My writing finances, 2022

It’s that time of the year once again: the time when we talk about numbers.

Wooo! Numbers! Nothing gets the crowd riled up like good old math, especially when it comes from someone whose specialty is nominally words. But what, I ask you, are words but equations with letters?

Don’t answer that.

Anyway, every January I post details about my finances for the past year. I’ve been doing this since 2018; it originally started out as a way to talk about the business of writing fiction, but since that has historically been a small chunk of my income, it’s more about how I earn my living as a freelance writer and podcaster.

As per usual, I’ve been inspired by several other writers, most notably Jim C. Hines, who’s been documenting his writing income for much longer than I’ve been in this game. And, as is also custom, I want to make it clear that this is just my personal experience, and all self-employed individuals (by nature) differ wildly. So don’t bother using this to extrapolate what your favorite writer or podcasting personality makes, because I guarantee you, it won’t hold water.

On to the math!

I don’t disclose dollar figures but, as in the past, I will say that my total gross income was well under six figures, and that this doesn’t include income from any investments1, just the freelance work I do. Nor does this include my partner’s income.

Income and expenses, 2016-2022

Broadly speaking, 2022 ended up being kind of a down year for me financially, which comes down to one key (and very positive) reason: in July, my partner and I welcomed our first kid and I took roughly six weeks off from everything. That primarily affected my tech writing income, since my podcasts continued airing in the meantime, thanks to my co-hosts and some excellent guest hosts.2 Ad income from those shows also lags behind a couple months, so I continued earning some money from earlier shows even while I was off.

But, largely as a result of taking that time off, my overall income was down 18 percent from last year.3 This was my second lowest amount of yearly income since I’ve been self-employed, and my lowest since 2016. But again, all of that comes with an asterisk since I voluntarily took a month and a half off from work. Had I worked during those six weeks at my usual pace, I probably would have been almost exactly where I was in 2020.4

Percentage of income from various sources, 2022.

Two other major factors influenced my overall income drop in 2022. First, podcast advertising definitely took a hit in the last quarter of the year. My two shows with significant ad support had several months with very few ads at all. The good news is that membership support of my shows accounted for about 40 percent of podcast income, which helped me ride out the low ad sales.

Second, I signed no new contracts for fiction work in 2022, which also explains why the chunk of my income from fiction (just 3 percent) was the lowest its been since 2016, when I only had one published book under my belt.

Indeed, the bulk of my fiction income in 2022 came from royalties, both from my traditionally published books, as well as the short stories I’ve self-published. In fact, I made more from my self-published sales than from any individual novel’s royalty payments, and only a hair less than all my traditionally published novel royalties combined. That’s not exactly a high water mark, as, to be clear, neither brought in a lot: we’re talking a few hundred bucks.

It is, however, a reminder that for all but the most successful traditionally published authors, advance payments are what primarily drives income.5 I had just one last advance payment in 2022, for The Nova Incident, which accounted for the largest single payment I got from fiction writing this year.

It’s also worth noting another factor: I got hit by foreign exchange headwinds. The publisher of the Galactic Cold War books, Angry Robot, is based in the UK, which means I get paid in British sterling, and the pound dropped considerably against the dollar this year, as you may have heard. So all of my income from those books was less than it might have been in more favorable macroeconomic conditions.6

My foray into self-publishing hasn’t exactly filled me with enthusiasm: there’s money to be made there, for sure, but it seems to be a case of spending upfront with a return on investment—and that’s a tough sell, as returns are never guaranteed. To be fair, I didn’t do a lot of marketing for my self-published work, mainly trusting to my existing channels, including my mailing list and social media7. As of this writing, the story I published in 2022, “Homecoming”, sold just over 700 copies, netting me a few hundred bucks. Less than I probably would have been paid if I had sold the story to a publication outright.8 But them’s the breaks.

Miscellaneous income contributed a tiny portion to my overall bottom line—just 2 percent—from merchandise sales and a small amount of affiliate income.

Expenses were also back up to 2020 levels, primarily driven by once again traveling for work and buying some new equipment, though they remain largely lower than my pre-pandemic levels (changes in my home office and healthcare situations, as detailed last year, account for some of that as well).

