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Writing Income: What I Made in 2017

31 January 2018

From author Kameron Hurley:

In my continuing series related to what I actually make writing fiction every year
. . . .

Book payments, royalties, foreign sales, film $1,600
Self pub royalties $167
Short story reprint sales $1,750
Patreon $29,179
TOTAL $47,096

. . . .

I tell writers often to “diversify your income streams” and this is why. Some years royalties and book payments and foreign sales are better than others.  There is more income that will show up on my actual taxes, including Amazon affiliates and Paypal donations, but I didn’t include those here (just as I didn’t include day job income) because I want this to be limited exclusively to writing income.

. . . .

Patreon Saves the Day (But Don’t Count On It)

Patreon has been a godsend this last year, as I’ve been producing a short story every month, instead of every other month or so as I did last year. That said, the shitstorm at Patreon at the end of last year when they were going to up their fees by 40% for folks at the $1 tiers saw me bleeding fans from the platform. That experience reminded me again that this income – though provided by a large pool of 750+ fans, is still reliant on a third party system that could implode and fuck everything at any time.

Self-Pub Isn’t a Magic Bullet

As you can see, I don’t make much money in self-pub beyond Patreon. When I state this, many folks who make lots more there just tell me I’m doing it wrong, and hey! Maybe so. But it’s not where I put most of my time. Self-pub sales primarily come from one-off fiction shorts and collections, not novels. I like to include this revenue here, though, to point out that yes, I do self-publish some stuff, and yeah, no, it’s not a cure-all moneymaking scheme.

Link to the rest at Kameron Hurley.

Here’s a link to Kameron’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

The Business of Writing

23 Comments to “Writing Income: What I Made in 2017”

  1. I went to her site, and your table appears to be off a decimal point. She made $16,000 from book payment and royalties.

  2. I love her honesty and transparency. It’s very useful to others, especially newcomers.

    I was puzzled at “self-pub isn’t a magic bullet.” She says she doesn’t self-publish except for an occasional one-off. That’s fine, but has nothing to do with whether or not self-publishing is a viable career path. If she put the same amount of effort into self-publishing as she does traditional publishing, I’ll bet she would begin to see comparable results.

    But like most things in life, you get out of things proportionally to what you put in.

    • As I’ve already said to people on Reddit (to no real avail), if she’s getting $30k from Patreon subscribers, she’s got a potential indie platform most authors can only dream of.

      Instead of selling a handful of short stories on Amazon, which don’t ever really seem to sell, she could launch one or two indie novels to her die-hard Patreon audience and probably bump up her income quite a bit. I’m not talking about replacing traditional with indie. More a hybrid model to exploit the following.

      Of course so far I’ve been told that she shouldn’t *have* to do that. She should just be rewarded for what she’s done so far.

      I do appreciate her honesty though.

      • Yeah, that amount of Patreon income raised my eyebrows. I was relieved to hear her say that she didn’t think that was necessarily reliable.

        I also can’t imagine that with that kind of following she couldn’t make a substantial amount of money through self-publishing. She’ll probably know that better than me. But to dismiss self-publishing as a way to make money because she doesn’t take it seriously and doesn’t make much money? She has to be smarter than that. She didn’t make that much traditionally publishing without being able to do hard work.

  3. I’m not surprised she sells few books online. I’m surprised she sells any.

    I visited her website, where she has an introductory video. It opens with her with a drink in one hand and a claim that she isn’t drunk. That claim isn’t well supported by what follows: mentions of her books with the F-word added to each title. It’s downhill from there.

    She comes across as foul-mouthed and self-obsessed. I can’t imagine anyone watching this video saying, “What a fascinating person! I have to read her books.”

    It’s not surprising that her account of her finances is whiny.

    • Okay, you got me to go to her website. Didn’t see the video. But, “Intellectual Badass” is a boast begging for Nemesis. It’s not something one should say of oneself. Let other people say it about you 😛 So I can see her as off-putting.

      However, I do wholly approve of her having a press kit, where she has an easy-to-find bio, and hi-res images of her book covers and herself. That makes her very easy to promote, media-wise, not to mention easily-linked excerpts. She makes it especially easy for reporters who are in copy-paste-from-press-release mode, rather than doing actual legwork.

