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View Full Version : Have you been asked about much money you make as a writer?



Perks
11-06-2015, 08:02 PM
So, over the last eighteen months, five times a stranger (or a near enough new acquaintance) has asked me financial details about the money I take in from my writing. After comparing notes with some writerly friends, a strange pattern has emerged.

This poll and thread is a bit more anecdote hunting. I'd love to hear your stories.

IN THIS POLL YOU CAN CHOOSE ALL THAT APPLY!!

Toothpaste
11-06-2015, 08:13 PM
My scenario is different because I write for kids. And so when asked questions like that it's usually by kids. So it's much easier to deflect. I either make a joke about being a gazillionaire, or I'm honest and say I'm very happy that I get to make my living writing and not having to do anything else. I haven't been asked by an adult though, and I haven't noticed anything particularly gendered about it. I am very curious though to see if there is a pattern. Do you find that women are assumed to make less than a man? Or that women get the question more often than men? I will say the very rare occasion that the conversation might come up about general funds in a group of people, people are curious if I'm able to support myself and impressed when I say I can. But these tend to be fellow artists who understand the struggles etc.

I will say I'm quite honest with my fellow writers because I think we tend to be trained that talking about money is bad form and so newbies coming into the game have no clue what to expect or what range is possible. I like being honest and professional about that because I think it's important we know the difference between what to expect at the Big 5 vs Smaller Publishers etc.

ErezMA
11-06-2015, 08:17 PM
I'm an unpublished author, so take this with a grain of salt, but...

Eggplant is the devil and I won't rest until it's eradicated from the planet.

Perks
11-06-2015, 08:33 PM
I haven't been asked by an adult though, and I haven't noticed anything particularly gendered about it. I am very curious though to see if there is a pattern. Do you find that women are assumed to make less than a man? Or that women get the question more often than men?

I didn't realize it until the fourth time (the fifth happened today) but every time, it's been a man asking me for money specifics. When I started asking writers I know, with two exceptions, it's been men asking women details about the money they make from their writing. One guy had another guy ask him, and one man had a woman ask him some very pointed money questions. I'm trying to think of a reason this would be. The more general questions of "could you live off your writing income" can be okay in an organically developing conversation, but asking a stranger to tell you about their finances seems terribly rude and inappropriate. Most writer-men I talked to had a hard time imagining anyone doing it.

So, it's interesting to me.


I will say I'm quite honest with my fellow writers because I think we tend to be trained that talking about money is bad form and so newbies coming into the game have no clue what to expect or what range is possible. I like being honest and professional about that because I think it's important we know the difference between what to expect at the Big 5 vs Smaller Publishers etc.

I don't mind talking to writers I know reasonably well about money specifics, but I don't want to talk bank balances with anyone, writer or otherwise, who I don't know.

Toothpaste
11-06-2015, 08:47 PM
Fascinating about it being mostly men. I wonder what that means. Do men ask women specifically this question, or do they generally ask that question of everyone? Is it something where generally men quantify success at work through numbers and payment, as opposed to maybe women who might consider success having to do with personal satisfaction, job well done etc.? (no idea if this is true, just wondering since woman in the past had jobs that were unpaid or not paid very well, we had to find other ways of quantifying our value)

Still seems odd in general to just ask someone how much you make. I mean, isn't that considered crazy rude?

Perks
11-06-2015, 08:52 PM
Fascinating about it being mostly men. I wonder what that means. Do men ask women specifically this question, or do they generally ask that question of everyone? Is it something where generally men quantify success at work through numbers and payment, as opposed to maybe women who might consider success having to do with personal satisfaction, job well done etc.? (no idea if this is true, just wondering since woman in the past had jobs that were unpaid or not paid very well, we had to find other ways of quantifying our value)



Yeah, this is why the poll. I'm curious.

In my sample, most male writers had never been asked. With the exception of two, it was only women who had been asked and the women had only been asked specific money questions by men. I'm not sure why this would be.

ErezMA
11-06-2015, 08:55 PM
I believe it's generally rude to just go up to someone and ask, "How much do you make?" My guess is that if the number is high enough, they can think to themselves, "I can write a book too! Pfft, how hard can it be?"

Working on a WIP for quite a while now, I know firsthand how difficult it is to publish a book, and I'm not even at the publishing stage yet, and it's tough. Writers aren't known for being rich and there are very few writers that make enough money to work full time. It's fortunate you two are able to, but it doesn't happen to everyone. I feel in order for you to have a book published, especially if you want to do it full-time, you have to be beyond passionate about being a writer.

There are a lot of jobs that are a lot more difficult than it looks - jobs that don't sound like it takes a lot to be successful - then you go into it, and you find how difficult it really is.

brainstorm77
11-06-2015, 08:57 PM
I haven't, but when friends and acquaintances have found out that I have been published quite a bit they assume that I am making tons of money from my work. I'm not. Writing has been a good second income for me, but it's nowhere near what I would need to write full-time and give up my day job that also has great benefits.

