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Author Topic: What do YOU need to survive as a full-time author?  (Read 6187 times)  

Offline Rick Gualtieri

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What do YOU need to survive as a full-time author?
« on: June 19, 2017, 06:03:40 AM »
There's posts for 100k, 1k, etc authors.  However, we all have unique circumstances, live in different places, and have vastly different needs. 

I live in central suburban NJ. Everything here is ... well, pretty close to ridiculously expensive.  NYC and Silicon Valley probably make it seem cheap to live here, but everywhere else ... not so much.  Assuming no second income, I'd personally say someone with a spouse & multiple kids probably needs to be a $75k/yr author to survive here as a homeowner, and I'd say you'd probably want to be a $100k author if you want to keep from twitching about bills every month (or quarter).

But that's me.

What is your situation?  What makes or breaks you. What gives you a bit of a comfort zone?


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Offline dianapersaud

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Re: What do YOU need to survive as a full-time author?
« Reply #1 on: June 19, 2017, 06:21:32 AM »
Where I live, a family of four could live on $60k if they managed their money (no eating out every night, expensive coffee on a regular basis etc.)

Our house is paid off so we could survive on much less than that. I'd be thrilled if I could land somewhere between $30k and $50k. Baby steps!

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Offline Amanda M. Lee

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Re: What do YOU need to survive as a full-time author?
« Reply #2 on: June 19, 2017, 06:27:23 AM »
My area is weird. It really does go from the ultra low to the high. If you want to live in Detroit, you can honestly get a house for like 10K. At one point they were giving them away if you were willing to fix them up. Even then there weren't a lot of takers because certain areas of the city aren't safe to live in. On the flip side, if you want to live in one of the richer communities in the suburbs, that starts at 600K for a house. I opted for one of the suburbs that's close to shopping but still a bit out of the way. My house was 350K. However, had I moved three miles down the road (that's a literal three miles) I would've had to spend 650K for the same house. There's a ton of variation in southeastern Michigan. The cost of living isn't terribly high, but we have no reliable mass transit because we're the "Motor City Capital" so you need a car.

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Offline Anarchist

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Re: What do YOU need to survive as a full-time author?
« Reply #3 on: June 19, 2017, 06:36:34 AM »
This site has cost-of-living data for various counties and major cities in the U.S.

http://livingwage.mit.edu/

Those data reflect averages, of course. But they're still interesting due to the breakdown.
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Offline Laran Mithras

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Re: What do YOU need to survive as a full-time author?
« Reply #4 on: June 19, 2017, 06:38:49 AM »
NEED: coffee, Irish Whisky, and my editor.
 

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Re: What do YOU need to survive as a full-time author?
« Reply #5 on: June 19, 2017, 06:39:20 AM »
I live in Sydney, second-most expensive city to live, after Hong Kong.

http://www.businessinsider.com/the-most-expensive-cities-to-live-in-around-the-world-in-2017-2017-1?IR=T/#2-sydney-sydney-had-a-median-multiple-of-122-9

Housing is hideously expensive, but life is hideously expensive as well. People here go on shopping trips to Singapore or LA, because they're so cheap.

That said, we have no debts and our taste is cheap LOL. I have zero inclination to sell up and move out. For one, as Kathryn mentioned on the other thread, services (including medical, but also other services) in the country areas are seriously crap.

Offline AliceS

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Re: What do YOU need to survive as a full-time author?
« Reply #6 on: June 19, 2017, 06:56:33 AM »
I live in the mountains in NC. It was a lot cheaper when I moved here 10 years ago, but it's become a hot place to retire, so of course prices have gone up. I have a part time job that just about pays the bills, so my writing income is part cushion and a smidge of gravy. If I could make a solid $30,000 from the writing, I could quite the other job. But I don't see that happening this year. But one can always dream!

(I'm single, no kids and I share expenses with my sister)


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Offline Rick Gualtieri

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Re: What do YOU need to survive as a full-time author?
« Reply #7 on: June 19, 2017, 07:00:37 AM »
I opted for one of the suburbs that's close to shopping but still a bit out of the way. My house was 350K. However, had I moved three miles down the road (that's a literal three miles) I would've had to spend 650K for the same house. There's a ton of variation in southeastern Michigan. The cost of living isn't terribly high, but we have no reliable mass transit because we're the "Motor City Capital" so you need a car.

Not too different in my area. Go a few miles north and you're adding a good $100 - $150k to the same house.


