How Much Does A Writer Make

Writing as a career has existed for millennia. It is an exciting, dynamic occupation that has the potential to pay well. Writing professions come in a variety of forms, including writing instruction manuals, journal articles, marketing texts, and novels. And if you have a good command of the language, you might be curious about the potential financial rewards.

In the United States, writers earn an average of $69,510 annually or $33.42 per hour. Those who enter the profession in the lower 15% earn around $45,000 a year, while those in the top 15% earn around $140,000. The employment of writers is anticipated to increase by 4% between 2021 and 2031.

The ability to utilize your creativity and produce content on your own when working as a writer may be satisfying. However, knowing how much writers make if you love to write and have a natural gift for language may help you decide where to focus your interests or where to start. Let’s examine various well-known and typical writing careers and their salaries.

The Average Income Of A Writer

You can pursue a wide range of writing opportunities since writing is a flexible profession. A journalist or magazine writer are two career options if you’re interested in writing for publications. Does the corporate world appeal to you more? You can work as a copywriter or a technical writer. You might also work as a research writer or English professor in academia.

Not to mention the numerous alternative career options, such as publishing, editing, and grant writing. There is undoubtedly a writing specialty perfect for various interests, but understanding the standard salary of each writing job is equally important.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) specifies that the average annual wage of a writer is $69,510, but the profession covers a wide range of writing positions. The table below illustrates a mix of 16 common and popular writing careers and their average salaries.

Writing ProfessionsAverage Median SalariesAverage Hourly Income
Novelist$71,600$34.42
Freelance Writer$37,000 – $80,000$17.79 – $38.46
Journalist$55,000$26.24
Medical Writer$94,700$45.53
Grant Writer$49,000$23.56
Technical Writer$61,500$29.57
Columnist$73,700$35.43
Proposal Writer$68,300$32.82
Communications Officer$71,900$34.57
Speechwriter$142,800$68.65
Content Writer$59,500$28.61
Screenwriter$67,100$32.26
Ghostwriter$39,000$18.75
Travel Writer$79,400$38.17
Copywriter$70,500$33.89
Editor$63,400$30.48

The average yearly income of US residents is $60,575, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA). This indicates that the typical median salary of a writer, at $69,510, is known to be higher than the national average wage.

In 2021, Statista reported that the US had over 49,400 writers and authors, up significantly from 40,900 in 2011. Between 2021 and 2031, writers’ job opportunities are expected to grow by around 4%, in line with most occupation-growth forecasts.

So while statistics help map out how much a writer makes, let’s survey what makes each writing job unique.

Novelist

Annual Median Income: $71,600

A novelist is a writer of novels; however, they frequently work in other fiction and non-fiction genres. Others desire to do so or write as a hobby, while other novelists are professionals who earn a career by penning books and other works of fiction.

The most typical payment conditions in publishing are payment upon acceptance (check drawn upon approval) or payment upon publication (check drawn after writing is published). Novelists sell their written works to advertising agencies, news organizations, movie, television, theater, and companies, as well as book and magazine publishers.

Freelance Writer

Estimated Annual income: $37,000 – $80,000

A freelance writer can be a generalist, constructing material for various outlets and platforms, including newsletters, press releases, websites, internal corporate communications, blog entries, and emails. Many freelance writers decided to focus on a particular sector or communication channel.

A job as a freelance writer entails productive time management, determination, and the will to pursue new writing assignments continuously. This is why their median salary is a flexible amount. The simplest freelance writing invoice is a sent email that specifies how you want to be paid (PayPal, paper check, peanuts, etc.)

Journalist

Annual Median Income: $110,000

Journalists conduct research, create articles, features, and news pieces, then edit, proofread, and file them. Their works are published in magazines, newspapers, journals, and other print and online publications, as well as on radio and television. The typical Journalist is energetic, persuasive, and far more concerned with the broad picture than with specifics or processes.