Both sexes have made this assumption. I voted Eggplant!

EMaree
11-06-2015, 09:20 PM
I'd never really thought of it before, but yeah, it's only ever men that have just bluntly asked me "How much do you make?".

I will discuss finances with my writer friends, and our offline meetups tend to skew female because of location issues. I like to be honest about it because, like Toothpaste, I think the silence about pay does a disservice to writers. But those discussions usually come long into a friendship, where we're all very comfortable talking shop with one another and know each other boundaries, and have nowhere near the gross awkwardness of just being asked it out of the blue.

(And even then, we almost never bring us hard figures unless someone offers theirs.)

NateSean
11-06-2015, 09:29 PM
I believe it's generally rude to just go up to someone and ask, "How much do you make?"

It depends on how much fiber I've take in the morning. It can be a good amount, especially if I have a full cup of coffee and a big dinner the night before.
There's a reason I don't have many friends.

As to the question, it hasn't come up much. But John was obsessed with how few sales I was getting in the first effing week of publication, and I've had to remind him a few times that I didn't get into the business expecting to strike it rich overnight.

Perks
11-06-2015, 09:32 PM
As to the question, it hasn't come up much. But John was obsessed with how few sales I was getting in the first effing week of publication, and I've had to remind him a few times that I didn't get into the business expecting to strike it rich overnight.
Who's John?

ironmikezero
11-06-2015, 09:33 PM
Other than my accountant, no one asks. I don't encourage any such an invasive inquiry and shut it down with a firm "Sorry, you're not cleared for that information" and, of course, a smile. If that ends the conversation, so be it.

aruna
11-06-2015, 09:38 PM
No one ever asked me. Guess it's eggplant all the way down.

nighttimer
11-06-2015, 09:46 PM
Unless you're an IRS agent or my accountant, nobody needs to know how much $$$ I make from writing.

Depending upon my mood if someone is impertinent enough to ask, "Hey, how much money do ya make with that writin' stuff?" my response will be either "Not nearly enough" or "Nunya" as in "none of ya business".

Writing is the only profession where no one considers you ridiculous if you earn no money.

Jules Renard

NateSean
11-06-2015, 09:55 PM
Who's John?

At times he can be someone I love very much. Other times he can be like a little bug that doesn't buzz so much as it gnaws on my inner ear. He projects his personal views onto the situation and is surprised when they don't work out exactly as he had them planned in his head.

So in the beginning, when it came to things like book sales, he could be very zealous in trying to get me "noticed" by everyone on his e-mail list.

Perks
11-06-2015, 10:00 PM
At times he can be someone I love very much. Other times he can be like a little bug that doesn't buzz so much as it gnaws on my inner ear. He projects his personal views onto the situation and is surprised when they don't work out exactly as he had them planned in his head.

So in the beginning, when it came to things like book sales, he could be very zealous in trying to get me "noticed" by everyone on his e-mail list.

Well, that clears that right up.

Jamesaritchie
11-06-2015, 10:57 PM
I haven't known many who didn't ask in some way, at some time. If they don't ask directly, they still find ways to try to get me to tell them.

I don't mind. It's a natural question, and an important one for many of them. Even when it's just a nosy old fart, I don't care. Money is how most value the worth of anything, and I don't mind this, either. It's largely true, especially in the business world, and the monet you try to sell your writing, you're in business.

It may be that writers don't notice, but people ask this same question about every activity and occupation. I would, too, if I had any thoughts at all about entering that occupation.

This doesn't mean we have to tell the, and there's nothing wrong with a polite, "I don't tell anyone that", or even a nice, "It's really none of your business".

My answer changes depending on who is asking. I rarely say exactly, but if it's someone who isn't making much money, who has that desperate look, who prays every day for a chance, I give them a pretty fair estimate, and talk to them about what it takes to be a writer.

If it's someone who just wants to make certain that a writer can't possibly make as much as he does, I wait until he swallows a couple of antacids, and the play along. I'll often say something like, "Oh, I don't take money for my writing. I think big business and capitalism are the root of all evil, and those overpaid thieves who get rich of the backs of the poor should all be shot because they're just minions of the devil. Whatever money I do make is split between Communists of America, and Kill The Rich Demons, Inc. Not a penny of the filthy stuff reaches my bank account."

Really, I can't believe more of you don't have people ask. It really does seem that everyone I meet asks sooner or later. They not only want to know how much I make per year, but how much I made off every little article, short story, or recipe I've sold.

I really do understand why people ask, and it very rarely bothers me. It's not a national secret, and it's not like they're asking something with an answer that would embarrass me. I know what it's like to be dirt poor, and what it's like working your butt off on a dead end job. Far more often than not, something like this is behind the question.

