Darlings. Pending resubmissions, my diploma is finished, and I am trying to remember how to be human again. It was going well until I did a Covid test this afternoon. I don’t have Covid, but I did sneeze out most of my brain while I was swabbing. What a word, swabbing. Anyway, onto business: I promised (well, threatened) to start doing income round ups, because most people don’t really know a) what self employment or freelancing or executive producing books looks like, or b) how well those things pay. I also want to be transparent with my readers. Not transparent enough to tell you what I spend my money on, but open about the realities of Author Life. Money is very much still a taboo in western culture, and it shouldn’t be. Do we have time for me to rant about how it’s in multinational companies and landlords and politicians’ interests that we’re too polite to talk about finances, because if we knew how little people were earning we’d rise up and demand better rent control and fairer wages? No? Fiiiine.
So let’s settle in for a deep dive into my earnings! Be nosy! Be judgemental! It’s a longer post as I’m introducing different income streams and explaining why I’ve earnt X or Y amount. The next one will likely be snappier. This post is concerned with the final fiscal quarter of 2020-2021, from 6th January to 5th April 2021. I’ve been self employed my entire adult life, so the season isn’t split onto seasons, it’s split into financial quarters. Here we go.
- Book royalties: £5.59
- Income from the No. 1 Readers’ Club on Patreon: £111.44
- Income from miscellaneous writing/blog work, e.g. Kofi and PayPal one-off donations, WordAds on this blog, Amazon affiliate links*: £0
- Shop ‘royalties’: £60
- Freelance work: £99
- Total: £276.03
*Amazon affiliate links and PayPal one off donations weren’t set up until the end of April and beginning of May respectively, but I want to include everything I can possibly think of so in future I can copy-paste the list. Continuity, innit.
If you’re thinking ‘that is quite depressingly low, I am starting to understand why you live with a parent,’ then welcome to the inside of my head. My mum has been helping me out while I’m at college, and I pay my dad miniature rent, instead of full sized market-rate rent. If that wasn’t the case, I’d be living in a homeless hostel and/or would have starved to death by now. Funnily enough, if I hadn’t been a student, I’d have been eligible for universal credit, but I was so… I wasn’t.
(If you’re thinking ‘don’t students get loans to live?’ you’re thinking of university students getting maintenance loans. I enrolled in local college, on a diploma for learners aged 19-plus (aka not dependants). The diploma is considered ‘full time’ despite being about 15 hours of class time each week. You aren’t allowed universal credit if you’re a full time student, presumably because the powers that be assume you’re eligible for a maintenance loan. I learnt this the hard way when I claimed UC last September, thinking I was still eligible for support (I’d been on it since Covid, well, Covid-ed the majority of my freelance work). I had to repay September’s amount a couple of months after they cancelled my claim. It isn’t fair that adult, not-university-level learners slip through the system because we’re in the weird space between mandatory education and university (old enough to work while we study, studying so we qualify for better paid jobs and pausing or cutting down work if we feel we need to devote more time to those qualifications, ineligible for financial help even though we’ll pay more tax when we earn more down the road). Not a lot about the education system in this country strikes me as meritocratic these days, though.)
So, yeah, I made less in a quarter than most people pay in rent or on their mortgage per month. This was a particularly pitiful time to be fair, as I wasn’t really freelancing but the book royalties hadn’t trickled down yet. Good thing it was illegal to go anywhere, eh. Here’s how and why it’s worked out:
How it all works
The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes ebook was released in the previous quarter: early December 2020. There was, what, three weeks left of that quarter when it came out? I don’t know how many ebooks sold in those three weeks, because apart from Google Play (which is where that £5.59 came from), another company (We’ll call them Third Party) does all the admin for me. It’s a very slow process, because consumers can return ebooks up to 30 days after purchase, so you can’t take the money out before then, in case customers want it back. The purchase is processed by Amazon or Kobo or Apple Books, which takes their cut, and is then processed by Third Party (currency conversions are accounted for, etc). Third Party takes 20% of whatever’s left after the retailers are paid, instead of charging me a flat fee.
I don’t have access to sales figures, so I can’t do a best-guess as to what will come to me. The ebook is available on multiple platforms, which all have different systems with varying fees, and they’re often in different currencies. I might receive the December 2020 quarter royalties during the quarter we’re in now (April-June 2021). I might not.