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Offline Jim Johnson

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Re: What do YOU need to survive as a full-time author?
« Reply #8 on: June 19, 2017, 07:02:42 AM »
I live in northern Virginia, in a community of 90-year old ~half-million dollar townhouses surrounded by neighborhoods of $1million+ condos ($1M+ CONDOS!?) and new townhomes priced over a million as well. Public transit is awesome (most of the time) and pretty much everything we need is within a 5-block walk or a 5 minute drive (groceries, bank, day care, restaurants, gyms, etc.--anything else we need is Amazon Prime-d). Our cars are a 14-year old Civic hybrid and a 13-year old Civic manual, and they're both paid off and refuse to die. We'll replace one of them eventually (if they ever die) and go down to a one-car family, and use something like a Zipcar or just stick with public transit.

I am fortunate enough to be at a place in my career to have a great full time job and my wife works at a gov't agency, so insurance and salary aren't issues for us. We give a lot to charity and live pretty frugally and now that we have a kidlet, are working to figure out how best to prep for his future.

Ideal situation is for me to make enough off my writing (fiction and freelance work and other irons in the fire) for one of us to quit our day job and do something else, and it's something I'm actively working toward, but it's not exactly keeping us up at night.

And I absolutely acknowledge that it's a good problem to have and likely a first world problem. Doesn't stop me from constantly learning and writing and publishing the best stories I can. I'd give it all up and write full time if I knew I didn't need to worry about insurance. All I'd need then is my Kindle, the Neo, the iMac, and an internet connection. That's about all I need to continue publishing and reading until I die.
« Last Edit: June 19, 2017, 07:08:37 AM by Jim Johnson »

Offline Lady Runa

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Re: What do YOU need to survive as a full-time author?
« Reply #9 on: June 19, 2017, 07:04:19 AM »
I live in France. At the moment, my husband and I manage on around $2,000 a month between the two of us. This is what we make with our literary translation jobs - which is the next best thing to writing, I suppose. Which is what, $25,000 a year? Mind you we're pretty frugal but a lot of French people we know earn similar wages. And if you do earn more than that, they make you pay truly draconian taxes which leave you with even less money than we earn. Having said that, medical services are virtually free here and everyone with a life-threatening condition like heart disease, cancer or type I diabetes gets 100% free treatment.

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Offline GeneDoucette

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Re: What do YOU need to survive as a full-time author?
« Reply #10 on: June 19, 2017, 07:15:25 AM »
I live in Cambridge MA. Everything is expensive, but I can also walk to more or less anything I want to buy or eat. A $500K house in the Massachusetts suburbs costs three million if you move it to Cambridge.

Offline Perry Constantine

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Re: What do YOU need to survive as a full-time author?
« Reply #11 on: June 19, 2017, 07:27:04 AM »
In Kagoshima, Japan, you can get a nice 2-3 bedroom apartment just outside the city (about 20 minutes from the downtown area by bus) for around $500 a month. Groceries aren't that expensive either, unless you're eating steak and pizza for every meal. The public health insurance is a percentage of your monthly income and when I was making around $2500 a month, that was still cheaper and more comprehensive than the cheapest, barest bones plan I've seen in America.

As far as other costs go, high-speed Internet will run you about $60 a month, utilities are generally around $100 or less for gas, electric, and water combined, and a cell phone plan would be about $70-80 a month.

I don't go out a whole lot. I've got a few close friends in the area and once every other month or so we get together, and my wife and I will go out for the occasional meal. I don't bother with cable or satellite TV at all, so you're looking at another say $20 in total for both Netflix and Hulu and that covers my entertainment needs, other than the occasional video game purchase every few months or so.

Though if all goes according to plan, I won't just be writing. I'll still be doing some freelance editing and formatting work, plus teaching literature classes part-time at a local school because though it doesn't pay a whole lot, I loved that job so much and can't wait to get back to it.

Basically, around $30K a year would allow me to live comfortably.

Offline Lady Runa

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Re: What do YOU need to survive as a full-time author?
« Reply #12 on: June 19, 2017, 07:30:59 AM »
In Kagoshima, Japan, you can get a nice 2-3 bedroom apartment just outside the city (about 20 minutes from the downtown area by bus) for around $500 a month. Groceries aren't that expensive either, unless you're eating steak and pizza for every meal. The public health insurance is a percentage of your monthly income and when I was making around $2500 a month, that was still cheaper and more comprehensive than the cheapest, barest bones plan I've seen in America.

As far as other costs go, high-speed Internet will run you about $60 a month, utilities are generally around $100 or less for gas, electric, and water combined, and a cell phone plan would be about $70-80 a month.

I don't go out a whole lot. I've got a few close friends in the area and once every other month or so we get together, and my wife and I will go out for the occasional meal. I don't bother with cable or satellite TV at all, so you're looking at another say $20 in total for both Netflix and Hulu and that covers my entertainment needs, other than the occasional video game purchase every few months or so.

Though if all goes according to plan, I won't just be writing. I'll still be doing some freelance editing and formatting work, plus teaching literature classes part-time at a local school because though it doesn't pay a whole lot, I loved that job so much and can't wait to get back to it.