Jamesaritchie
11-06-2015, 11:02 PM
I believe it's generally rude to just go up to someone and ask, "How much do you make?" My guess is that if the number is high enough, they can think to themselves, "I can write a book too! Pfft, how hard can it be?"

.

I'm long out of the scene, but I'm told there are many dating bars now when women ask a man how much he makes before they sit down and have a drink.

As for the book, that may be what they're thinking, and they may be right. Quite a few writers have made multimillionaire status on the basis of a first book, and one that was written quickly. If they read a lot, and have talent, there's no reason they can't jump to the front of the line.

aruna
11-06-2015, 11:05 PM
I really wouldn't mind if someone asked, and in fact someone DID ask right here on AW, on my publisher's thread, and I told them (so, after all, it wasn't eggplant -- but I don't remember if it was male or female). I don't mind at all. It's just that when everyone else is so secretive it feels a bit odd.
My publisher has a private Facebook group and there's a clique of them (us) who are making shitloads. We just had royalty time and that group was all jumping around for joy, but nobody said... I am actually very curious! I wish we could just all talk openly about it.
Why is money so sacred? It isn't to me.

Toothpaste
11-06-2015, 11:28 PM
I don't think money is sacred, but enough people have been burned by the judgment of others that they think it best to keep quiet on the subject. I'd happily discuss all the nitty gritty details openly with complete strangers even because I find it fascinating and I like talking math and numbers. But I'm no fool. People get envious. People decide your value based on your monetary status alone. And I don't have time for that.

aruna
11-06-2015, 11:34 PM
Very true. I have never judged people on their "net worth" (I loathe that expression!) so maybe that's why I don't care so much-

thethinker42
11-06-2015, 11:37 PM
I get asked all the time, especially once people realize I do this full time. If it's another writer who's looking for information (i.e., someone publishing within my genre who is wondering how likely they are to go full time), I'll be candid and honest. If it's someone who's got that "I already know the answer, which is that you make diddly squat" smirk on their face, I'll also be candid for no other reason than to watch that smirk fall off and to listen to their balls jumping up into their abdomen.

In most other situations, I just body swerve the question, because hello rude. >.< Some people.

thethinker42
11-06-2015, 11:41 PM
I don't think money is sacred, but enough people have been burned by the judgment of others that they think it best to keep quiet on the subject. I'd happily discuss all the nitty gritty details openly with complete strangers even because I find it fascinating and I like talking math and numbers. But I'm no fool. People get envious. People decide your value based on your monetary status alone. And I don't have time for that.

I agree. And it's such crap, but enough to make me keep mum about how much I make unless I have a reason to disclose it. Also, it's just plain none of anyone's business unless their finances are tied to mine (i.e., my husband) or they're asking for business reasons (i.e., other writers).

jjdebenedictis
11-07-2015, 12:39 AM
I wonder if men have potentially been socialized to care more about money? They've been the traditional bread-winners for a lot of generations, and that probably makes money more of a point of stress for them. Likewise, women may potentially be socialized to care more about not tripping over social etiquette rules like "It's rude to talk about money", even when it's to their benefit to do so.

Personally, I think the etiquette rule about not talking about money exists to keep blowhards from crowing about how rich they are, which is universally obnoxious. Unfortunately, it's got the unfortunate side effect of making people feel unable to ask, "Is that guy being paid more than me for doing the same work?", which could help empower them if they did ask.

thethinker42
11-07-2015, 01:21 AM
I wonder if men have potentially been socialized to care more about money? They've been the traditional bread-winners for a lot of generations, and that probably makes money more of a point of stress for them. Likewise, women may potentially be socialized to care more about not tripping over social etiquette rules like "It's rude to talk about money", even when it's to their benefit to do so.

Personally, I think the etiquette rule about not talking about money exists to keep blowhards from crowing about how rich they are, which is universally obnoxious. Unfortunately, it's got the unfortunate side effect of making people feel unable to ask, "Is that guy being paid more than me for doing the same work?", which could help empower them if they did ask.

Those are definitely possibilities.

Incidentally, when I have been candid about my income, it's the women who tell me I should "be careful" (whatever that means) because out-earning my husband is emasculating. That I should make him feel like he's still the breadwinner so he doesn't feel inadequate. Or something? It's weird.

Viridian
11-07-2015, 01:42 AM
Incidentally, when I have been candid about my income, it's the women who tell me I should "be careful" (whatever that means) because out-earning my husband is emasculating. That I should make him feel like he's still the breadwinner so he doesn't feel inadequate. Or something? It's weird.
My gosh. How do you even respond to that kind of insanity?

(I need to know. You know, for when I'm rich.)

Maryn
11-07-2015, 01:47 AM
I would not presume to answer for thethinker42, but my answer would be something inappropriate for a polite thread such as this, noting how terribly well endowed with big brass manly manliness my husband is.