Income and expenses, 2016-2022

Looking forward, I’m hopeful that 2023 will be an upswing for fiction work—I’ve got some stuff in the works that I’m excited about (more about which when I can share information) and I’m hoping to get back to doing some of the podcasts that I’ve let lie fallow while adapting to my life changes.9 But there’s a lot of uncertainty nonetheless.

Percentage of income from various sources, 2016-2022

As always, my goal has been to grow the percentage of my income from fiction writing, but I think I’ve realized after six years of detailing my finances that this isn’t going to be a linear sort of affair. Some years are up, some years are down, just as with my overall freelancer income, and while I’d like to see that fiction trendline move more consistently upward over time, I have to resign myself to realizing that it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

But a big thanks to everybody out there who’s supported my work, whether it’s by becoming a member of one of my podcasts (The Rebound, Clockwise, or The Incomparable), subscribing to Six Colors, or buying my books. It all helps me continue cobbling together this weird existence I’ve made for myself, and I’m immensely grateful that I get to keep doing it for another year. We’ll see you back here in twelve months to see what’s what.

  1. Which, in my case, are pretty much just retirement accounts and some savings.

  2. Amazingly, thanks to a fairly recent law in my home state of Massachusetts, self-employed individuals are eligible for paid family and medical leave, meaning I got a small amount of income to compensate for my time off work. Very cool, and something all states (and the federal government) should be doing.

  3. Ironically, 2021’s income was up 18 percent from 2020, so I made…about a little less than I made in 2020, despite taking six weeks of leave.

  4. Just to be clear: I’m very glad I didn’t work during that time and even more grateful that I didn’t *have* to. Not only because being able to spend all of those weeks together as a family was wonderful, but also because my brain was pretty much mush.

  5. In some cases there’s also good money to be made from secondary rights sales, like audio, film/TV, or translation deals, but carve outs for the first are getting much harder to find in contracts, the second aren’t worth what they once were, and the last is extremely hit or miss.

  6. Years of listening to Apple earnings calls is finally paying off! I’ve got the jargon down cold. Just don’t ask me for any more color.

  7. Speaking of things that are going to be dicey this year.

  8. Or, more to the point, if a publication paying that rate would have bought it.

  9. I’ve already got one on the books for a few weeks hence!

Posted in Business | Tagged | Comments Off on My writing finances, 2022

“Homecoming”: A new Galactic Cold War short story coming next week!

Homecoming cover

A couple years ago, I decided to dip my toe into the world of self-publishing by making ebooks of a few deleted scenes from my books that seemed like they’d work as standalone short stories. The response to those was pretty positive and I learned a lot from the experience, so in August 2020, as I was finishing up work on The Nova Incident, I decided I’d take a stab at writing a totally original Galactic Cold War short story to lead into that novel.

The result: “Homecoming”, a roughly six thousand word short story that will come out next week, three months to the day before Nova‘s release (and, perhaps more importantly, two days before my birthday). You can—and, naturally, shouldpre-order it now, from your preferred ebook store. I’d much appreciate it if you would. (You’ve already pre-ordered your copy of the Publishers-Weekly-starred-review phenomenon that is The Nova Incident, right?)

So, what’s “Homecoming” about? Glad you asked:

Visiting your family can be stressful. For Commander Natalie Taylor of the Commonwealth Navy, it’s doubly so, since it means traveling across enemy lines to her homeworld of Centauri, occupied by the Illyrican Empire for the last twenty years.


And when you’re a spy with a job to do, well, it can be downright deadly.

I’ve had more than a few readers clamor for more time with Nat, who first appeared in The Bayern Agenda1; it’d always been my intention for her to take a more prominent role, but sometimes there’s only so much room in a story.2 I also wanted to visit Centauri, a planet that’s been referred to a number of times, starting in The Caledonian Gambit, but has yet to take center stage. This seemed like a good opportunity to do both!

