How Much Do Writers Earn?

Not much, is the answer. Sorry. But you knew that really, didn’t you? I’ll come back to this in a moment.

In the meantime, I have good news! Last week, I had 3 short stories accepted by The People’s Friend magazine, which made me feel quite ‘chipper’! (And, ahem, will pay for my car to be serviced…with a little bit left over).

I submitted them back in October, so it was quite a long wait but that’s how long PF take to respond (unless it’s a rejection, in which case, I find they tend to reply much more quickly – sometimes in a matter of days).

The reason it takes so long is not only because they receive a lot of stories (upwards of 100 a week) but because each story is considered by a member of the Fiction Team, who then – if they like it – writes a short critique and forwards it, with the story, to Shirley, the Fiction Editor. If she gives it the thumbs up, the next stage in the process is to get the approval of the magazine editor herself. All of that, naturally enough, can take several weeks.

How do I know all this? Do I have a direct line to People’s Friend or insider knowledge? Nope. I just read their website, which is soooo writer-friendly these days. There are writing prompts, book reviews, writing tips and yes, ‘insider knowledge’, if you want to call it that, on the process of writing for the magazine. Here’s the piece about ‘What happens to your story once you submit it’ (from which I got the information above).

You won’t get rich, writing short stories for women’s magazines but it’s still nice to be paid for your work and to get a buzz (I do!) from seeing it in print.

If you’re interested in finding out what People’s Friend pay for short stories, serials and poems, the details are all here (I told you it was worth looking on the website, didn’t I?).

I’ve just read Sally Rooney’s acclaimed debut novel Conversations With Friends and at one point, the narrator, Frances, who’s really a poet, writes a short story (her first!) which is snapped up by the first literary magazine it’s sent to and she’s paid 800 euros for it!! Whaaa?! What is that literary magazine, I want to know because I was under the impression that they didn’t pay very well! But what do I know?!

And on the subject of writers’ earnings, BBC Radio 4’s Money Box programme had a feature today on ‘The Economics of Being an Author’. You might have heard it but if not, you can listen to it here.

Apparently, even though the British book market is booming, the average full-time writer makes just over £10,000 a year. Not much, is it?

But there is an author featured on the programme, who self publishes his books and made over £1m last year alone. I’m sure it’s not easy (you’ve still got to write books that people want to buy and do all your own marketing) but if you can make it work, then you certainly keep a lot more of the profits, by self-publishing.

What d’you think?

This entry was posted in Books, Magazines, Short Stories, The People's Friend and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to How Much Do Writers Earn?

  1. dalenflynn says:

    You’re right that not many writers make much to be able to sustain themselves on, that’s a fact, but we’ll keep trying anyway goddammit! 🙂

  2. Wendy Clarke says:

    Ah, the earnings question. All I know is that having switched from regular magazine writing to novels, I’m unlikely to make the money I did in the early days when I was a regular in three mags (although I’d like to be proved wrong on that). Sadly, the financial opportunities are slimmer now but writing short stories, especially for The Friend, will always be my first love and I still write them when I can.

    • Yes, it seems crazy, doesn’t it, that you might actually earn more as a short story writer than a novelist. BUT, who knows – you might be one of the lucky/talented/hardworking ones who can make real money from their novels! Good luck!

  3. juliathorley says:

    Isn’t it the case that most writers do something other to help swell the coffers? We teach, we advise, we enter competitions and we judge them, we do talks to the WI, and so on. For me, it comes down to this: I work extremely hard for very long hours and I rarely say no to a job, which is why this week I’ve worked on a business book for a client, my own WIP non-fiction book, and on articles on the Berlin Airlift and free public transport in Estonia – and it’s only Thursday!. I’m never going to be rich – I accepted that a long time ago – but I get by and I’m happy to trade money for freedom.

  4. I seem to remember reading an article in a Sunday newspaper a couple of years ago about the self-published author featured on Money Box yesterday. and that he spends a considerable amount of time every writing day doing marketing. He does work very hard, but I suspect most writers would rather spend their time writing.

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