Yes, I’m back. I think.

I’ve missed you all.  I’ve missed the community here, and the chance to dish about the industry.  It’s been a few months (has it?) since I really sat down and wrote a post.  I mean, a real post that wasn’t about selling my latest book or announcing promotional stuff, which I guess is the real purpose of an author’s blog, a purpose that I never stuck to because I always had other things I wanted to talk about.  And even though I enjoyed the vacation, there many, many times when something startling would happen, or I’d hear a conversation, and I’d think, “gosh, I’d really like to blog about that!” 

But I didn’t.

I’m still a little leery about wading into these waters again.  I’m worried that I’ll once again stick my foot in my mouth and offend someone.  But I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s a certain subsegment of people out there who’ll be offended if I say the sky is blue, and sometimes you just have to ignore those people and speak your mind.  Those people will be offended no matter what you say.  Life is too short to care what they think.  (Yeah, and please keep reminding me of this.)

I was also lured back into blogging by all the emails I’ve received over the past few months.  And then I heard the somewhat startling news that I landed on the 100 top female bloggers list.  Which I didn’t even know existed until someone sent me the link to it.

So I guess despite all the gaffes I’ve made here (and will certainly make in the future), I must be striking some notes that people are identifying with.

My business of writing gem for this week is actually stolen from the June 23 issue of Publishers Weekly, a column called “Authors & Writers By the Numbers.”  Some stats:

Total number of authors and writers, 2005: 185,276

Median income for full-time authors: $50,800

Median income for all authors: $38,000

Median income for male authors: $47,300

Median income for female authors: $33,300

Percent of authors who are minorities: 10.8%

Source: National Endowment for the Arts study, 1990-2005

You know what?  I have a really, really hard time believing some of these statistics.

That median income surprises me, especially after I saw the Novelists Ink survey in which a large percentage of multi-published novelists can’t earn a living on their writing.  I’m also very skeptical of the number of minority authors.  Whenever I attend a writer’s conference, I find that I’m one of very few minorities in attendance.  I’m also surprised to find that male authors out-earn female authors, because I’ve always thought that female authors outsell male authors.

So these statistics surprise me. 

Finally, there’s this statistic:

Highest ranking city in authors per capita:  Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Okay, that I believe.





33 replies
  1. KitKat
    KitKat says:

    Long-time reader, first-time poster here. I’m very glad to see you’re back Tess. I’ve been clicking on your blog a few times a week in the hope that you’ve returned and I see today is my lucky day!

  2. Jude Hardin
    Jude Hardin says:

    I was very happy to see you posting again, Tess.

    These stats always depress me a bit. I’m working hard to get published, but even if I make it to median male author salary I won’t be able to quit my “day” job.

    Guess I’ll just have to hit the NYT bestseller list right out of the gate. 🙂

  3. NightTrain
    NightTrain says:

    Welcome back to the blogosphere! We’ve missed you, as well as your views of the industry and life in general. Have you been on any good digs lately? And how are the donkeys?

    Thank you for showing us those statistics. Much is made of how most readers are women, so the irony that women authors aren’t paid as much as men — well, that’s not really a surprise, I suppose. But maybe “Rhonda” needs to become “Ron?” 😉

    Anyway, some unexpected-but-long-overdue thanks are in order: after you mentioned the TV show “Bizarre Foods” in your blog, my husband and I had to check it out. What fun! Some of that stuff looks pretty good once it gets on a plate.

  4. leewynne
    leewynne says:

    Hi Tess,

    I am confused, I guess the stats are for authors who are not yet mainstream? Thus once you do get published and hit the NY times top 10 etc, the income increases somewhat – into the $millions maybe,

    I am not an author (not sure I would want to be after reading your post last tuesday detailing your mood over the year as it runs close to deadline!).

    Will be picking up your next book when I am working in the UK next week again! No sleep for me then (at least for a couple of nights!)

    Best Regards,

    Dinan, France.

  5. Dan Williams
    Dan Williams says:

    Hi Tess,

    Very glad to see you are back! That’s great!

    You said: “I’m worried that I’ll once again stick my foot in my mouth and offend someone.”

    You are right, this happens to us all and there’s not too much we can do about it. But what we can do, I think, is to speak out of love and respect so that our intention is always to help the other person or the readership, and if we can do that much then that’s enough to pull us through the inevitable downs.

    Anyway, your blog is a must-read as you honestly try to deal with the problems a major league writer runs into.


  6. BernardL
    BernardL says:

    It’s a sad truth too many Internet savvy people go on-line with the intention of finding something they can be offended at. They have no opinions, facts, or belief system, but they can be insulted by almost anything. 🙂

    I would not have thought the median income of authors to be that high, considering the sheer numbers, and actual publishing output.