But I also harbor a few ulterior real-world motives for publishing this story. First up, as I discussed in a recent Twitter thread, I currently have no other books under contract, though I have proposed a couple more Galactic Cold War installments to my publisher with the hopes of concluding the story3. (If you’re looking for the best way to help ensure those books happen, you probably already know: pre-order your copy of The Nova Incident, and make sure that all your friends do the same. Chances of a follow-up book greatly increase with the success of this one!)

Secondly, in the past I’ve talked on this blog about the business of writing, and how I manage my various sources of income. The previous ebooks I put out did very well in terms of downloads, but they were also free (in the majority of regions), so the money I make from them is negligible4. But I’d hoped that even a fraction of those people who downloaded free ebooks might be willing to pay a small amount for brand new content, thus potentially turning it into yet another of the diversified income streams I cobble together to make my living.

As a follow-on to which, I’ll say that traditional publishing is a tough field at times—and lately, it seems even more so than ever. Even when you pour your heart and soul into a project, there’s no guarantee it’ll find a home. And while I don’t want to give up on it entirely, because I appreciate much of what it has to offer, I would be remiss in not exploring other ways to tell stories that might otherwise languish in a drawer. Metaphorically. It’s not like I’m printing these things out. Trees are our friends, people!

Anyway, I’m glad to find a way to share this story with readers. I hope you’ll consider checking out “Homecoming”; I love this little story and I think you will too. And who knows: maybe it means more Galactic Cold War stories in the future.

  1. Eagle-eyed readers will notice, however, that she’s first mentioned in what seems like a throwaway line in The Caledonian Gambit, but was actually me planting the seeds of her eventual appearance. *evil laugh*

  2. That said, I do have plans for her in a future book, assuming it comes to pass…more on which below.

  3. Or, at least, this chapter of it.

  4. I won’t beat around the bush: I’ve made $50 on them. In two years.

Posted in Writing | Comments Off on “Homecoming”: A new Galactic Cold War short story coming next week!

Cover Story: The Nova Incident

We’re six months out from the debut of my next novel, the latest installment in the Galactic Cold War series. The Nova Incident is a departure from the previous books: without getting too much into the details, it’s the first book in the series to lean more heavily on what’s come in the preceding volumes, and the action takes place entirely on one planet.1

One thing that isn’t different from its predecessors is the excellent cover art, this time courtesy Tom Shone.

However, long-time readers know that I often do my own sketches2 when discussing cover art with my publisher. This time was no different there, either.

When I started thinking about what I wanted on the cover of Nova, my mind was drawn immediately the book’s opening scene, where a bomb explodes in the Commonwealth capital city of Salaam. It’s a big, jarring action scene that sets the plot in motion, and I felt like it really emphasized what Kovalic and crew will be dealing with as the story unfolds.

So, emboldened by Angry Robot Managing Editor Gemma Creffield, who made the dubious decision of telling me that she loved my drawings, I took my usual crack at it, picking up my iPad and Apple Pencil and attempting to represent the idea that was so vivid in my head: a futuristic city on fire, a space station hanging far overhead, and our hero caught unaware.

The Nova Incident cover sketch

I don’t know, I think I’m getting better?

Anyway, I got a very kind response from both Gemma and AR’s associate publisher, Eleanor Teasdale, who declared “I love this sketch with all of my heart.” The way, I can only assume, one loves a misshapen cake in which one has accidentally swapped the amounts of baking soda and baking powder.3

Naturally, the final result puts mine to shame and I’m delighted with how it turned out. But I’ll reserve a small amount of pleasure that most of the elements from my sketch made their way into the actual cover (albeit with the acceptable loss of our little stick-figure pal down there for scale). And, of course, the very perceptive amongst you might notice that the book had a different title at this point, the result of some input from my agent, Joshua Bilmes.4

As ever, I appreciate the willingness of the Angry Robot team to indulge my burgeoning artistic habit. Here’s hoping that I haven’t ruined my chances of sketching ideas for any future installments in the series, should they happen. (Not that I expect it to make up any percentage of my writing income, ever.)

Just a reminder: The Nova Incident debuts six months from today, July 26! You can pre-order it now, which you should absolutely do, especially if you want another book.5 Pre-orders remain the best way to show your support for an author, as I’m sure I’ll be reminding everybody out there for the next, oh, half a year or so.

