Saturday, January 3, 2009

writing and money (2000-2008 stats)

My previous post about money has generated a bit of discussion, one that I'm interested in seeing grow. How much do people earn through their plays and novels? What's the reality of the world of writing, if you're not hitting it big (or even hitting it medium).

So, here are my numbers for this decade so far. At first, I was a bit reluctant to post this, for fear of dashing any illusions I've painted of my wild success. But really, who am I kidding. I've had quite a few productions over the past eight years, and one novel published, and I'm grateful for all of them and for all of my audience and readers. I'll keep working on getting these numbers to grow, and that's about all I can do. No sense grinding my teeth over whether to say I've been successful or not--it depends on how you look at it. I get to write what I want and I get to work with people I like--that certainly seems sufficient. More would be nice, too, don't get me wrong.

Anyway, here are the numbers:

Year Audience Writing Income
20014374 $1504
20023947 $683
20033129 $965
20047113 $1174
20055532 $3129
20064220 $2262
20072138 $1489
20085282 $1538
Total36,509 $13,720

Audience numbers count both attendance at performances and novel/script sales. I always ask producers to give me box office totals after a show. If that doesn't work, I tend to make a guess (very conservatively). (I'm a numbers guy--I have a big spreadsheet that tracks audience and income, for every one of my plays/books, since 1990. (In 1990, 225 people saw my work. I earned $0.))

You can see that the amounts vary quite a bit. This coming year, as I wrote previously, I can already count on two radio broadcasts (though those numbers are hard to estimate) and more than $2,000 in writing income.

On the plus side, since 2000, more than 36,000 people have read, seen, or heard my work, which is pretty cool. On the downside, I haven't earned enough to pay for one year of tuition and expenses for my daughter to attend UMass (I have time--she's only in 8th grade). Lots to think about.

I'm dying with curiosity (I'm nosy) to know how this all works for other playwrights/novelists. Maybe it feels too private to share--we don't want people to be jealous of us, or to scorn us because we're earning/being viewed so little. Personally, I think it helps to have as much information as possible, no matter what stage you're at.


Crystal said...

Here are my numbers, Patrick. I don't have audience estimates, but I'm going to start trying to track that this year. -- Crystal

2006 - 2 readings, $200 commission

2007 - 8 productions, $5,000 arts grant, $50 in royalties

2008 - 1 reading, 2 productions, $500 commission

Patrick Gabridge said...

Thanks for posting your numbers, Crystal. It's amazing how much all this can see-saw, isn't it? Congrats on the arts grant in 2007--sure would be nice if there were more of those to go around.

Malachy Walsh said...

My numbers are so low, I only count them for the taxman. And even then, they are so small as to be completely unmemorable.

I'm certainly not doing it for the money.

And I'm under no illusion about it ever coming to anything substantial in that department without some extra-ordinary luck.

Patrick Gabridge said...

I think luck is definitely a key factor. Though I do know people who are making a good part of a living by writing plays for the school market. (That's where most of what little playwriting money I make comes from).