Basically, around $30K a year would allow me to live comfortably.

This sounds very nice. Good luck! Living in Japan must be really cool.

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Offline Elizabeth Ann West

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Re: What do YOU need to survive as a full-time author?
« Reply #13 on: June 19, 2017, 07:57:55 AM »
We're in upstate NY temporarily. Hubby is military. Right now we make over 6 figures a year combined, this coming year we likely won't be able to get a child tax credit.

BUT, we have 2 rental properties that lose about $1,000 a month in rent/mortgage difference and property management costs and repairs. Our goal is to sell both before he retires in 4 years. Then, he will make about a $50k a year pension + generous health benefits and military retiree benefits. We have cash we are saving up now to buy a house with cash with some land likely in East Texas in 4 years. Something 1500- 2000 sq feet mid-century we can remodel, ranch, with electricity and sewer/septic and 3+ acres (we prefer 5-10). We've been shopping LOL. From there we will remodel it, likely work on putting in sustainable systems like rain water catch, solar, etc. and a garden.

My book money then to maintain our current standard of living in Texas only needs to be about $10,000-$20,000 a year. Our bills will be covered by retirement, and a modest entertainment budget like we have now, and the book money will pay for vacations, extras, etc.

We currently live to a budget that breaks all of our spending down into categories in a spreadsheet with monthly allocations for each budget. Like through the year $16.67 dollars a month goes to each kid's birthday budgets so at their birthday there's $200 for it. It's like running our family like a company. We have pots of money and that's what's there to spend for that line item. Pots roll over month to month. So like the vacation budget gets about $300 a month but that's because we live far from our families. Me and the kids used about $1,000 in February to go to Virginia for a week, and we will use about $1,000 again in September to go to Virginia for my sister's wedding. And hubby and I and youngest will use about $500 in July when we go to DC for 4 days for his work (me and youngest will hit smithsonians). Even car maintenance etc. has line items and the GOAL is to always keep money in the pots, even grocery shopping. At the end of the year, we total stuff that still has money in it (not for things that take LARGE items like furnishings or vacation, but like the grocery budget and a few of the bill budgets that have a little margin) get reset to 0 and that's an extra dump into savings.

All in all, I need to make about $1,000 a month after taxes and expenses are paid (so about $1800-$2k) average for my family to reach our goals over the next 4 years. That can be one month I have a release and dump $5k into savings and later months are just $700 or $400 etc. it just has to balance to $12k a year minimum. I want to aim for $24k a year minimum. But I also really can only keep a part-time job, which is my writing, because I homeschool and am Mom and he's active duty military so I have to be the one who can drop everything and handle life. At least until our youngest is older.


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Offline cadle-sparks

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Re: What do YOU need to survive as a full-time author?
« Reply #14 on: June 19, 2017, 08:07:44 AM »
I'm comfortable with less than $2K/month as I'm living. But I also own an RV, currently in storage. If I moved back into it, the annual rent at the RV park where it is stored is only $2400/year, so I could live on $600/month. I've lived on less quite happily. But if I was making less than $1K/month, I might quit doing this. (not quit writing, but quit uploading).

A decent RV park...a used fifth wheel... paying a year's rent up front...it's really an inexpensive and pleasant way to live in the US. Bonus: if a terrible neighbor with yappy terriers moves in next to you, you can move your house overnight! Very handy.

Offline Dpock

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Re: What do YOU need to survive as a full-time author?
« Reply #15 on: June 19, 2017, 08:08:12 AM »
The Inland Northwest (USA) is fairly cheap. There's a surfeit of natural beauty costing zero to enjoy and none of the four seasons is harsh. I live in a small college town with plenty of cultural activities, all of which I tend to ignore. An income of $25 - 30K is enough for a single person to live well.

That's probably also enough for a single person anywhere in rural America. You need to sell about forty-four books a day ($2.99/KU) to make $27,500 a year.

When not traveling, I have trouble spending $1500 a month, or the equivalent of about thirty books a day in sales. I waste an enormous amount of time playing with numbers.

Because everyone's family situation is different and we live all over the place, establishing a baseline income to become a full-time author is impossible. But a single person living in semi-rural America (and possibly in the semi-rural in any country) could probably thrive well enough on $30k yearly (or selling 50 full price books a day).

Maybe the question should be, "How To Sell 50 Books A Day Year Round". If that's impossible to do without spending a lot on advertising, it blows my theory to hell.


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Re: What do YOU need to survive as a full-time author?
« Reply #16 on: June 19, 2017, 08:18:16 AM »
I live in north-west England, on the edge of a poor declining mill town. Obviously we've none of the healthcare issues the US has, so here, the equivalent of $2300 a month sees me cover my taxes and mortgage and outgoings and having a nice enough life.
 