Update: And, as of the day this was posted, Barnes & Noble is offering 25% of all preorders, both ebook and paperback, so there’s never been a better time to get yours in!

  1. See if you can guess from the title which one it is 🤔.

  2. Terrible, terrible sketches.

  3. Don’t ask me how I know.

  4. I’ve yet to have one of my working titles survive to publication, but there’s always next time.

  5. I haven’t hit the end of the story yet…but it’s rapidly approaching is all I’ll say.

Posted in The Nova Incident | Comments Off on Cover Story: The Nova Incident

My writing finances, 2021

New year, same old post.

To recap: every year since 2018, I’ve put up a post talking about my finances as self-employed writer and podcaster, with a particular eye towards my work as a novelist.

Having been my own boss for more than seven(!) years now, I’ve grown accustomed to keeping diligent track of my finances1, mainly because I need to. But I also think there’s a utility in sharing this information with others—especially for my colleagues who are working writers, or for those who might be interested in embarking upon it as a career and wonder what it’s really like.

We—especially in the U.S.—often consider money a taboo topic, one that can easily fall into boasting or self-aggrandizement. But I think that making the topic off-limits does a disservice to most people, and to folks in my line of work especially. I’ve greatly appreciated transparency from authors like Jim Hines, Kameron Hurley, and John Scalzi, which has helped to demystify the business for me.

As usual, I’ll preface this with a note: this is my experience and my experience only. If there’s one thing to take away from the self-employed, it’s that we’re all a little bit different, so don’t take this as gospel; it’s merely one data point among many.

So, let’s do this.

As in previous year, I don’t break out the actual dollar figures for my work.2 But to provide a bit of color, my income was up nicely in 2021, making it my second-highest grossing year since I’ve been self-employed. (And probably more than even a few of my years as a fully-employed editor.) However, even that gross figure is still well under six figures.3

I should also note, though I’m not sure I’ve done so in the past, that this is only income from employment, not from any investments or other income-accruing sources.4

2021 income breakdown

Big picture: I’m a little surprised that 2021 ended up being such a banner year, but interest in podcasts, tech writing, and even fiction definitely seems to have stayed stable, if not ticked up, during the pandemic. Advertising for podcasts has seemed to thin a bit; in 2018 and 2019, podcasting was my biggest source of income, but in 2020 and 2021, it’s fallen behind tech writing again.

This did mark the first full year of our membership program for The Rebound, which has been a nice little bonus. My back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that direct membership payments from all of my shows account for a little less than half of my total podcasting income, with ads making up the remainder—that’ll definitely be something I continue to keep a closer eye on in the next year or two.

Tech writing was up a little bit, thanks to some additional projects that I took on, and a readjusted fee structure for one of my biggest clients, which went into effect in early 2020. It’s provided a stable base for the rest of my income, but it’s not a sector that I’m particularly trying to grow at this point.

Fiction writing jumped back up again after a lackluster 2020, in which it accounted for 4 percent of my income. 2021 doubled that to 8 percent, though still shy of my high-point of 11 percent in 2019. The big driver this past year was selling another book (The Nova Incident, which comes out this July!), but The Aleph Extraction also earned out its advance, joining The Bayern Agenda and The Caledonian Gambit. That means I now get a little bit of royalty income for them each six months.5 However, all three of my books are earning money, which is a nice place to be, even if it’s not live-on-it income.

I’ve also had a surprisingly good year for weird miscellaneous income, which doubled since last year, mainly from merchandising and some affiliate fees. But it’s still a tiny piece of the whole pie.

Yearly income and expenses
My gross income broken down into expenses and net income over the past seven years.

While I’ve been talking about gross income above, one other big factor helped net income this year: expenses were down. And I mean way down. As a percentage of my income, they were half of last year.6 I did go to my first conference since the pandemic started back in December, but in part it was to use up airline credit that I had from canceled trips in 2020. I also didn’t have any big work purchases in 2021, which I expect to change next year as I probably replace my iMac and my iPad.

