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How Much Money Can I Make Writing Poems, Short Stories, Novels, Essays, And Nonfiction Books?

Many writers wonder, “How much money can I make as a writer?” And while it may seem frustrating, the answer is “It depends.” How much money you can make on a book, story, poem, or novel depends on many factors: the market for your writing, the strength of your voice, your ability to research and submit regularly, etc. Here’s a breakdown by genre to help you understand how much money you may or may not make with your writing. This will help you as you learn how to get published.

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

How much money will I make writing poems (or books of poetry)?
Individual poems are most often published by colleges and universities—institutions that do not have much money since they are funded mostly by grants. Therefore, it’s unlikely that poets will make any significant money by publishing their individual poems. Occasionally, a magazine will choose a poem from among those it published in a given year and award that poem a prize—however, that’s not income a poet can bank on.

Some independent presses will pay their poets for a collection of poetry or a chapbook of poems; however, the advances rarely produce a living income. Often books of poems are published via competitions sponsored by independent and university presses (the poet pays an entry fee, which is then put toward the payment for the book of poems once a winner is chosen). Established poets have been known to enter many contests (and pay many contest fees) before securing a win. So be prepared to make a significant investment if you’re going to attempt to make money by entering publication contests.

See our article Five Ways To Make Money As A Poet for more information.

How much money will I make writing and selling a book?
Advances (payments guaranteed for publication) vary at traditional publishing houses. In the larger New York City publishing houses, you may expect a publisher to pay you anywhere from $2,000 and up for your book or novel. A small book deal may be $5,000 to $20,000. A middling deal may be $20,000 to $60,000. A significant deal may be $60,000 to $150,000. And, of course, advances can go through the roof for a book that every publisher wants. Some smaller independent houses may pay less than $2,000, especially for new writers or for books that may not have a wide appeal. (NOTE: These numbers are approximations, since there are no “rules” that dictate what is considered a big or small book deal.) Ultimately, the size of your book or novel advance depends on your platform, the excitement surrounding your book, and the size of the editor’s budget. A good literary agent can help you negotiate the most amount of money and best rights deal for your book or novel.

Along with traditional publishers, there are new publishing models forming. Some publishers—who have national distribution, best-selling authors, and strong sales—are foregoing traditional advances. Instead of paying their writers one lump of money at the beginning and then relatively small royalties later on, they are instead offering authors a higher share of royalties from the start—with no advance. NOTE: Some publishers who take this approach are very successful. But others are not. As always, writers should know what they are getting into before signing a contract.

If you are self-publishing, how much money you make on your novel depends on how much legwork you’re willing to do to promote it. Statistically, the majority of self-published novels do not make a profit that goes beyond the cost of printing. However, other self-published novels go on to do very well under the love and care of their writers.

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How much money will I make writing short stories? How much money will I make writing essays?
Short stories and essays are generally published in literary magazines funded by universities and colleges. Unfortunately, most academic institutions don’t generally have big budgets for their presses, so writers will generally not make much money—if any—by publishing their short stories and essays in literary magazines.

As with poetry, story and essay writers may sometimes be awarded prizes for their work by the publisher (but there’s no guarantee). Story and essay writers can also compete to win a publishing contract for a collection of their writing. Please see our “How much money will I make writing poems” section above for more information on writing contests.

Some commercial publications do publish short stories, and they do pay their short story authors a significant amount of money. However, commercial markets are especially hard to break into for short story writers. If you want to have the best shot at getting your short story published in a paying market, you’ll most likely need to build a strong bio, with a history of having published in college and university literary magazines, before moving on to bigger and better known publications.

If I can’t make money, why should I write?
First of all, if you would like to make money writing poetry, short stories, or novels, then you must BUY poetry, stories, and novels. In other words, when publishers of poetry, short stories, and novels can count on turning a profit, advances will be more likely to rise.

Most writers write because they love it; they will write regardless of how much money they make or don’t make. Some of the most successful writers report that being paid for publishing is an afterthought—that an advance is just “gravy.”