Viridian
11-07-2015, 01:53 AM
I would not presume to answer for thethinker42, but my answer would be something inappropriate for a polite thread such as this, noting how terribly well endowed with big brass manly manliness my husband is.
I bet that could get you out of pretty much any conversation.

thethinker42
11-07-2015, 02:00 AM
My gosh. How do you even respond to that kind of insanity?

(I need to know. You know, for when I'm rich.)

I generally tell them that I would never have married a man who was threatened by something as ridiculous as my income, and that if he does have a problem with it, he's welcome to leave and go find a woman with a smaller paycheck.

If he's within earshot, he usually pipes up with, "No way, man. Then I'd have to buy my OWN Legos."

thethinker42
11-07-2015, 02:02 AM
I would not presume to answer for thethinker42, but my answer would be something inappropriate for a polite thread such as this, noting how terribly well endowed with big brass manly manliness my husband is.

I did mention something along those lines when someone gave me hell for buying him a particularly expensive watch one year. Apparently there is something horrendously emasculating about getting something like that from your wife. I informed the person that my husband's genitalia is sufficient to compensate for the horror of being given shiny things.

MaryMumsy
11-07-2015, 02:02 AM
Incidentally, when I have been candid about my income, it's the women who tell me I should "be careful" (whatever that means) because out-earning my husband is emasculating. That I should make him feel like he's still the breadwinner so he doesn't feel inadequate. Or something? It's weird.

I had to laugh at that one. I started my own business in 1981. In 1988 my husband asked me if I was making enough money for him to quit his job. It paid decently, had good benefits, but changes were on the horizon that could have made things unpleasant. I ran the numbers. Told him I needed six more months of his salary, and that he would have to take over the part time clerical position I was paying (my clerical person was going to leave for grad school anyway). He quit his job in 1989, we never looked back, and it didn't seem to bother him that I was the *only* breadwinner.

I know a few couples where the wife makes more (sometimes significantly more) than the husband. It has never seemed to bother any of them either.

MM

thethinker42
11-07-2015, 02:04 AM
I had to laugh at that one. I started my own business in 1981. In 1988 my husband asked me if I was making enough money for him to quit his job. It paid decently, had good benefits, but changes were on the horizon that could have made things unpleasant. I ran the numbers. Told him I needed six more months of his salary, and that he would have to take over the part time clerical position I was paying (my clerical person was going to leave for grad school anyway). He quit his job in 1989, we never looked back, and it didn't seem to bother him that I was the *only* breadwinner.

I know a few couples where the wife makes more (sometimes significantly more) than the husband. It has never seemed to bother any of them either.

MM

Right? I don't get why it's such an issue. I actually know someone whose marriage ended over it. (Seriously!) Mine is totally not bothered. I mean, when people ask what he's going to do when he retires from the military, he tells them he's going to be a kept husband. (Spoiler alert: The hell he is)

ErezMA
11-07-2015, 02:08 AM
I'm long out of the scene, but I'm told there are many dating bars now when women ask a man how much he makes before they sit down and have a drink.
It's been about three years since I was in the dating scene, but from my experience, I've been asked what I did for a living. I was never asked how much we made. It was seen as a taboo question. Usually, when you know what someone does, you can estimate a good range of how much they make. (Writing is an exception, but at the time, writing was just a hobby. It was something I loved to do, but never devoted myself too.)

Perks
11-07-2015, 02:18 AM
Incidentally, when I have been candid about my income, it's the women who tell me I should "be careful" (whatever that means) because out-earning my husband is emasculating. That's astonishing. I've heard many stupid things in my time, but I'm not sure anyone has ever said anything that ridiculous to me. I so hope they never do.

thethinker42
11-07-2015, 03:03 AM
That's astonishing. I've heard many stupid things in my time, but I'm not sure anyone has ever said anything that ridiculous to me. I so hope they never do.

I've mostly heard it from other military wives. I don't know if that means anything, but there you go.

Tazlima
11-07-2015, 03:11 AM
I can think of several broad situations wherein people will be curious to the point of being nosy.

1) When something is ambiguous:

- Is that woman pregant or just chubby?
- Is that new neighbor male or female?

2) When confronted with a stereotype that they know is a stereotype wonder how it stacks up to reality:

- Did that veteran acquantance ever kill anybody?
- Is it true that men in kilts don't wear underwear?
- Insert other stereotype here.

3) Medical (or potentially medical) anything.

- How did that guy in the wheelchair lose his legs?
- Why doesn't the couple next door have any children?


There may be more, but I'm short on time.

It's not polite to ask these kinds of questions but, of course, not everybody is polite. I suppose writing income falls into both categories 1 & 2. It's certainly ambiguous; an author can make anything from $0 to Rowling money. Additionally, there are not only stereotypes to compare it to, but conflicting stereotypes. Again Rowling comes to mind; there's the potential to make millions. However, there's also the "starving artist" cliche.