Offline Rick Gualtieri

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Re: What do YOU need to survive as a full-time author?
« Reply #17 on: June 19, 2017, 08:20:54 AM »
I live in north-west England, on the edge of a poor declining mill town. Obviously we've none of the healthcare issues the US has,

I so wish.  I'm on COBRA right now and it's still >$1500 a month.  Once that ends, it'll be between $24k and $36k / year to insure my entire family for the year.


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Offline N R Hairston

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Re: What do YOU need to survive as a full-time author?
« Reply #18 on: June 19, 2017, 08:24:17 AM »
I'm in southern Virginia and here $450 a month could get you a nice three bedroom with a basement, living room, den, central air, and heat.
You could probably buy that same house for around 60-100K, depending on the neighborhood.

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Offline Mark Gardner

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Re: What do YOU need to survive as a full-time author?
« Reply #19 on: June 19, 2017, 08:25:57 AM »
To reduce my day job hours to a minimum, I'd need to net $2000 a month, or about $3k in monthly gross royalties. I'd still keep my job at the FNR affiliate, but I'd only work about 10 hours a week to maintain my health insurance. Of course I'm a family of five, so my needs are a bit higher than some.

Offline Douglas Milewski

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Re: What do YOU need to survive as a full-time author?
« Reply #20 on: June 19, 2017, 08:27:26 AM »
At the moment, we're a one income household, so I'd need my wife bringing in money. I keep pushing her to write, because I'd carry her through the process (she's a fantastic writer who would make far more money than me), but over the last ten years, she's only completed 0.8 novels.

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Offline KeenToWrite

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Re: What do YOU need to survive as a full-time author?
« Reply #21 on: June 19, 2017, 08:29:30 AM »
I live in northern Virginia

I'm also in Northern Virginia, where cost of living and house prices both tend to be on the higher end for the U.S. My wife and I both work, and we have no kids. We own our townhome + two rental properties with positive monthly cash flow. We drive modest late-model cars and live well below our means. I'd need to sell a lot of books to replace my salary, so for now my writing income goes into savings or toward extra mortgage payments.

Our plan is to relocate to coastal NC (eventually), in which case a buck should stretch a bit further and my writing income could potentially make more of an impact on our finances. The biggest factor in the U.S., as has been aforementioned, is health insurance. With things in their current state of flux it's impossible to think about leaving a job for the wild west of the private insurance market, esp. since we plan on starting a family next year.

Offline she-la-ti-da

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Re: What do YOU need to survive as a full-time author?
« Reply #22 on: June 19, 2017, 08:53:42 AM »
I'm in rural central North Carolina (not too far from Virginia, it's quicker sometimes to drive to Danville than to Greensboro), and things are pretty cheap here. Taxes are still low, tags/inspections for the cars low, gas is pretty decent, considering (about 2.10 a gallon, depending on the week). Land is still pretty cheap. Food isn't too bad. We have an Aldi and several other stores, including Super Walmarts, but I mostly shop at Aldi. The job situation isn't that great, lots of part-time retail stuff mostly.

We don't live fancy lives. I'm not much for going out to eat, or seeing movies (I finally saw Interstellar when it came on TV!), and my older sons are the same. The youngest doesn't do it as much since he got a job that takes up most of his time. None of us are into big ticket items, the latest whatever. I don't buy a lot of clothes, and mostly nothing new. I get really good stuff at local thrift stores, new or barely worn. Only my undies are new (I have bought new stuff with tags at thrift stores, but otherwise, it's from a box store).

I think I could do quite well on $1K to $1.5 a month, after putting back money for taxes, SS and business stuff, so maybe need $2K to $3K gross monthly. The main reason I'd want any more money would be to pay for health insurance, or at least have money to pay up front, which is what I'd prefer. Maybe a catastrophic plan. Health care is usually the biggest issue we have here in the US.
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Offline Perry Constantine

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Re: What do YOU need to survive as a full-time author?
« Reply #23 on: June 19, 2017, 09:02:13 AM »
We don't live fancy lives. I'm not much for going out to eat, or seeing movies (I finally saw Interstellar when it came on TV!), and my older sons are the same.

Movies are the one thing that is annoying about Japan. I don't mind waiting until most come to iTunes or Netflix, but superhero movies are my crack and with some exceptions, Japan gets them like three months after everyone else.

Offline she-la-ti-da

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Re: What do YOU need to survive as a full-time author?
« Reply #24 on: June 19, 2017, 09:15:24 AM »
Movies are the one thing that is annoying about Japan. I don't mind waiting until most come to iTunes or Netflix, but superhero movies are my crack and with some exceptions, Japan gets them like three months after everyone else.

That must be frustrating!

I used to sit at work while people were talking about the latest movie, and all I'd know is what I'd read online. Probably a good thing I'm an introvert and don't normally talk that much to people I don't know.
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