Journalists work for media outlets either as employees or freelancers, receiving a salary for investigation, information gathering, and news story presentation. Including housing, transportation, and other benefits, the average yearly salary ranges from $55,100 and $171,000.

Medical Writer

Annual Median Income: $94,700

The most typical assignment for medical writers is to create or help create instructional, technical, promotional, or informative medical writing. The particular tasks that a medical writer may perform will depend on their area of specialization, talents, training, and employment.

Even while some smaller medical practices might require a medical writer, these roles are frequently performed by part-time freelancers rather than full-time employees. In the full-time medical writing field, salaries range from $32,000 to $52,000 for entry-level medical writers to $80,000 to $170,000 for director medical writers.

Grant Writer

Annual Median Income: $49,000

Grant writers do research, create applications, and submit them to get financing for organizations or individuals. The organization or person must have a goal that fits the criteria of a grant to be eligible for funding. For nonprofit or charitable organizations, grant writers are frequently employed.

Like other writers and authors, grant writers often need a bachelor’s degree for entry-level positions. Usually, it doesn’t matter what subject of study you have; however, marketing and English are two beneficial courses. In addition, specific grant writing programs are available at several schools and institutions.

A grant writer is compensated by their employment, whether a contract, freelance, full-time, or part-time work. A grant writer typically makes roughly $50,000 annually, which might vary based on region and expertise.

Technical Writer

Annual Median Income: $61,500

Technical writers are experts in creating instructions and articles that make complex technical material easier for others to grasp. They create how-to manuals, instruction manuals, journal articles, and other supporting pieces.

For example, a technical writer may create an instruction manual for a new product in collaboration with product designers, engineers, and graphic designers.

Writing virtual content like e-books is another effective technique for technical writers to monetize their work. You may use this to sell your products and write a book on a subject of your choice. This is a fantastic method to generate money, mainly if your book is jam-packed with helpful advice.

Columnist

Annual Median Income: $73,700

A columnist is a writer who produces a series of articles for publication, typically with analysis and opinions. Blogs, journals, newspapers, and other periodicals all have columns. They take the style of a brief essay written by a single writer that presents an opinionated viewpoint.

Most writers in other fields have to follow particular conventions, while the column allows you to write almost anything you want, so you can “breathe” a bit more thanks to the column. Columnists’ earnings, like those of reporters, vary greatly depending on the newspaper size, location, experience, and whether a union contract covers the columnist. However, columnists are generally paid more than reporters.

A columnist may work full-time, part-time, or freelance. The median annual compensation for full-time positions is just over $73,000.

Proposal Writer

Annual Median Income: $68,300

A proposal writer is a creative specialist who creates proposals for private businesses, nonprofit institutions, and governmental organizations. There are many forms of proposals, but most offer suggestions for transactions, agreements, or contracts between firms or authorities.

Many businesses depend on proposal writers to foster commercial ties and get contracts, which requires exceptional writing skills and research abilities. Salaries for proposal writers vary based on the sector and region. For example, the District of Columbia pays an annual average of $102,600, and Iowa, in the United States, pays proposal writers a yearly average of roughly $52,700.

Proposal writers often need a bachelor’s degree in English, communications, journalism, or a closely related subject. Some may have taken courses in industries like business, healthcare, charitable organizations, or politics relevant to their proposal writing.

Communications Officer

Annual Median Income: $71,900

A communications officer writes promotional content, such as press releases, brochures, and newsletters, following their employer’s marketing strategy and branding standards. Therefore, they must adhere to their employer’s approved style when producing their material.

One of the essential abilities a communications officer must have is a flexible command of the langue. Being able to effectively convey the organization’s activities, goods, and products since they must write, distribute, and edit specific information. Writing speeches, yearly reports, news releases, and other documents are examples of this.

Communications officers who work freelance or on contract can assist with one-time tasks or projects like producing press releases or making social media postings.

Speechwriter

Annual Median Income: $142,800

Someone paid to plan and compose speeches another person will give is known as a speechwriter. Many senior-level executives and elected leaders in the public and commercial sectors hire speechwriters.