I'm curious about something else though. Who's been asked about their non-writing income? Are writers asked more frequently than people in other professions? So far, it certainly appears that way; I, for one, don't recall ever being asked about my income in any job I've had. However, I don't know if my experience is a typical one or not, and I've yet to reach a point where I can call myself an author.

Perks
11-07-2015, 03:16 AM
I'm curious about something else though. Who's been asked about their non-writing income? Are writers asked more frequently than people in other professions? I've never been asked by a stranger (or really, anyone, now that I think about it) what I made at other jobs.

thethinker42
11-07-2015, 03:21 AM
I've never been asked by a stranger (or really, anyone, now that I think about it) what I made at other jobs.

Ditto.

ErezMA
11-07-2015, 03:23 AM
I've never been asked by a stranger (or really, anyone, now that I think about it) what I made at other jobs.

I have. With almost every job I've had, I've either been asked how I've made (at least my family) and if they don't want to be nosy, they ask if I get paid well or not.

Different people have different levels of nosiness.

Viridian
11-07-2015, 03:45 AM
I think we (as human beings) tend to judge people based on their level of success in life.

Like, for example, being a doctor requires a lot of intelligence and hard work, and it makes you pretty wealthy. So people respect doctors more.

But if you tell someone a writer, you're not telling them anything about your level of success. There's no way for them to judge you. You could be untalented hack who makes chump change, or you could be J. K. Rowling. So what the person wants to know is... like, what to think of you.

Helix
11-07-2015, 03:57 AM
Warning: Non-writing related anecdotes follow. May include traces of exasperation.

Twice I've had people (men -- one a next door neighbour, the other employed as a guest lecturer) say that I should be able to afford something because of "all the money I make". The first one wanted me to install a bore pump on my property so he and his family could use the water (yes, he thought I should pay for the pump and electricity, because he wanted to maintain his lawn). "All the money I make". Ha! He obviously hadn't noticed the little fibro-cement long-drop of a house I was living in.

The other had extrapolated from the hourly rate he was paid as a guest lecturer to my annual salary. His hourly rate was four times mine. Oh, how I wish I had been on that money.

Namatu
11-08-2015, 05:05 AM
As an unpublished writer, I'm naturally curious about what published writers receive as an advance. But I would never ask. Nobody asks me what I make as an editor, even others within publishing. It's just not done, for all the reasons one can imagine for not doing it.

Jamesaritchie
11-08-2015, 05:54 AM
I wonder if men have potentially been socialized to care more about money? They've been the traditional bread-winners for a lot of generations, and that probably makes money more of a point of stress for them. Likewise, women may potentially be socialized to care more about not tripping over social etiquette rules like "It's rude to talk about money", even when it's to their benefit to do so.

Personally, I think the etiquette rule about not talking about money exists to keep blowhards from crowing about how rich they are, which is universally obnoxious. Unfortunately, it's got the unfortunate side effect of making people feel unable to ask, "Is that guy being paid more than me for doing the same work?", which could help empower them if they did ask.

I find women to be far more money conscious than men. Probably by a factor of ten. Men talk about how much something costs. Women tale about how much money you make or have. This is basic human nature.

There is no etiquette where talking about money is concerned. Almost anyone who makes a lot of money talks about it often. You can talk about how much you make, how much you have, anytime. The etiquette is only about asking the other person how much the person you're talking to makes.

Jamesaritchie
11-08-2015, 05:56 AM
As an unpublished writer, I'm naturally curious about what published writers receive as an advance. But I would never ask. Nobody asks me what I make as an editor, even others within publishing. It's just not done, for all the reasons one can imagine for not doing it.

I can't really imagine any reason, other than the most common, which is one of you is making more than the other for the same work. From small company to large corporation, the higher up actively discourage employees for talk about, or asking about, how much money others make because they do not pay everyone the same money for the same job.

Jamesaritchie
11-08-2015, 06:07 AM
I know one writer who always answers, "How much money do you make" the same way. 'More than you do". There's almost never any doubt at all that he's right.

One problem with being a writer is that no one has a clue how much we make. Not a hint. With almost all common professions and jobs, we have a fairly solid and accurate idea of how much the person makes. If you don't know, you ask, and I've never seen anyone talked offense. They figure you're looking for a better job, and want to know how much this one pays, just like they probably did when they were looking for a job. The simple fact is that what a mailman makes is not a secret, but a person may not know, so they ask. And they almost always get an answer without any offense being taken. I've never heard anyone in a common job say, or act, like it was no one's business how much they made.

This isn't true with writers.

Those who call themselves writers make earn nothing, or may earn tens of millions of dollars every year. People want to know for all sorts of reasons. My experience is that the ones making fairly little are usually the ones who take offense.

I never really saw the point of hiding income. People act like they're asking if you have syphilis. More often than not, we, as writers, do earn the wealth equivalent of an STD, so we yell, "None of your business", and never talk to that person again.