      ETA — Forgot to finish my thought — being easy to promote could help with sales. Can’t hurt. I haven’t read her books, so I can’t comment on whether there’s any “there” there.

    • I went to the site too, and I couldn’t find the video either. She apparently writes this column every year, with about the same complaints. She’s trad-pubbed in various ways, latest book with S&S.

      She’s one of those that go to the conventions and win a few of the awards, and if you look at the books you can sort of see why.


    • I’ve seen her on a fair number of panels at conventions where she can be interesting. However, she still comes across as very self-obsessed. Her con fans do not do her any favors as they seem to be more interested in her being the “right kind” of author than in her storytelling.

      I have heard good things about her storytelling from other readers than her con fans though.

    • Karl her foul mouth and unladylike behavior is her schtick. Nonconformity with the patriarchal norms that control the behavior of women.

      The reaction you have is the exact reaction she’s going for. She’s appealing to the malcontents. Punk rock. Damn the man. You know the drill.

      I find it boring and desperate but I guess i’m old and curmudgeony.

      EDIT: Hahah. Hurley and I are the same age.

      • Thing is, there’s nothing unique about that schtick anymore. Everyone under the age of 40 swears like a sailor these days, especially feminists.

        If you’re going to swear, at least be creative like a Marine.

        • Ashe Elton Parker

          As a former Sailor, who knew quite a number of Marines at one time, I think I can say with confidence that Marines are no more creative in their swearing than Sailors are. 😛

          I have known, however, one civilian man who comes up with some of the most creative clean (and often amusing) phrases when he’s frustrated. I seem to recall “goat-roping son of a worm” as one of them. So, yes, they tend to be nonsense, but I really wish I’d paid more attention to his colorful curses, because they’re much more fun to hear (and say) than the standard dirty words. LOL

  4. Jim C. Hines also publishes his income.


    I just want to know if PG got some moon eclipse pictures. 🙂

  5. Does anyone know why she’s getting so much from Patreon? What is the motivation for fans to give her money instead of simply buying her books?

    Most people I know who do well on Patreon are putting out regular content on youtube, podcast, etc. This person has a podcast but it’s newish and irregular. She doesn’t post regularly on her blog site either.

    Not slamming her, just wondering what she’s providing that attracts so much in donations.

    EDIT: Is it the political angle? The ‘geek feminist’ thing?

    • Gah. Nevermind.

      She regularly gives out short stories as the main draw. That makes sense.

      Carry on.

      • Imagine if she actually launched an indie novel to her Patreon audience. Missed opportunity, anyone?

      • Also, she is kind of a “cause” author. A number of fans appear to be making an affinity play by supporting her if her con fans comments are reflective of others.

        • Yeah, she’s monetized the political angle. Playing the identity politics game.

          I’m not hating, just saying, that’s how her Patreon is so hot. Plus the regular short stories.

          I find people that do well on Patreon are putting out somethign very regular like that. Usually podcasts, youtube vids, etc…

          • The right politics will get you a lot of love, attention, and money in SF/F.

            Oh, and license to behave however you want.

            • Yeah, I noticed that a bit when reading about the puppies thing at the Hugos. Politics can up your status.

              I decided then to stay mostly off of social media. I have a complex political standpoint that’s neither right nor left, and tend to tell people what I think in very assertive terms. You know, terms like ‘moron’ and ‘unthinking baboon’.


  6. I used to think that there was nothing wrong with discussing writing income and sales figures, and even now, I’m still grateful to those people who do in order to help new indi authors.
    What changed my mind was how it affected the kboards writers cafe, how successful authors started to get one star reviews and attacks from those who were less so, it really made the kboards a toxic and unpleasant place to be in.

    • I only talk about numbers in locked posts on Patreon, and even then it’s units sold, not dollars. (Though people could figure out the dollars if they looked up all my book prices and ran the numbers, of course. I figure if they want to try that hard, okay?)

      But at least now I can look at other authors’ numbers and smile a lot like I have secrets. After years of being dismissed for being an indie, that’s kind of a nice feeling. 😀

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