There are many types of speechwriters, while political speechwriters are the most well-known and lucrative in their trade. For example, speechwriters could create speeches for business leaders, scholars, or individuals who want a memorable wedding toast.

Most projects have flat rates, although others only pay by the hour. For example, an experienced speechwriter may expect to charge between $60 and $150 per hour or $80 to $15,000 per project.

Content Writer

Annual Median Income: $59,500

The online presence of a business is one of the essential methods for influencing public perceptions. By offering accurate, trustworthy material that promotes the industry, content writers contribute to developing that presence.

Content writers may assist in establishing a company as an authoritative source and foster favorable corporate impressions by delivering helpful, factual information. Writing proficiency is a given, but pros in this field also gain from having strong research abilities, graphic design expertise, and an understanding of the best SEO practices.

Most individuals who pursue a career in this field eventually work remotely. Both full-time and part-time jobs are available in content writing, with many opportunities for freelance work.

Screenwriter

Annual Median Income: $67,100

There is no doubt that screenwriters play an integral role in making your favorite entertainment come to life. Even unheralded heroes are compensated well behind the scenes to “improve” brilliant but imperfect screenplays.

Successful screenwriting requires the ability to collaborate with individuals, take criticism well, and adapt to the needs of others. You’ll also need a keen ear for dialogue and a fundamental knowledge of screenplay construction.

Typically, screenwriters are paid between 2 and 3 percent of the film’s production budget. The agreement between the writers and studios establishes the proportion.

Ghostwriter

Annual Median Income: $39,000

A freelance writer who writes a piece credited to someone else is known as a ghostwriter. For a client, a ghostwriter can create various works, such as non-fiction books, speeches, web material, and book proposals.

Ghostwriters frequently spend several months to a year researching, writing, and editing for a client’s non-fiction books. Many executives also use ghostwriters on LinkedIn to assist them in producing content and improving their exposure.

When project expenses are factored in, it’s not uncommon for ghostwriters to earn well over $100 per hour. Compensation can be per page, as a fixed fee, as a percentage of the book’s sales royalties, or some combination thereof.

Travel Writer

Annual Median Income: $79,400

Although it pays well, travel writing demands a lot of creative thought. It is ideal if you enjoy exploring and writing about new locations. A travel writer’s job is to travel and write about that journey.

Travel writers only sometimes receive cash payments from clients and often discuss prices with each client. For example, a business occasionally covers your housing, meals, and travel costs. However, your chances of being paid for travel tasks increase with your expertise and social media presence.

Most travel writers work as freelance writers. Travel writers who work independently submit articles to editors of various magazines. Travel bloggers, trade writers, and staff travel journalists are more types of travel writers.

Copywriter

Annual Median Income: $70,500

A copywriter creates content for various documents and platforms, such as campaigns, online articles, advertising, blogs, websites, and social media. They use captivating writing skills to persuade targeted consumers to utilize a company’s goods or services.

Copywriters usually earn a salary from the advertising agency they work for. As part of their work at the agency, they typically write content for various clients at once.

Agency copywriters typically start at $47,000 and may earn up to $88,000 per year. In-house copywriters begin at an average salary of $48,000 and may earn up to $84,000 annually. There are freelance copywriters around, yet more than 20% make $100,000 or more.

Editor

Annual Median Income: $63,400

Editors are responsible for ensuring a company’s written materials are accurate and of high quality. Working with writers to improve their content, they educate them about good writing practices and how to improve their content.

Typically, book editors charge based on word count or page count. Most editors also charge an hourly rate, but long books are less likely to be charged per hour. An editor makes an average yearly salary of $63,400. This might be greater or lower depending on where an editor works and the sort of editing they undertake.

How Much Do Authors Make?

For creative individuals who like writing and storytelling, a career as an author may be gratifying. An author is someone whose writing has been made public. Besides publishing works, writers are considered authors for the ideas and content they put into their writings. Because of this, most authors are writers, yet not all writers are considered authors.