Beachgirl
11-09-2015, 03:59 AM
I've been asked by both men and women how much I make as a writer, but more men have asked by probably 2:1. I generally give a vague answer, instead of the "none of your damn business" answer I'd really like to give.

I don't mind talking income with other authors, but I'm a little sensitive to being asked by non-writerly folks. I'm a high-level employee for a local government and my salary is public record. Seriously, it was in the newspaper last week, right down to the penny, including how much my last raise was. It's just so freaking awesome when all your friends, neighbors, co-workers, hair stylist, mail carrier, pizza delivery guy... know exactly how much you make.

Oh, and I'm also in the camp of women who make significantly more than my husband. It's never bothered him. When people have (jokingly) asked him if he married me for the money, he just smiles and says "no, I married her for the sex." :e2brows:

Cathy C
11-09-2015, 04:21 AM
I've been asked dozens of times, if not more. Nearly always it was women asking. I can't remember a man (that I actually KNEW was a man--versus screen names that are genderless) ever asking.

I answer. It doesn't bother me in the least, because for a lot of people, it's how they keep score. I don't keep score, so the number is immaterial to me. :Shrug:

RKarina
11-09-2015, 04:25 AM
It's interesting to me the way the questions have changed based on so many other factors.

When I was working another job, making extra income writing, I'd hear - "Are you hoping to make enough at writing to quit your real job?" (um... I'm writing for a newspaper. Hello?)

When I started working as an editor, and was writing regular pieces for our magazines, I didn't get that kind of question. I did hear how I should "be careful" about earning more than my (now ex) husband. For the record, it did cause problems with him.

When I decided I'd had enough of being in charge and took a job as a copywriter, I heard - "isn't it nice that you can make a living as a writer?" (I'm copywriting. Not writing a novel here.)

When I decided to go strictly freelance, I heard - "oh aren't you so lucky that your husband can support you in that decision?" (yes, I am, but that's beside the point) And a lot of "Wow, you can make a living doing that?" and "So how much do you make doing that?" And more than a few "Well, you can't make a living doing that."

My answers depend on the person, my relationship to them, and their apparent reasons for asking.
Someone looking to do this for a living will get candid answers - it may not include dollar amounts, but it will be brutally honest about the level of work involved.
Pretty much anyone else gets told some version of "oh, enough to keep me doing it."

wonderactivist
11-09-2015, 05:16 AM
Ask a ridiculous question, get a ridiculous answer. I have only been asked this by males so find the poll quite interesting.

And I agree. It's because they think writing must be easy.

PEBKAC
11-09-2015, 09:15 AM
I'm not a professional writer, so nobody would ask me how much I make writing. But I've had people ask me how much I make at pretty much every job I've had in my life.

Old Hack
11-09-2015, 01:55 PM
I've been asked many times how much money I make at writing and editing, and I've not been aware of any gender split in the people asking me that. Which isn't to say there isn't one, just that I've not observed one.

What I find interesting is that I'm often told how much money I make: I hear "You writers are rolling in it," or, "You'll not have any problems buying that from your earnings,"; and often I get told what to do with my earnings: "You'll be able to buy yourself a nice treat now," or, "I hope you're going to put some of that advance into a savings account." And almost always, when I am told how much I make, or told what I should do with my money, I find it is a man saying those things.

Kylabelle
11-09-2015, 02:01 PM
Damned eggplant.

Hey, Old Hack, nice to see you here.

Kylabelle
11-09-2015, 02:24 PM
What I find most interesting is how varied the responses are in this thread. No pattern emerges, as far as who asks whom what, that I can see.

Having rarely made money from writing, I haven't encountered such questions. In fact, I don't remember anyone ever asking me how much I made at anything. I am sure it must have happened at some point because it is a natural question, bar the quite varied level of social taboo, but it sure wasn't memorable at all.

In my family when I was growing up, it was considered very rude to inquire of anyone about money or to share information about your own resources. This clearly stemmed from a strong sense of social class and, on my parents' parts, the wish not to be perceived as poor (which we pretty much were.) I never felt easy about this secrecy and tend to be quite open about money, even though there is a remaining undercurrent of risk due to that early conditioning -- "you shouldn't be telling/asking that!"

thethinker42
11-09-2015, 02:39 PM
What I find interesting is that I'm often told how much money I make: I hear "You writers are rolling in it," or, "You'll not have any problems buying that from your earnings,"; and often I get told what to do with my earnings: "You'll be able to buy yourself a nice treat now," or, "I hope you're going to put some of that advance into a savings account." And almost always, when I am told how much I make, or told what I should do with my money, I find it is a man saying those things.

Interesting. When people make assumptions about my income, it's usually the opposite. They assume since they haven't seen me on TV or my name in lights at Barnes & Noble, I'm obviously not doing that well. "Nobody really makes money writing [especially romance, ebooks, gay stuff, etc]."