That said, many writers do go on to make a LOT of money. But in order to get to that point, writers often have to “pay their dues” by not getting paid any money for their early work. A writer’s success in nonpaying markets will often determine how much a writer is paid when he or she approaches paying markets (since payments are sometimes determined by how much buzz surrounds a given writer). For more on this, please read Building Publication Credits.

Writer’s Relief can help you submit your novel or book to agents; we can help you target your poetry, short stories, and essays to the best-suited literary journals. Some writers may go on to make a significant amount of money on their writing, but we can’t guarantee writers a big income. What we can promise is that our clients have more time to write because we tackle the submission process for them, making it more effective and increasing their odds of publication. We help our writers build up their literary bios so that literary agents and editors with significant budgets will take them more seriously. How much money you’ll make writing poems, stories, and novels or books ultimately depends on your talent and stamina. If you love writing and want more time to write, Writer’s Relief can help.

Writer QuestionsQUESTION: You’ve heard the term “starving artist.” Do you believe that writers should write for a specific (paying) market? Or should writers not consider the financial ramifications of their creative choices?

52 Responses to How Much Money Can I Make Writing Poems, Short Stories, Novels, Essays, And Nonfiction Books?

  1. I also write music and poems and have just recorded 9 songs
    I’ve written.
    I just love writing whatever.
    Doris Kirby

  2. Creative writers can make good money. Writing books is not like writing comic books. Comic books you don’t get paid really anything especially now a days. But for books mainly novels you write one book you’ll make enough to live on you might even get lucky to make so much money that you won’t have to worry about bills. An example is the author of Harry Potter J.K she was a teacher she never earned much money but when she wrote Harry Potter she earned huge money went from barely surviving on bills to one of the richest people in the world. She quit her job as a teacher and started to just write novels for the rest of her life. In a way this is just like Lewis who wrote Alice in Wonderland. He was a mathamatics teacher he earned good money but when he wrote Alice in Wonderland he became one of the greatest story tellers of all time and made a very good living on the books. And by the way these two authors cared nothing about money only their passion proves that you have to love to write to be creative in story telling. Those who do it for money never make it big. But now if you wanna write short stories I would suggust collecting a bunch of short stories to make a big book like Brothers Grimm did with their fairy tales. It’s hard to make a living on short stories but you can do it if your stories are really creative. But people prefer to see a novel than a bunch of short stories like author of Alice in Wonderland before Alice he wrote a few short stories but didn’t make much on it at all. He made it big on Alice in Wonderland because he got to developed it more and tell it more. Also I have to say about the novel Wizard of OZ compared to the movie the novel of it tells a lot more about what happens through it all and even developes Dorthies past more like explains why her dog gets in trouble. While the movie never showed it so novels sell more because they tell the story better. Also in the novel Peter Pan it tells more about Peter’s past and shows him with Wendey before the events on the cartoon take place. If your planning on making it big in creative writing do it because you love to write not for money and do novels they sell better. If you wanna make novels you must, you must!!! Send your manuscript to a agent its the only way you’ll get accepted into a company. And later on if you make it big you can advance into other writing fields that pay amazing such as screenwriter if your novel gets turned into a movie or cartoon and even a producer. Example is author of Harry Potter she got to produce and write the screenplay for the final Harry Potter movie.

  3. Creative Leon, You make great points. Writers write from love; The money often comes second. Rowling’s story is inspiring. You’re right to point out that, while some writers do get very wealthy by writing one book, the majority of professional writers are solidly “mid-list” writers–authors who make a living though they may not be on the millionaire income level. We believe in shooting for the moon!

  4. the article and comments on here are quite insightful. I love writing and look forward to being in limelight sometime later

  5. creative Leon, that is actually a lot of good reasons to write. i’ve been thinking what i wanted to be when i grow up for ages. i love writing but i was scared that wouldn’t manage, but now i realise that i don’t care if i don’t make a lot of money like my mum and dad want me to, i’ll just write for the love and pleasure of it!