That £5.59 from Google Play is one book sale, in case you’re wondering, and the buyer paid £7.99; Google Play’s cut is approximately 30%. The customer paid in GBP so there was no currency conversion fee. If there had been, or if Third Party had done the admin, I’d have earned about £4.50 from it.
Why do I let Third Party do all that admin when 20% is quite a lot? Well, if you’re agented, your agent takes 20% of your earnings – instead of you paying them a set fee each for each publisher they get interested in your book, or for each event they get your involved with, et cetera, they just take a cut of your earnings. It’s a good system, because a decent agent will always work in your interests to ensure you get the best deal possible. So, yeah, 20% is normal. But also, I hated setting up one book on Google Play. It took maybe half an hour from start to finish, but I don’t have time to do that with Kobo, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and all the others. I think that 20% is quite a reasonable exchange for the time I save by not doing it. It’s like having an accountant. Sure, I’d save money if I dealt with my self assessment admin myself, but I’d stress myself out worrying if I’d forgotten to declare something or was claiming too many expenses. I’m paying for the luxury of a night’s sleep.
Income from the No. 1 Readers’ Club on Patreon
I can’t remember if this was the amount I actually got as a wage or the amount I withdrew from Patreon; I usually put aside about 20% to pay for member rewards (stamps for their letters, the odd piece of merch) and writer life admin stuff (website domains, Microsoft Office, book promotion costs).
Miscellaneous writing and blog work
Here is what I made from WordAds, running on this site, from January until March this year (it won’t show me April yet as it’s still processing):
What can I say: website advert profits are pitiful unless you’ve got a gazillion views each week. WordPress only pays out ad revenue when it hits $100… I did the maths and I will be in my eighties when that happens, assuming views continue much as they have been. I told this to one of my cousins and she suggested that $100 in 60 years’ time will probably get me a Freddo. There’s a comment there somewhere about the housing market, millennials and avocado toast.
The affiliate links didn’t exist yet and I don’t seem to have the sort of audience that goes in for the ‘one off PayPal/Ko-fi/blog-button-at-the-end-of-each-post’ type thing. Feel free to prove me wrong if you’re reading this, though.
Fun fact: until this year, I never took a wage from my stationery business. Everything I made went back into the business to keep solvent. So I didn’t see a penny for about… seven years. (This is also normal, and why most people say ‘don’t quit your day job’ when you start a business.) Anyway, 2020 was surprisingly good sales-wise, because the shops were closed and everyone had to buy online. I did one event pre-Covid, so I didn’t have as many big costs as I normally would. And ta-dahh… cash flow is good. I can skim a little off the top to keep myself in smokes. Not that sixty quid buys you a lot of cigarettes these days. (I also don’t smoke.) (Do I strike you as someone who can afford to, on less than three hundred quid a quarter?) (I wish I had chosen a different expression.)
Officially, I stopped freelancing at Christmas to focus on my diploma. Unofficially, I have some lovely friends and colleagues who occasionally have me post a blog or schedule a Facebook post. That said, 70% of my earnings this quarter were what I was owed from work I did in December. Delayed gratification is very much a theme in my career. (When I say ‘unofficially’, I’m lying: everything listed here is declared earnings. I just emailed my clients and said ‘I’m off to focus on academia for a bit.’)
There you have it. It looks bad, because it is, but we were in lockdown for the entire quarter, so my outgoings after rent were essentially limited to toothpaste and shampoo. I probably could have ditched the shampoo, now I think about how few people saw my face… next quarter will be snazzier assuming I get some more royalties through – I have the paperback of The Princess and the Dragon now, too – and if those lovely colleagues are happy for me to trot over to Facebook and schedule some posts for them. I can’t wait to show you guys the non-existent WordAds revenue every quarter until either I die or reach my eighties. Ooh, now I want a Freddo.
If you found this halfway interesting, let me know! Ask questions! Get judgy in the comments section! Okay, not too judgy. I don’t bitch about your life choices to your face. Students and writers are meant to be fiscally insecure, it’s basically a rule. It does feel strange to talk about money so publicly, but I do feel like it needs to be done. Not because I want readers to feel bad for me – I chose to work in the arts and I chose to go back to school – but because not enough people talk about what those things look like in reality. I’m off to daydream about Freddos and continue my Raven Cycle reread.
Look after yourselves!
Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like (if you’d prefer, you can use PayPal or Ko-fi). If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my book, The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers and as a paperback from Amazon. (That link’s an affiliate. Gotta scrape every penny from Bezos, you know?)