Something-Something Blah-Blah Author Income Survey

I’m not so sure about this survey.

Or, rather, I’m not so sure about the portioned and parceled bits of said survey, because to buy the actual results you’d need $300 — and given that the report clearly states most writers earn under $1000 a year, they’re asking most authors to give up 30% of their salary to read the report. (Which suggests it’s not for or about authors at all, but rather for and about big publishers.)

Quite a few reasons I am dubious about that result — that “authors” are basically broke-ass degenerates and that the author career is one where hunger is answered by generic-brand Cheetos and thirst is quenched from bottles filled with your own tears.

How do you define “author?” Already a loaded word. (A little pretentious, too.)

Are these all professional authors? And only by self-selection?

What if you have one book out? What if you had one book out three years ago? Or ten?

Is this a salary based purely on earnings? Are losses figured in?

The survey has 65% of the answerers as “aspiring author,” which suggests that 65% of the survey-takers listedย zero dollars as income (which might, ohh, I dunno, skew the results).

If those folks were taken out of the pool, that leaves about 3000 folks providing monetary data.

(Edit: okay, it looks like “aspiring author” is still figured into the monetary equation.)

(Which is pretty fuckin’ wonky — aka, “fwonky.”)

What if I make money as a writer of other things besides books?

Are these part-time authors? Full-time authors? Professional hobbyists?

Would one short story sale count?

The survey also seems, as has been pointed out, to try to compare the very different career (and financial) paths of self- and traditional-publishing in a way that isn’t perhaps equitable. And so it’s skewed against self-publishing, likely unfairly.

The thing is, I do understand that writing is not the HERE’S HOW YOU GET RICH IMMEDIATELY career. But the results of this survey suggest it’s the THIS IS ALMOST NEVER HOW YOU EARN A LIVING career, which is horseshit. If this survey were accurate, it would not only mean that a writing career is a tough row to hoe but also that it’s basically the worst idea ever from a financial standpoint. It suggests that book culture is damaged because those who help to create it cannot subsist. It suggests that both traditional- and self-publishing is punishing and oppressive.

I don’t buy it.

But, what the fuck do I know? I’m privileged. I know I’m privileged. The money I make from writing is comfortable. Maybe the bottom will fall out on me, who knows?

Just the same, I’m pondering —

Maybe I’ll do a survey.

Something informal, but something whose data will be here for all to see.

I have an audience reach at least as big as the authors sampled by the DBW survey (especially if you take out the 65% of “aspiring authors”).

Would that be a thing that interests you?

What questions would you like to see posed? What rigors placed on the data?

How to answer? Publicly, here in the comments? Online survey? Email to me?

Would it offer you any value at all or be worthless?

(For the record, if I do such a thing it still won’t be a complete picture — maybe it won’t even be that meaningful. As such, I would never charge money for the results.)

Toss your thoughts on the survey above — and the potential survey — in the comments.