  6. I think you have to write for the love of it; you can’t count on being the next J.K. Rowling as your motivation to complete a work. That being said, those who publish simply to see their work in print dilute the waters for those of us who have spent time and money learning our craft in general and gathering research for a particular work. Why should publishers pay a living wage to professionals (i.e. those who rely on selling their work to put food on the table) when they can fill their mags with works by people happy to be “paid” with a byline? (And if it’s really good, resell it to another mag because they threw a “buy all rights” clause in their fill-in-the-blank contract.)

  7. I suppose that these figures don’t apply to never-been published writers. It would be very useful if you could guide us towards some publishing houses that show more interest in first timers :). Thank you so much for most of your posts, they do offer very important information.

  8. I have self-published my memoirs, Soon Comes Sunrise, and received encouraging comments. It was picked up by a local Tucson newspaper and a full page ad was released. The ad began with, “Movies have been made from less. Much less.”
    I love to write, but promotion is not my forte.

  9. I don’t think that “should” even applies. If you write because you love it and you make no money, fine. If you write because you love it and you do make money, that’s great. If you write because you love it and you tweak your style/genre IN ORDER to make money, terrific, that’s a savvy way to use your skills! If you write for the PURE fact of making money…you’d probably be better off as a professional lottery-player. But good luck to all writers, no matter what the agenda. At the end of the day, we’ll still be at it whether we make millions, or nothing.

  10. I’m From iraq and i’ve write movie with 4 parts called (THE LEGEND OF THE VAMPIRES) and serie with 4 seaseon too called (THE SOUND OF THE VAMPIRES) I want to sell them can you help me with that I’m in Iraq-Basrah the movie and the serie is amazing . I wish i can find people who can help me please. just e-mail me at (medodergam1994) and we can talk about it please.

  11. I like to write short story’s ,song lyrics of my own i also write articles and blogging i can never make any money off of what i write Google and other search engines have my stuff I’ve written in there search engines i can’t make no money at writing so i just about have given up blogging it seems to be a lot of scams when it comes to writing specially song lyrics they will try to steal them scammer”s thieves i stoped writing song lyrics last winter have some at helium . yeah i like to write but also like money instead of seeing someone else make money off me sorry but money is tied at first place….

  12. I am 18 and I have been writing short stories and poetry for a few years now. I am currently writing a novel that I hope to finish by the summer. I came across this thread and I was curious to know your opinions on my age. Do you think that my younger age will keep people from taking my work seriously? Or could it be aiding in a way? Ive published many poems and short stories succesfully without it being an issue whatsoever. But I cant help but feel like it may be different with a novel. What do you think? Any advice is greatly appreciated! -steven jarvis

  13. Steven, The good news is that since you’re 18 you won’t need to have a parent or guardian shuttle you though the publishing process (though, it’s important to have a team of supporters to help you when questions arise!). There’s no need to advertise your age when you’re making queries. Your work should stand on its own. The other thing to consider is that many people want to read books by people your age…40-year-olds who have a bit more experience might need a really convincing reason to pick up your work, but there’s no reason teenagers and perhaps even early twenty-somethings would consider your age a deal-breaker. Good luck!

  14. Hi i am an automobile engineer.Writing is my hobby,though i write most of time about cold part of heart.
    I have a number of poems that i wrote in recent past.I want to publish them.
    Can someone please throw some light in order to publish them.
    I will wait for your response.
    Regards
    Ayush

  15. I do love to write for many reasons. In the writing, I can share my love, respect, peace, mercy, compassion, and kindness with everyone! However, I would love to make a few dollars to share with everyone, also! Time will tell what happens, right? I do believe I will keep on going with my writing contributions. I firmly believe that “Actions speak louder than words.” I will continue with my actions!!! :)

  16. I have many poems written in a book and a i have had a couupled published in books whn I was younger I need guidance to take my love for writting to another level of publications Im determined and ready to get my work out there.

  17. i have a 26 page story in my note book.i also have a 15 page story and one day i want to publish all of my story’s!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  18. Victoria, Good for you! We hope your passion for writing (and reading) will give you a lot of joy over the course of a very long life. :-)

  19. For the inexperienced, the information about what to expect is important. It helps to know this when dealing with a publisher or deciding where or how to publish your work. Yes, we write for the joy of it, but those who want to try to make a living still need to deal with the practical end of the business.