As I mentioned in my 2020 write-up, my partner and I bought a house last year, and most of 2021 was spent doing renovations. While those costs don’t directly factor into my business, the fact that our mortgage is significantly higher than our rent does adjust my home office costs. This was also the first full year where I was not paying for my own health insurance out of pocket, which made a huge difference in business expenses. I feel extremely fortunate to have a partner who gets health insurance as part of their job, and it’s another reminder of the deep inequality in our society that not everybody can afford the care they may need.

As always, the life of a freelancer is more inconsistent than anything else. My income’s varied a lot over seven years, and will probably continue to do so for the foreseeable future. But after doing this for the better part of a decade, I have a better idea of what to expect, how to handle expenses and weather low periods, and generally just how to manage my finances. In general, I’m in a position where I’m not too worried about making it through a given year, though that’s always just a hair’s breadth away: for example, if I were to lose any of my key clients, I would find myself scrambling to make up the difference. But I think I’ve diversified my income enough that it’s not as though it’ll all dry up at once.

income yearly change
Gross income change, by percentage, over the last seven years.

As always, I’d still like to continue to expand my fiction income, though there are limitations beyond me in that area. One experiment I’m planning on is self-publishing another Galactic Cold War short (à la my two previous) sometime before Nova comes out in July, and this time charging a small amount for it, just to see how it plays out. I’m also setting myself the goal of finishing and revising a new book by halfway through the year.

And that’s all I’ve got for my finances in 2021. I hope this was an interesting read for you, and if you’ve got any questions about it, feel free to drop me a line or hit me up on Twitter.

  1. It helps that I am a bit of a data nerd. For a writer, I like spreadsheets an awful lot.

  2. It’s something I’m thinking about detailing in the future, but that taboo is still tough for me to overcome.

  3. You want to do some math, you can probably figure a lot of it out.

  4. I do have some investments, but mostly they’re set aside for things like retirement or savings.

  5. And when I say little, we’re talking on average a few hundred dollars.

  6. Of course, for tax purposes, lower expenses isn’t always great.

Posted in Business, Writing | Tagged | Comments Off on My writing finances, 2021

Preorders for The Nova Incident are live! Plus, get a signed copy

Buckle in, friends. If you’ve been waiting for your chance to preorder the latest installment of the Galactic Cold War series, the time is at hand! Preorders are now live from all your favorite bookstores, online and off. Get ready for the newest adventures of Eli Brody, Simon Kovalic, Addy Sayers, and the rest of the team as the ongoing conflict between Commonwealth and Imperium hits home—in more ways than one.

And, for the first time, you can get yourself a signed copy of the paperback when it arrives, thanks to the good people at my local bookstore, Porter Square Books. Just head over there to place your preorder—you can even specify a personalized message from yours truly. I will literally write whatever you ask. Almost. Within reason.1

As a reminder, preorders are very important to authors. They help register interest in a title, which is one of the key things when it comes to that author being able to publish more books. So if you want more stories in the Galactic Cold War series (or, heck, more books of any kind by me!), then please consider preordering. It helps count towards first-week sales, which can be make or break for a lot of books.

Also, I can say that while it’s not yet available for preorder, there will be an audiobook version of Nova coming. I’ll share more details about that when I have them, but if you’re holding out for that, rest assured that it’s on its way.

Finally, people often ask when buying a copy of my books what’s the most beneficial place/format for me, to which I say, pick whatever’s best for you. I talk about this a bit over in my FAQ2, but the end result is that, for me, it all comes out in the wash. But you should definitely buy it from the place where you’ll get the most enjoyment out of it.

Thanks again for all your support. I’m looking forward to all of you getting your hands on The Nova Incident and I can’t wait to hear what you think.

  1. Don’t try it, Yankees fans.

  2. Yes, I have a FAQ, where I A all your most F Qs.

Posted in The Nova Incident | Comments Off on Preorders for The Nova Incident are live! Plus, get a signed copy

Shirts are back for a very limited time

The holiday season is upon us once again, and that means it’s time for shirts! I’m pleased to announce the return of my Commonwealth of Independent Systems and Illyrican Empire shirts from the good folks at Cotton Bureau.

