How Much Does Writing Your Novel Cost You?

I’ve put together a data-collection survey to figure out how much it costs the average writer to write a novel.

The survey is open to anyone who has ever started a book, not just those who have finished one.

I’m asking for information on the time it takes you to come up with ideas, research and do background, develop characters, write false starts, write full books, revise those books, and mail those books to editors and agents.

The questions are data collection: I’ll have to take the data, add up hours worked on various tasks, average them, and the apply them to low-end, high-end, and averaged writers’ incomes (NOT your income from writing unless writing is your job—just your hourly wage, or what your hourly wage would be if you were employed). I’ll come up with figures on the cost of developing a novel all the way to the send-off stage, and will report the information in about a week.

The survey is absolutely anonymous.

If you would be willing to estimate times it takes you to do various writing tasks, and would be willing to figure how much you make per hour in US dollars (walkthroughs, calculators, and foreign-currency conversion calculators are available for the income question if you need them), I would be very grateful.

The link to the survey is here:

https://hollylisle.com/surveys/survey.php?sid=32

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

6 comments… add one
  • hollylisle Jun 30, 2008 @ 16:09

    Sue, I agree that the survey was pretty narrow. I put together a live thing that Margaret is going to program for me. People will be able to put in their own values more or less exactly (excluding memberships, books, etc.), and get a live, personal number.

    Will probably be about a week or a bit more before I have that up—Margaret abandoned me to take a vacation. Imagine! [insert weeping and gnashing of teeth here.]

  • Sue L Jun 24, 2008 @ 11:02

    Holly, I took the survey, but I thought some of the answers were too narrow. My first novel (110k words) took two years to write, went through about five majors edits over a couple of years and is getting (so far) ‘rave rejections’. My second completed novel (85k) I wrote in a workshop in two weeks, did a major revision over several months, set it aside and wrote short stories and worked on other stuff for about a year and am almost through a second major revision (about three months). In the meantime, I have about five other novels that I have a few thousand words and fairly complete outlines. (and the ‘Mistakes’ in your shop). I’m also working full time, homeschooling a tweenager and managing care and training (and competing) our horses. The full time job and the homeschooling are recent (two years) changes that have yanked my life upside down and kept me dangling by my short hairs so holding on to the writing has been tough recently.

    So in my case, I don’t how many others are similar or not, I don’t think it’s possible to be linear enough to define a cost. As it would be in the case of someone who, for example: writes two hours a night and has finished a novel in eight months. I don’t know which is more common.

    You also didn’t take into account the cost of organizational memberships, $100 for RWA or our local DFWWW, $25-$35 or smaller, local groups. $20-$50/tank to attend meetings and workshops. Networking and education: anything from conventions $$$s-$$$$s to time spent blogging ;), volunteering in various orgs, etc. (I moderate an RWA chapter critique loop- for example).

    I guess, like anything, there is a difference between the specific direct costs of doing something and the total costs, but I would say, off the cuff, that if you count two or more years salary and all the time I’ve spent workshoping and networking that my first novel alone cost me well over $100k. But I see that as the cost of education more than the cost of writing the novel, so maybe I’m reading the survey wrong. Of course, each one comes faster and requires less/fewer revisions, so over time, the average cost of writing a novel will be much below that.

    *worries* (now I’m afraid I’ve rambled)((must have another coffee))

  • Liz Jun 24, 2008 @ 11:01

    I’ve never managed to finish a novel. 😉

    Unrelated, by my copy of Hawkspar shipped yesterday. So excited!

  • anders Jun 24, 2008 @ 9:51

    Neat survey. I like the idea.

  • tambo Jun 23, 2008 @ 22:20

    I calculated at the wage I was making before I stayed home to write and be a full time mom. The price to replace me running the household would truly be frightening, but I manage to do it while writing, anyway.

  • vanity Jun 23, 2008 @ 17:52

    Holy cow, those are some serious wage brackets there.

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