  20. I have been writing for quite some time now, for me though the poems and lyrics come to me in dreams, or out of the blue. they can be dark, political, or religious in nature. I honestly don’t know if there is even a market for this kind of stuff- the christian writings and poems are beautiful. I would love to at least know if I would ever have a chance at making any money, I do this for therapy,as my life has been a very dark one at times. The more I write, the better I feel. any suggestions?

  21. i want to be a writer when i grow up
    i luv writing
    it is my calling
    1 day everyone will read my books!

  22. I have just come accross this website, the info is great, thanks. I have a creative mind, and recently taken up writing short stories. I think its a great idea to join a creative writing group to help get you started in the right way; there knowledge is invaluable.
    Some day I would like to see my stories published. but its not about money, its the satisfaction of knowing other people enjoy my work.

    Writers Relief; Can you tell me, what is the costs involved in using the services of some one like you?

  23. a coworker once read a short story that i had written (at work). he went home discussed it with his wife. both of them are very avid readers (of just about anything) so they sat me down one day and told me i should look into getting some of the stories i write published. they are an older couple n i respect them a good deal….so here i am. i have requested info from other sites hopefully ill find what im looking for. as far as the money goes…i work full time and the job i have gives me almost 8 full hours to write. writing is all i do and at any given time ive got 3 or 4 projects going. i just dont know where to go from here. money isnt the issue although filthy stinking rich would b fantastic lol…i do it because i want to whether or not anybody else ever reads them. its what i love.

  24. Nikole,

    Thanks for your comment!

    At Writer’s Relief, we help authors make their submissions to agents and editors. We take on the burden of researching and preparing submissions–and we love it! This allows our clients to focus on writing while we’re focusing on making strong submissions.

    If you haven’t yet, we invited you to submit to our Review Board for consideration.

    Here’s the link: http://www.writersrelief.com/review_board/

    Clients are accepted by invitation only.

    Good luck!

  25. Finally it has been said! Writer’s write for the love of not what they do, but for who they are. Money is of secondary importance and the attitude that a writer carries shows in their work. Drive from the imagination, steer with the heart, and enjoy swinging on that star!

  26. Hi ! wish to make money out some bursts of creativity that i experience these days. and they are not few and far between. I’m enjoying writing poetry these days and scripting write ups too whenever needed at my work place. I want to unravel a different future for me through such efforts.

  27. I’ve been writing every since grade school. Once I wrote a well known publishing company and to my surprise they return my letter with all sorts of information. So to all the writer don’t give up. Where there’s a will there’s a way.

  28. Hey there. Your site seems to be wonderful. Thank you for having it. My question is- How does an editor work? Will they assist an author with grammatical errors and inconsistencies in the story or do they act upon other interests? Is an author expected to hand in piece of writing that would score a 100% on almost any English teachers desk? Thanks again.

  29. Archer, great question! Generally, editors will NOT proofread your work; it should be grammatically and structurally sound when submitted and should be formatted to the industry standard, if not the journal’s specific format guidelines.

  30. Hmmmm…well, in that case i have some questions for some people i know. When it comes to writing a grammatically correct piece i think i may be more of a B student. Either way i’ll do my best. One more question: Is a big deal made out of starting paragraphs in the right place? This made seem ridiculous but im no expert. Thanks again; you guys are great.

  31. Archer, thanks again for commenting! Making sure your paragraphs are positioned and formatted correctly is extremely important, both grammatically and structurally. However, editors will sometimes reformat your work to fit their own printing/publication format. In any case, it’s always best to research and conform to the guidelines of each individual journal. Good luck!