I practically have to show those people my tax bill to get the point across that, yes, some of us do make a living, even when we're writing "that silly romance stuff."

And then we get into all the nonsense about emasculating my husband, and I consider taking up drinking.

Perks
11-09-2015, 04:25 PM
What I find most interesting is how varied the responses are in this thread. No pattern emerges, as far as who asks whom what, that I can see.



I'm pleased with that. My own experience was small and the sampling of writers I was able to talk to was small-ish, so it's better to have more input.

Now, it could just be that there are more women here on AW, or more women here responding in this thread, but the poll, as it stands now, would indicate that women are asked to reveal their money situations much more often than men. That's kind of interesting, too. Could be that women are seen as more open, or maybe it's that women are considered less intimidating when offended, so that it's worth the risk if you really want to ask the question.

Old Hack
11-09-2015, 05:43 PM
Interesting. When people make assumptions about my income, it's usually the opposite. They assume since they haven't seen me on TV or my name in lights at Barnes & Noble, I'm obviously not doing that well. "Nobody really makes money writing [especially romance, ebooks, gay stuff, etc]."

I practically have to show those people my tax bill to get the point across that, yes, some of us do make a living, even when we're writing "that silly romance stuff."

I'm in the UK, where a very common perception is that all writers earn about the same as J K Rowling.


And then we get into all the nonsense about emasculating my husband, and I consider taking up drinking.

During an "all writers are wealthy" conversation I had only a couple of weeks ago, I was told that I was very lucky my husband lets me write. Dear god.

thethinker42
11-09-2015, 05:48 PM
I'm in the UK, where a very common perception is that all writers earn about the same as J K Rowling.

In the US, I think the perception is more "Well, you're obviously not JK/Stephen King/EL James/Stephenie Meyer/etc, so you must be one of those starving artists." Or something. I guess.


During an "all writers are wealthy" conversation I had only a couple of weeks ago, I was told that I was very lucky my husband lets me write. Dear god.

Whut. Ugh. >.< I've occasionally had "Oh, you do this full-time? That must be awesome having a husband who covers all the bills so you can live your dream."

What's really weird was when I was on a panel at a con a few years ago, and a question was asked about supportive spouses. So I was explaining that I do owe much of my career to my husband, because he supported me while I was getting it off the ground. I mentioned that it was a struggle for both of us during that time, but it paid off because I now make 3-4 times what he does. And another author in the audience raised his hand and said "But whose job provides the health insurance?" I said, "His. He's in the military." The author then gave me a smug grin and said, "Exactly. So technically he's still the breadwinner."

And I just...have no idea what to make of that. Like, I was expressing how grateful I was for my husband's support, and that I wouldn't be where I am without him, and someone still had to put me in my place and remind me that my husband is the provider. IDK. I give up.

ap123
11-09-2015, 05:53 PM
During an "all writers are wealthy" conversation I had only a couple of weeks ago, I was told that I was very lucky my husband lets me write. Dear god.

I hope you assured them of the qualifier to this luck--provided the martini is chilled and the meatloaf is hot. :sarcasm

kennyc
11-09-2015, 06:02 PM
So, over the last eighteen months, five times a stranger (or a near enough new acquaintance) has asked me financial details about the money I take in from my writing. After comparing notes with some writerly friends, a strange pattern has emerged.

This poll and thread is a bit more anecdote hunting. I'd love to hear your stories.

IN THIS POLL YOU CAN CHOOSE ALL THAT APPLY!!

No but I usually offer up that I certainly can't make a living as a poet and short story writer.

Tazlima
11-09-2015, 08:28 PM
In my family when I was growing up, it was considered very rude to inquire of anyone about money or to share information about your own resources...

Ditto, to the point that I've never even known how much my own parents made. Growing up, I asked a couple of times, and their response was always the same, "Enough to buy the things we need."

We were pretty squarely middle class when I was a kid, but both my parents had gone through some extremes of poverty during their pre-parent lives. I wonder if that's part of what spurred the secrecy. As an adult, I went through some broke years of my own, and I made it a point never to discuss money. My friends would invite me out for coffee or something and I'd always decline because I was "busy that day." The truth was that I simply couldn't afford it, but I'd never say so because 1) it was embarrassing, and 2) they might have offered to spot me, which would be worse than not going because I had no way of repaying the favor.

Some of those ingrained habits you develop during hard times are nigh-impossible to break, regardless of later circumstances.

Fruitbat
11-10-2015, 01:58 AM
The nosey money questions I've gotten were more indirect. All that I can recall were from other women. But then I talk to more women than men. I felt like what they were getting at was seeing if I was putting on airs and trying to claim a position of undeserved status, lol. So I started saying upfront that I was mostly a hobby writer (which is true at this point. I can treat DH to a couple of dinners out per month but that's about it).

