From time to time I see posts on here and social media asking for the experiences of writers and being published or how much money can be made. I always find these interesting topics, though writers are always reluctant to discuss actual numbers (for good reason).
Since I have been published by Choice of Games, Hosted Games, and even Heart’s Choice, I thought I would provide my journey and some real numbers to people who may be considering writing for these labels.
I don’t mind disclosing financial numbers, not because I’m bragging (I’m not the highest paid writer here). I want people to understand the realities of the writing process, how long it takes to make what could be considered a reasonable yearly income, and the amount of effort it takes.
I posted this on my Patreon, but it’s open to the public.
I just wanted to say thank you for this. Sometimes, what goes on under the hood is so opaque to those of us still working on getting our first titles out there, and a lot of the advice or estimations we get are either extremely vague or untethered from anything concrete and hard to evaluate. So I really appreciate the clarity and straightforwardness of this post.
Thank you for this great post! Although I’m not a writer myself, I appreciate this insight into the writing life, and I hope it will help aspiring writers take a more realistic view not only of the kind of success that’s possible, but the amount of work and care that go into it. (And as a reader of yours since the first part of Zombie Exodus, I enjoyed getting a little glimpse into your history as a writer!)
Thank you for sharing, it’s extremely interesting to hear about - and aspirational too. It really highlights how building up a reputation, following, and back catalogue makes a huge difference - the shape of games selling more as the backlist develops is similar to my experience, though I’ve only been doing it for 5 years not 12, and my numbers aren’t as high.
If you don’t mind answering, how much time do you spend on Patreon rewards, running Discord, etc compared to game writing/editing? I haven’t yet managed to strike a balance between the different activities and tend to prioritise the game creation above adjacent work.
On the subject of taxes and side gigs: if you have a day job and you’re making any money from us/other writing projects, I would highly recommend putting as much of your writing income into a SEP IRA as you can. Every dollar you put in a SEP is a dollar that is untaxed at the present time.
Check me on this, but I think it might even be possible to put 100% of your writing earnings into a SEP (depending on the ratio of your day job to writing income).
Thank you for sharing! This was definitely very insightful. It was also cool to hear you’re on StoryLoom - I heard about it the other day and got curious enough to look into it, both from a reader and creator side.
SEP contribution limits are way high, but you still can’t go above $66k. And if you’re self-employed in your writing, which presumably is the case for all of us, you can only do 20%-25% of your total earnings. So he couldn’t do more than around $17,700 as I understand it.
Yes, but I’m fairly sure you can only do 25% of the self-employment earnings specifically. What you make in your day job isn’t eligible to go into the SEP, because you can’t contribute to a SEP, only your ‘employer’ can. So if you make $100k a year in your job and $10k in your writing, you can still only put $2,500 into the SEP that year.
I looked into it a bit (it’s been a long time since I got my CIP designation, and I had a sinus infection pretty much the whole time we were in Charlotte), and here’s what I got from the IRS (emphasis mine).
SEP plans (that are not SARSEPs) only allow employer contributions. For a self-employed individual, contributions are limited to 25% of your net earnings from self-employment (not including contributions for yourself), up to $61,000 for 2022 ($58,000 for 2021; $57,000 for 2020).
I’m not a tax pro, and I may be misreading it. Where I work is hands-off with our SEP accounts, so we don’t wade into whether a contribution is eligible, we just take the money. But I would definitely recommend folks planning on going that route talk to a tax pro. Heck, I recommend that for most people anyhow.
I’m a self-employed author (self-publishing novels on Amazon) and also trade stocks on the side. I use SEP-IRAs , and hustlertwo is correct that the total SEP-IRA contributions are limited to 25% of self-employment income (my profits from stock trading doesn’t qualify; nor does W-2 earnings from a day job).
You can run the scenarios using Turbotax or HRBlock software to check as well.
That said, you can contribute to your 401(k) if your employer offers one.