A lot of trad publishing pundits, including Steve Zacharius of Kensington, have been quoting a survey done by DBW-WD saying the average income for writers is $1000.
Why do I think it is highly misleading on earnings for writers? Let me reframe WD's basic supposition regarding income to apply to plumbers instead of writers.
I grew up on a farm. My dad taught me the basics of home repair. I can swap out gaskets and bobbers on a toilet. I can replace a faucet. I know where the cut-off valves are for each inlet and the main one for the entire house.
Does this make me a master plumber? Hardly. Can I go to True Value Hardware and buy the parts I need? Yep. Does this mean I made money? Excuse me while I laugh.
For things that surpass my meager abilities, like replacing the hot water heater or the garbage disposal, I call our plumber Bob. Bob is a licensed master plumber and has been for twenty years. This is how Bob make his living.
For simplicty's sake, let's assume Bob makes $60K a year. If we averaged my income from plumbing ($0) and Bob's, we get $30K a year in income. Add in my husband and son who've never touched any plumbing in their life and the average goes down to $15K. Then we turn around and say all plumbers in Houston average $15K in income per year.
Silly, right? The number isn't close to being accurate because three out of the four people averaged are not plumbers!
Yet, this is exactly how WD did their survey. 64% of those surveyed haven't finished writing a book, MUCH LESS STARTED ONE.
Why on earth would you include people who HAVEN'T PRODUCED A DAMN THING?
Sorry for the shouting, but this REALLY pisses me off!
Before anyone jumps on my case, I know what it's like in the beginning. How hard it is to finish that first story. How that first novel took years to write. Been there, done that, have the t-shirt.
But nowhere in my wildest dreams do I think my $0 income from 2004 should have been included in a survey regarding the 2004 income of professional writers.
The definition of "professional" means you are making money from a trade. I wasn't making money from my writing in 2004 because I didn't have anything for sale. 64% of folks from the WD survey didn't make any money because they didn't even have anything to MAKE AVAILABLE for sale. Therefore, WD's conclusion is meaningless.
If you want to check out a survey that at least talks to writers who have stories for sale, I recommend Beverly Kendall's look at published writers. I think it gives a far more accurate look at which writers are doing what and why.
Do I think publishing will make every writer a millionaire? Heck, no! But as the late, great Mark Twain said once, "There lies, damn lies, and statistics."
Trust your gut and always question someone's statistics.