  7. ec
    ec says:

    I’d be interested to see what data was used in support of those statistics. The numbers seems high to me. They would make more sense if they were a “mean” or average, which would take into account the high income of the few top-earning writings, but a “median” is simply the number in the middle of the list. This calculation claims that half of ALL WRITERS, not just full time writers, earn more than $38K a year. Every other batch of (almost equally dubious) statistics I’ve ever seen suggests otherwise.

  8. Abe
    Abe says:

    Hi Tess,

    According to a 2007 survey I just happened to google, female authors now outnumber male authors 2 to 1. Alot of male readers are now reading female authors such as yourself, Sue Grafton, and CJ Lyons. So how come a man’s salary is less than a woman’s? Are we still stuck in the 60’s? C’mon people. Wake up!

  9. Sandra Parshall
    Sandra Parshall says:

    Welcome back, Tess! Yours was the only blog that I *always* read, and I’ve missed you.

    Those income numbers seem awfully high to me, too, although I certainly can believe that women writers still earn less, on the whole, than male writers.

  10. helenwriter
    helenwriter says:

    yay Tess! I too have been checking your blog to see if you’d returned and I’m so happy to see you have. Welcome back!

  11. prowan
    prowan says:


    Thank you. I, like the other readers, here have missed you. Some writers seem so “untouchable” to us aspiring writers. You are very real and you give me courage to stay true to my passion. I love to read your novels but I also love to see your pictures and read about your day to day life. You are a beautiful person – I hope you continue to share your life with us.

  12. Ali M
    Ali M says:

    Hi Tess,

    Those statistics look a bit dodgy. Don’t know if I’d believe them to be honest. How many authors were actually pooled in the calculations? I doubt they got the salaries of all 185 thousand or so authors.

    Nice to have you back blogging again! 🙂


  13. bob k
    bob k says:

    Tess!!!! It is great to see you are back!!! I was hoping that you would come back at some point!

    As to the statistics (data and statistics are kind of my thing) – these statistics could well all be accurate.

    For example – the median income for fulltime authors is $50,800 – that is about 10% above the median household income for all Maine households. But somewhere above 20% of Maine people live on incomes below the Federal Poverty level (and let me tell you – even if you have an income higher than the poverty level – you may not be “earning a living”!. So can there be quite a high number of muti-published authors that can’t make a living at it? Yes…especially when you consider that people have different standards of living they view as acceptable.

    As for the income difference between male and female authors – there is not enough information here to determine if this is due to gender (i.e. female authors are treated different than males) or if it is due to some other factor. For example – If the median for full time authors is about $51K and the median for all authors is $38K…that means that the median for part time i well below $38K. Now, if women out number men in the industry 2 to 1…there may well be a higher percentage of women authors who do it part time than there are men authors doing it part time. Much of the “gender” income difference that seems to be shown may instead be due to the parttime/fulltime difference – we don’t have enough information to determine that. Another possible factor is if different genres of writing pay better (or worse) and if the genders are not represented equally in the genres – you can have income disparities that appear gender based but may not be.

    And as for whether or not authors making millions of $$ would be included in these statistics…they can well be. These types of studies typically use the median value (the value at which 50% of the group is above and 50% is below) instead of the mean (the mean being the “average” that we all are much more used to using) – because the mean is not skewed upward by small numbers of high value outliers like the mean is.

    Example: 4 authors 2 make $10,000 per year, 1 makes $20,000 per year and one makes $1,020,000 per year.

    The median income is $15,000 per year, but the mean (the average) is $265,000 per year.

    Anyway – that is our statistics lesson for today…sorry to bore you all to tears…

  14. Tess
    Tess says:

    Bob and everyone,
    I agree, these numbers strike me as dodgy. What wasn’t mentioned in the PW piece was what, exactly, is meant by “authors and writers.” Does that include journalists, who probably have a steady paycheck? I’d love to see the numbers for book authors only — and novelists specifically.

  15. bob k
    bob k says:

    And, of course, Tess – that is the other thing that makes statistics like these hard to understand – you have an article in Publishers Weekly that cites statistics from a study done by the National Endowment for the Arts. You really need to go back to the original study in order to find out what the study means by “authors and writers” – we may think we understand the term, but what we think and what they studied and reported on could well be two different things.

    Based on the source, however, I think I would be surprised if it included journalists…not quite sure journalism is one of the arts (although it sure isn’t one of the sciences). But what about people who write copy for catalogs…for websites…are they “writers”? How about political speechwriters?

  16. struggler
    struggler says:

    Yes, great to see that your blog’s back, I’ve always liked the way you kind of get to the heart of issues that we (the serfs) want to hear about but which few elsewhere seem to want to talk about.

