadn't realized, Hurley is writing a two-book space opera saga, beginning with The Stars Are Legion in 2016.)


But she also explains just why one good year of earnings won't make her quit her day job:

This is a tough business to stay in, especially if you don't have a solid day job or a partner with same. I hear folks say that the 4-5 book place is where a lot of folks start to make money, and it's true that this is the first year I could earn what I'd call a living wage if I quit or was laid off. But I know too much about publishing – and the changing tastes of the readership – to go all in making $30-40k a year when I've spent this long slogging to get to $100k through a combined workaholic income stream of novels, day job, and freelancing. You don't give all that up just because you had one positive year.

If I've learned anything about publishing it's that you should always hope that one great year is the start of an upward trend – but you should never count on it.

Anyone who's interested in making it in this business should check out Hurley's bracingly honest essay. [via SFSignal]

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I wonder what she'd get if she self published at Amazon, especially now that she's established. I'm clearing about $1000 a month selling erotica, which I spend maaaaybe 5-10 hours a week cranking out. I have no idea who is buying it, or why they don't just go to literotica... but its a fantastic side income that goes right into savings. I also haven't published any non-erotica, so I have no idea how that would sell at the self-published venues. But as an established author maybe it would be worth it? Her advances seem to be a large chunk of the money coming in, though, so it may not be worth it.