  32. @glenn mal
    I was sorry to read about your bad experiences with online publishing. To be a successful blogger, you need a selection of other skills beyond your creative writing skills. Specifically, you need to understand search engine optimization, (SEO) internet marketing and social media to stand any chance of getting exposure for your blog. The main skill is SEO because this directly effects your writing. Google and all the other major search engines list websites and blogs in order of the most relevant to the specific search query someone makes. This relevance is mostly determined by the words you use in your writing. These are called ‘keywords’ and the most relevant keywords and keywords phrases Google and co find in someones writing, the higher this website/blog would be listed in the search engine. So for example, if your writing about politics, you will need to do a lot of research on what sort of things people are searching for online in connection to politics and then include as many of these words/phrases into your writing. Google has a free tool that allows you to see the number of people who are searching for a particular topic, its called the Google Adsense keyword tool. When you own a blog, it’s always wise to look for high traffic topics and trending subjects and then write an article that is relevant and using as many associative words and terms to this subject so the search engines see your relevance a list your website/blog highly.
    I know this might be very discouraging for a writer who wants to get more online exposure but I promise you, its not as complicated as it sounds. Its pretty easy to learn and I’d say its by far one of the most important skills for any self-publishing writer to acquire. It is unfortunate that a writer should have to edit his/her writing to cater for the search engines but once you get the hang of it, you’ll find plenty of ways to adapt your writing for the search engine exposure because after all, you are creative writer.

    I guess I’m incredibly lucky because I’ve always wanted to be a published author of books and poems but I never used to believe it was an achievable ambition, so instead, I decided to learn everything I could about web development and online marketing. After about 5 years of full-time study, I had learnt web design and development, SEO, internet marketing, and social media marketing. I learnt these skills with the full intention of being a self-employed web developer but it wasn’t long before I realised that each of these skills could potentially help me towards achieving my life-long ambition of becoming a professional writer. I literally had all the tools I need to publish and promote my own work.
    As I said, I believe I’m incredibly lucky to have these skills now. It almost feels like fate has dealt me the perfect set of cards to achieve me life-long dream.

    Currently, I’m accumulating a selection of short stories and poems which I will publish as a book. I will then build this book its own website and promote it. I’ve already done a lot of keyword research and I’m work is going to be relevant to a few high traffic, low competition topics.

    Finally, I just want to point out to anyone else who wants to publish their own writing, Amazon is a wonderful website to offer your work because the Amazon Kindle has become incredibly popular and its much cheaper and easier to publish your own work in digital format.

  33. I have good collection of poems it is been published different magazines but I am not being paid anything if any printing press can help me out

  34. Hi Mandakini, unfortunately, most journals do not pay for poetry to be published. You may receive contributor copies of the journal in which your work is published, but they rarely offer money unless it’s a contest or a high-tier journal.

  35. I have been writing ever since I was 13 poems , stories what ever my mind wants me to express I hope I get people to read my books when I finish or even Start but it’s a dream of mine to know people love my writing but I’m afraid of feedback for it’s depressing to get negative comments but hey I love it the poems stories all of it . It’s as though you leave a mark behind for the next generation to explore at I mean look at Charles dickens it’s amazing

  36. I have always had writing in my blood. Some people have God given talents. My talent happens to be songs,stories,and poems. Anyone know where to submit to?

  37. I write for a paper & enjoy it. I like research, writing non-fiction articles, & I make a few $$$ doing this too. I self-published a few novels bec I had stories to tell. One was shopped around the old-fashioned way, & I got a few good responses from agents, but no one took me on. I thought this bk had what it takes. Hasn’t even sold 100 copies. It irritates me to no end when I see writer friends with loads of talent & background struggling to get published, but a celebrity has a book ghost-written–that celeb is a best-selling author!

  38. All too true! There is no shortcut, only perhaps, the shortcult. Nonetheless, if writing is your thing, then keep on writing. It’s the inborn aptitude/talent that counts. But don’t expect money, which may happen, may not. if you’ve also a talent and the energy for marketing then do that. Otherwise, well, make your money some other way – and keep writing.

  39. I like to write now that I’m retired I can really do my thing. I will keep trying if I don’t make a lot I hope to be known.

  40. I love writing stories and poems especially for children and lovers. I like very much reading and writing fairy tales.

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