    So here’s a detail that caught the UK headlines recently – a first-time author was allegedly paid £300,000 (c. US$600,000) for his debut novel, with no tie-ins to write anything else. I had never heard of him before, although he is of royal descent in the world of literature, prompting many cynics to suggest that it was his heritage rather than his ability that secured such a package.

    Meanwhile I know of another author, about to publish his sixth novel later this year and rumoured to be short-listed for the prestigious MAN Booker Prize 2008 – yet he still works 30 hours per week at his ‘day job’. His last novel was a huge success and thousands are buying his back-portfolio as a result.

    There’s no logic in this world…

  17. Tess
    Tess says:

    you’re right — there’s no logic to book deals when it comes to debut authors. Debut writers have no sales record, so publishers make wild guesses as to what they’re worth. The result is that debut authors often get enormous deals that are only justified by publisher enthusiasm.

    Second and third-time authors, however, do have sales records, and if those numbers aren’t terrific, the next deal is based on hard financial reality, not enthusiasm.

  18. Joshua James
    Joshua James says:

    I’m really glad you’re back, Tess.

    Please let us know if you swing thru New York City.

  19. lwidmer
    lwidmer says:

    Wow. Christmas really can come in July. :))

    Glad you’re back. You were greatly missed, Tess. When I saw your name on the Top 100 list, I crossed my fingers and clicked on the link. Amen. Alleluia.

    Welcome back. :))

  20. Yasmine
    Yasmine says:

    Yay, you’re back! I, for one, am thrilled. I love your blogs–and yes, you’re going to tick off some people but who can make everybody happy? You’d be writing oatmeal.


  21. jaq
    jaq says:

    You’re back! (obviously. *g*) I would have sworn I had you on some feed or the other just in case you did come back. And yet, found out the old fashion way–surfing.

    Glad to have you back. Your insights/opinions were missed.

  22. jaq
    jaq says:

    I didn’t even read your post, just ran here in the comment box to squee.

    But those stats surprise me too. I think Terry Mark (?? sci-fi author) was keeping numbers (volunteered by fellow authors anonymously) for a couple of years, and I’m almost sure his figures were lower, especially once he kicked out the few authors who were signing the six/seven figure contracts.

  23. dustinhood
    dustinhood says:

    I’m so glad to see you back. I had stopped visiting the website even. I decided to return to realize you are back and have came back thinking “I’m going to speak my mind no matter what.” Also, one great thing about living in America is our Constitution, Amendment one gives us freedom of speech. So in this country, you can say what you want, if your opinion offends them, they ain’t gotta read your blogs and whatnot.

    I’m thrilled about the new book coming out. I’m not quite sure I like the cover or not. A little too girly for me, but since it has Tess Gerritsen on it, I’ll be rushing to Barnes & Noble the day it comes out to buy it.

    I’ve really missed your blogging. I think it’s taken a tole on my writing actually. I haven’t been able to get into my creative mood, and normally when I couldn’t, I would read your blogs and for some reason it would come back. And last night, I worked on the prologue of a story that I hope I will be able to work into my first novel. If only I can think of what’s going to happen after this prologue. And you may be interested to know, remember those Dog bones I found walking around my field and sent you pictures of them? It’s okay if you don’t, it’s been almost a year.I’ve spent that in with the prologue.

    Well, just wanted to let you know that I’m glad to see you back!

  24. NewMexicanAnn
    NewMexicanAnn says:

    Santa Fe? I don’t really believe it because it’s mostly an artsy place with lots of galleries, but then again, maybe so. Writers sometimes gather where authors are.

  25. Richard S. Wheeler
    Richard S. Wheeler says:

    I’ve just discovered your lovely web commentary and want to thank you for writing it.

    Back in the 80s there was supposedly a study done by the New York Times indicating that only about 300 U.S. novelists made a whole living, defined as $30,000 in 1980s dollars. I’ve been trying to track that down, and have come to believe it’s urban legend.

    I do believe the data quoted above are dubious at best. If full-time novelists are broken out of the “authors and writers,” their number would be very small. My annual net income (after expenses) has varied from a low of eight or nine thousand to the high forty thousands, while writing in a relatively unpopular genre. I also write historical and biographical novels,largely published by New York houses. Typically, even after sixty-odd novels, I earn in the twenty and thirty thousands.

    But it has been a miracle and I rejoice in my blessings each day. I started late in life and am 73 now. I feel I am the richest person alive.

  26. l.c.mccabe
    l.c.mccabe says:


    Welcome back!

    You have been missed. I knew that I should keep your feed in my Google Reader, just in case.

    Blog about whatever topics you want to and don’t worry about critics. This is your venue and enjoy the conversation you have with this community and do your best to ignore those with negative energy.


  27. Eva Gale
    Eva Gale says:

    Oh you’re back! You’re back, you’re back, you’re REALLY back! Thank you SO much. And yes, ignore all of them.

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