The questions that annoy me the most are any that try to insert themselves between DH and me. Even when we were young and broke and fought all the time, we didn't fight about money. It would be different if one of us was complaining, because that would be to some extent inviting them in. It makes me feel the same as if they asked who did what in bed, then delivered a critique.

The annoying nosey money questions have mostly been from the women who seem competitive with other women, whereas the competitive men I've known seem like they do it with other men, so I'd be sort of out of the line of fire with them. I don't recall any of the male patronizing stuff. Maybe it will be different if I achieve a higher level of financial success. Also, I wonder if they do that more with single women.

When I see that "positioning" thing, it rules someone out as a potential friend to me. If they think you're one-down with them they're snobs, and if they think you're one-up they take jabs. It's just not someone who will have your back. That's what some of these posts have reminded me of.

Some people always have something to say.

When we lived together and he was out of work but I worked, a couple of people (women) let me know I was just being used for sex and my minimum wage salary.

Later, when he worked and I stayed home with our kids, I was apparently spoiled and "spending his money."

When the kids got older and we both worked, I was selfish and putting material things above my kids.

When the kids were grown and he worked but I didn't, I was spoiled again. But that time it was true so what could I say, except "woo hoo!"

Now I guess we're both retired and nobody says anything.

Ken
11-10-2015, 04:32 PM
No. An issue of tact, more or less. No one asks how much you make, whether it be about you as a writer or you as a rocket scientist or you as a botanist, etc. It is simply bad manners to make such an inquiry, at least around these parts. Strangers are another animal, altogether. They can be quite rude and ask all sorts of intrusive questions. Income being one of them. Best to tell them to mind their own business, unless there's some sincere interest. (Wanting to be writers, themselves, and curious about the money to be made.) Then wrap an arm about them, escort them to a quite nook, and enlighten them ... with a dram of whiskey as a bracer.

ccarver30
11-10-2015, 06:05 PM
I made $17 last month. LOL I make around $100 a year.

MarkEsq
11-10-2015, 06:07 PM
I've never been asked directly how much I make, but people do ask about sales. I don't mind, either, because it's always seemed to come from a place of curiosity rather than nosiness.

I would say that more men than women have asked, though, of that I'm confident. If I don't want to say, then I just tell them it's hard to know about sales in real time, publishing is opaque, blah blah. If I'm feeling showy offy, I tell them about the bidding war in Italy for The Bookseller, and then I usually feel like a plonker and tell them about the $800 I dragged out of Bulgaria for the same book. Again, I feel like if I was in their shoes I'd be equally curious and want to know and since I'm a pretty open person I think people get that vibe from me and ask.

kennyc
11-10-2015, 06:12 PM
I made $17 last month. LOL I make around $100 a year.
:hooray:

wonderactivist
11-10-2015, 06:39 PM
During an "all writers are wealthy" conversation I had only a couple of weeks ago, I was told that I was very lucky my husband lets me write. Dear god.

Old Hack, I was told that several times during my first book tour. It cracked me up. I now respond, "Well he's just lucky I allow him to play guitar."

So ridiculous.

Lucie

PS: When I was in the UK, people seemed to assume I was rich with oil money—since I'm from Texas. Funny thing, I inherited a stake in an oilfield and make about $36 a year off of it. No zeros attached.

Tottie Scone
11-11-2015, 05:47 PM
This may be a cultural thing. I'm gobsmacked at the idea of people coming up to me and asking how much I earn. I would never ask someone this. I don't even know what my brothers earn. I don't know what my parents earn. You would no sooner ask someone that than ask the colour of their underwear, it's that rude. If I wanted to know the average wage in a certain field, I'd Google it or look at job adverts. I sure as heckity heck wouldn't ask someone "what do you earn?"

I think that's the case in the UK generally, though I'm not sure about that, it may just be a Scottish thing, or perhaps just my particular subculture or social circle. But none of my friends has ever asked me anything like that. When I ran a company, people who understood figures might ask me the turnover, for curiosity's sake, but they'd never ask me what I was taking home.

PeteMC
11-11-2015, 05:53 PM
I'm in the UK, where a very common perception is that all writers earn about the same as J K Rowling.


Exactly this. I've had several of the guys at work simply assume I'll be quitting now that I'm published because I'm obviously earning a fortune. Oh if only...!

PeteMC
11-11-2015, 05:55 PM
Now, it could just be that there are more women here on AW

It's not always easy to tell but I do get the impression there are more women than men on here, certainly on the sub-boards I tend to frequent anyway.

noirdood
12-26-2015, 10:47 PM
Naw, but they do ask "is there any money in writing?" I ask if there is any money in real estate? Some people make mountains of gold but most people who go into real estate don't make a dime and there are folks in between. Same as writing, photography, painting, music and poetry. Well, scratch the last one.
A worse question is, hearing you wrote a book or a play, "have I ever heard of it?" I say, tell me the names of all the books/plays you read/saw and I'll tell you if I wrote it. Their list is most likely very short.