An author’s income can vary significantly depending on several variables, including the manner of publication, the number of royalties, and public recognition. However, there are online databases that have collectively recorded information for estimating a median yearly income. According to multiple sources, records state the following:

  • Salary.com estimates that an author’s yearly salary ranges from $39,500 to $53,500, with a median of $46,200.
  • According to Zippia, an author’s annual salary ranges from $51,500 to $118,00, with a median of $78,300.
  • PayScale records an author’s annual salary to range from $22,000 to $99,000, with an average base of $50,400.

Each platform has a community of online users that input and report data individually. The result is that it’s improbable that two authors will make the same amount of money.

Primary Factors That May Affecting An Author’s Income

An author’s own method of verbal communication is reflected in their writing, and their voice, personality, and general tone help define their writing style. Their writing style might vary based on their writing, the targeted audience, and who they are writing for.

When evaluating how much an author can earn, it’s critical to consider various factors. Two primary factors include the following:

1. Publishing Method And Volume Of Work

Nowadays, there are two main types of book publication: self-publishing and traditional publishing. Unfortunately, the alternatives for publishing (or getting published) are more complex. There is just one significant distinction: A book is self-published if the author has all the rights and royalties. Traditional publishing is when the publishing business owns the rights and royalties.

While collaborating with a major publisher (through traditional publishing) could help you sell more books, self-publishing your material may result in significantly more royalties or money per book sold. Also, regarding the volume of work, you may expect to get more royalties when you publish numerous books than if you only publish one book.

  • A publisher’s payment to a writer in return for the right to publish a book is known as an author’s royalty. According to publishing businesses, this figure is determined by the sales a particular book generates.
  • Authors can also receive advance payments from publishing companies. Advances are sums of money given to authors at the beginning of the publishing process, frequently before the book is offered for sale. Publishing businesses typically deduct advances from royalties.

2. The Type Of Genre, Cover, And Paper

Fantasy and romance novels, for example, sell more copies than novels in other genres. As a result, your income may be impacted by the genre you choose to specialize in.

Costs of production are also a significant factor. For example, publishing large, hardback books cost more than smaller ones, but they sell for more, resulting in higher profits. Conversely, smaller paperbacks, like poetry anthologies, may be less expensive to purchase, but printing them is frequently cheaper.

How Much Can You Make Per Self-Published Book?

Many authors favor self-publishing as their preferred option. Fortunately, a self-published book can be sold and distributed via several options.

Amazon’s KDP is a great example; they pay self-published authors around 70% of e-book sales up to $10 and 35% of e-book sales beyond $10. Amazon also pays 60% of the printing expenses of paperbacks sold on their platform and 40% of the printing costs of extended distribution books. Other than Amazon, other examples include:

  • Online Print Stores

Some online print companies have online stores where your book can be advertised and purchased. For example, see Blurb’s Bookstore or Draft2Digital.

  • Ingram Content

The Ingram Content Group is committed to assisting in the distribution of more books to people worldwide.

  • Sell your book yourself

Shopify is a first-rate platform for selling books online because it gives you full control over your marketing, brand, and customer experience. Shopify can also help you link with social media networks like Facebook Marketplace to boost sales.

For those curious, traditionally published authors receive royalties ranging from 5 to 25 percent for print books and 15 to 25 percent for audiobooks and e-books.

Conclusion

A career in writing can be enriching due to its many opportunities tailored to various writing styles. Most successful writers in the US would already be earning above the average pay grade since a typical writer’s average median salary is around $69,510. Since many writing jobs are freelance compatible, it’s an excellent opportunity to feel your way around and learn where your strengths and interests lie.

References

Annual income sources used: bls.gov|ziprecruiter|indeed.com|salary.com|payscale.com

Various writing professions samples: wikipedia|indeed.com

Self-publish avenues: kdp.amazon|medium.com

Alan Reiner
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