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How Much Money Does a Small Time Writer Make?

This is a question that’s been asked by folks from all walks of life. From students looking for extra cash, to retirees looking to supplement their social life, they’ve all wondered how much money can one make as a small time writer?

The Short Answer: It depends.

The Long Answer: It depends on many factors. Such as,

1. How successful a writer are you?

There are a lot of variables that could factor into how much money you’ll make as a writer. For instance, how many books have you sold? Have you won any awards? Did you go to an expensive school? Etc. Etc.

Simply put, there’s a lot of variability here and a lot of factors that could affect your income. So, it’s best to look at the median income of writers in your area. That way, you better understand where you stand.

2. How much does a book sell for?

Another important consideration when trying to figure out how much you’ll make as a writer is how much a book sells for. Simply put, the more expensive the book the more money you’ll make. Of course, there’s a minimum price that libraries will pay so you won’t earn a lot of money if your books are free.

To give you an idea of what I mean, here are some prices for popular books across different industries. You’ll notice that most of them are quite high. It costs a lot to be a bestseller.

  • Health/Fitness: $25 – $35
  • Self-help/Personal Growth: $12 – $22
  • Fiction: $12 – $22
  • Non-Fiction: $8 – $15
  • Young Adult: $7 – $12
  • Children’s Books: $5 – $8
  • Sign Language Interpreting: $5 – $7
  • Pictionary: $3 – $5
  • Comedic Books: $2.50 – $5
  • Animation: $2 – $4
  • Legal/Court Reports: $1 – $2
  • Anime/Cartoons: $1 – $3
  • Blogs: $1 – $3
  • E-Books: $1 – $2.50
  • Debate/Discussion: $1 – $2.50
  • Graphic Design: $1 – $2.50
  • Poster/Billboards: $1 – $2
  • Research: $1 – $2.50
  • Fashion: $1 – $2
  • Web Design: $1 – $2

Of course, this is just a small sample. But, you get the point. Most books sold in stores are expensive as hell. So, the more you write the more you’ll make. But, you need to write in order to make money. So, that’s a no-brainer.

3. What is your writing style?

Depending on your writing style you may or may not make a whole lot of money. Sadly, there’s not an exact science to determining what genre your book will fit into. That is, there’s no formula or guide to follow. It’s all about following your instincts and experiencing what works best for you.

For instance, if you’re the creative, artistic type, you may want to try for picture books or children’s books. Or, if you’re the adventurous type and thrive on travel and exploration, maybe you should try for a non-fiction adventure travel book. (Bear in mind, non-fiction doesn’t automatically mean you have to be an expert. There are a lot of successful authors who wrote non-fiction books about things they were passionate about.)

Whatever it may be, your natural writing style will determine your book’s appeal. So, do you like to write in first person or third person? What about using bold font or color? Are you more of a wordsmith or do you prefer using graphic illustrations? Etc.

The better your instinct the better your writing. So, if you’re unsure about what your book’s appeal may be, simply ask other readers. (Yes, you can use crowdsourcing to determine what works best for your audience.) Better yet, if you’re not sure, ask other writers. They’ll be able to give you some solid advice about what would and wouldn’t work in your book. (Not all advice is going to be good. You have to sift through the good and the bad. But, sometimes the bad advice can be the key to making your book better.)

How To Make Money As A Writer

Once you’ve established yourself as a competent, skilled writer it’s time to move on to the business side. Otherwise, you’re just freelancing and probably not making a whole lot of money. (Unless you’re already famous. Then, you can leverage your reputation into becoming a financial power player. But, that’s a story for another day.)

The first step is to join a Writer’s Guild or SAG-AFTRA. (Seriously, it’s worth looking into.) These are societies that help writers establish connections with other writers, get exposure through contests and grants, and even help navigate the business side of things. (Trust me, it’s not easy trying to figure out how to make money as a writer. There are a lot of pitfalls, especially if you’re doing it solo. Having someone to back you up can make a world of difference. Plus, being a member of a Writer’s Guild can get you access to a professional network of other content creators. So, it’s not just about writing. It’s about marketing, networking, and building a community.)

Once you’re a member, the next step is to create a professional social media account. You can use platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn to connect with other writers, readers, and potential customers. (Yes, the more you connect with the better. So, don’t be afraid to connect with your platform’s audience even if you feel like your content is only for friends and family. Just make sure that every now and then you switch up your content to portray a more professional image.)

Next, establish yourself as an expert in your chosen field. Simply put, if you have a specific niche area then make sure that you develop your expertise in that area. Establish yourself as an expert by giving helpful advice and sharing your knowledge about your chosen niche. For example, if you’re an expert in family law, make sure that you’re giving good advice to family members who need help dealing with the complexities of family life. (In some ways, being a lawyer is a bit like being a doctor. Except…you argue with patients instead of administering pills. And sometimes, you have to argue with relatives who are interfering with the process. Not exactly the image you want to portray.)

Being an expert in your field gives you a valuable voice in the community. So, make sure that you’re contributing useful information as often as possible. Plus, you never know when someone is going to run into the same issue that you’re helping with. Case in point, I was recently asked to comment on a blog post about divorce. So, without even realizing it, I became an expert on the matter. And now, here I am, an expert divorce attorney, giving advice to folks who are planning on getting divorced.

The Bottom Line

To wrap things up, let me reiterate that there’s no exact science to figuring out how much money you’ll make as a writer. But, with hard work, determination, and careful planning, it’s possible to make a reasonable living. (Depending, of course, on what you write and who you write for. But, there’s no reason to limit yourself to just writing children’s books. There are plenty of lucrative markets out there. Just need to know where to look.)

No matter what you write or how successful you become, the better you market yourself the more money you’ll make. So, it’s essential that you develop effective marketing strategies. (You might also want to consider looking into selling shirts with your designs on them. Or creating your own line of luxury goods. There are a lot of opportunities out there if you know where to look.) The important thing is that you’re able to make a living, whatever that may be, writing what you love.