Friday, September 19, 2008

Survey Says IV

By Joe Moore

In Survey Says I, I summarized a member's survey taken by Novelist, Inc. on how many writers with bestsellers and multiple books published could make a living writing. The answer was, not many. In Survey Says II, I covered some of the highlights of a Zogby International/Random House poll on how and where readers shop. With that one we found out among other things that word-of-mouth is the best advertising and cover art really does count as one of the first reasons table browsers pick up a book (or don't). In Survey Says III, I reported on a Sisters In Crime Publishers Summit that, among other revelations, told us that our book cover art is critical, paranormal is hot, thrillers are hotter, and the use of social networks is a great way to promote your books.

survey1 This time around, I’m posted some statistics found in Publishers Weekly. The source is the National Endowment for the Arts study--Artists in the Workforce: 1990-2005

185,276 is the total number of authors and writers, 2005

I had a feeling everyone was writing a book.

39% is the increase in authors between 1990 and 2005

Apparently the glamour of a writer’s life has leaked out.

51.9% of authors work full-time writing

This one surprised me, in a good way.

$50,800 is the median income for full-time authors, 2005

Combine this with a part-time job at Dunkin' Donuts and you’ve got a decent salary.

$38,700 is the median income for entire civilian labor force, 2005

That’s the Dunkin' Donuts job I was talking about. Of course you have to be the owner/manager.

$38,800 is the median income for all authors, 2005

May have to combine the Dunkin' Donuts and a Subway sandwich gig.

$47,300 is the median income for male authors, 2005

James Brown sang "it’s a man’s world."

$33,300 is the median income for female authors, 2005

OK, I was joking around about the James Brown lyric. Plus my wife saw what I wrote and whacked me.

54.9% of authors are female

Exactly the same proportion as the famous writing team of Sholes & Moore.

10.8% of authors are minorities

This is sad it’s not more.

26.8% of authors are under age 35

Maturity must count for something.

83.1% of authors have at least a bachelor's degree

If we're so smart, why aren't we all on the bestseller list?

45.9% of authors are self-employed

At least we’re employed.

50,000 is the estimated number of writers living in California and New York

Sort of like a set of national bookends.

No 1 is the rank of Santa Fe, NM, among cities, authors per capita

That’s a lot of laptops using Starbucks hotspots.

So why do so many people want a job that pays little, has no medical benefits, requires us to work 24/7 with no paid vacation or sick leave? I guess it beats that Dunkin' Donuts idea.

Tune in next time for Survey Says V. If there is a next time. My wife is still pissed.


Mark Terry said...

I don't know, at least at Dunkin' Donuts you get the perks of donuts and coffee.

G.M. Malliet said...

Wow. Thanks for the depressing post, Joe! Made my day!

Actually, $50K a year is a lot of money, depending on where you live. So the bright spot here is that you *can* make a decent living writing if you're willing to pass on buying that Jaguar.

But the male/female numbers really, really, really tick me off, too. Hug your wife for me. You'd think this would be one gender-neutral profession, but no.

People ask me why I use initials for my writing name. Always have done: I wanted editors to come at my writing without preconceptions. (Whether it fooled anybody or not I've no idea.)

Your blog is timely; I'm guest blogging on a related topic (book covers and their target audiences) over at the Stiletto gang blog next Friday:

Keith Raffel said...

Joe, Just think how much you and Lynn raise the compensation numbers... And BTW, HAPPY BIRTHDAY LYNN!

G.M. Malliet said...

Yes, Happy Birthday, Lynn!

I was so fascinated by this survey I looked it up. Here's the executive summary:

Pity the poor dancers, who have the lowest median annual income - $15K.

Mark Terry said...

I'm not 100% I believe this survey's accuracy, now that I've taken the time to read the report's executive summary. But then again, I write a lot of these things for a living and surveys can be pretty weird because they misrepresent things. Send out 10,000 surveys, get 85 responses and call it good.

185,276 is the total number of authors and writers, 2005

51.9% of authors work full-time writing

I think there's a disconnect between these 2 numbers. I just don't see 95,000 writers and authors working full-time in the U.S. unless most of them are making $7000 a year and living off spouses, mommy and daddy or a trust fund. I wonder how many college professors that have written a book are calling themselves authors or writers or how many journalists, including the ones working for the Bluffton Bulletin, or the person who gets paid $1000 to put together his/her church newsletter.

I'm very, very skeptical of this number.

Joe Moore said...

Mark, you bring up a good point. I missed that reference between the two. But I always jump at reading the results of any survey that gives hope to possibly making money writing novels.

Felicia Donovan said...

I've never been much of a believer in surveys or statistics because I know how numbers can be skewed to say whatever the survey takers want them to say. All I know is that I do believe that female authors are still paid less than male authors and that bothers me... a lot. I've seen that documented in other places and just don't understand why.

The reality is that if you really want to write, you'll write and if it gives you a thrill deep down inside each time, odds are you're meant to be a writer. If you're a woman, you'll be used to working twice as hard to make it. That's what my survey says.

Mark Terry said...

Take heart, less than zero is still zero, unless all those female authors are paying to be published.

jbstanley said...

Great. So I'm unpaid AND old. Thanks, Joe!

jbstanley said...

Um, I meant underpaid. Duh. Need more Dunkin' Donuts.