I buy a lot of shirts from Cotton Bureau and they are super comfy. My Commonwealth shirt is in regular rotation, and my wife really enjoys her Illyrican shirt. What better recommendation can you have?

As of this writing, the Commonwealth shirt will definitely be shipping and the Imperium shirt needs six more sales to go to print. The campaign is running until November 15, so if you want one, don’t hesitate.1

  1. Commonwealth of Independent Systems insignia pins are also in stock there!

Posted in Merch | Comments Off on Shirts are back for a very limited time

Going Nova

The Galactic Cold War hits close to home, in more ways than one…

The Nova Incident

If you thought you’d seen the last of Simon Kovalic and his trusty band of misfit spies, think again. I’m delighted to announce that The Nova Incident, the third book in the Galactic Cold War saga1 will be in stores and on shelves on July 26, 2022. What’s it about? So glad you asked:

When a bomb explodes in the bustling Commonwealth capital city of Salaam, responsibility is quickly claimed by an extremist independence movement. But after a former comrade, an ex-spy with his own agenda, is implicated in the attack, Simon Kovalic and his team of covert operatives are tasked with untangling the threads of a dangerous plot that could have implications on a galactic scale. And the deeper Kovalic digs, the more he’ll uncover a maze of secrets, lies, and deception that may force even the most seasoned spy to question his own loyalties.

There’s a lot more I want to share with you about The Nova Incident, but if you want to take a look at the gorgeous new cover designed by Tom Shone and an extensive Q&A with yours truly, the good folks at SciFiNow have graciously given me an opportunity to talk a bit more about it.

Of course, I’d like to entreat you to get your pre-orders in; it remains the best way to tell publishers and stores that you like these books, which in turn helps ensure that the story continues. You can find more about the book, including pre-order links, over here. Spread the word!

  1. Well, depending on how you count, I guess

Posted in The Nova Incident | Comments Off on Going Nova

My award eligibility, 2021

I briefly typed “2929” in the title of this post and whew, that was a brief, if exciting trip. But alas, I’ve been informed that I must return to this year, 2021, for at least a little while longer.

Hugo nominations opened this week which means, yes, we’ve rolled around to awards season once again. So, here’s my rundown of what I did in the year that was which is now eligible to be nominated for any of your favorite awards, whether they be Hugos, Nebulas, Dragons, Locus…es? Loci? And so on.

Novel: My latest book, The Aleph Extraction, came out in May 2020, and it’s eligible for all your favorite “best novel” awards. I’m really proud of this book, and I know that sequels can be tricky when it comes to awards, but heck, I’m putting it out there, because what have I got to lose? (I will note that Aleph did come runner up in the 2020 Upgradies, an honor I will continue to treasure.)

Short Stories: I put out two short stories last year: “Pilot Error” and “Showdown”. They may not be eligible for every award since I published them myself, but they are eligible for the Best Short Story Hugo, since they are both under 7500 words and…that’s all that really matters? So there you go.

Best Series: For the first time, the Galactic Cold War series is eligible for the Best Series Hugo, since Aleph came out this past year and marks the third installment (despite the different publishers). This is somewhat contentious category, I realize, but if you really enjoy the series, have at!

That’s it for my award-eligible works from the year 2020. Guess I’d better get to work on something for 202…2? Math is hard.

Posted in Writing | Comments Off on My award eligibility, 2021

My writing finances, 2020

It’s become a tradition around these parts, when the new year rolls around, to talk a little bit about my writing finances. And guess what? As wild and bizarre as 2020 was, I—like most everybody out there—still had work to do, and a job to get done. For me, that predominantly meant writing and podcasting, and since I know there are people out there curious about what the life of someone in those industries is like, I’m here to share a few details of what my business looked like. (And remember, it is a business, not a passion or calling that’s somehow magically above the need to generate money in order to eat and live.)

Allow me to offer my annual caveat: this is a picture of my career and my career only, and these lines of work are especially variable—and that’s in a normal year. Attempts to extrapolate what someone else’s career looks like from this single data point are unwise and highly inaccurate. Your mileage will vary. As always, I’ll point you towards the excellent annual post by author Jim C. Hines, who has been doing this for quite some time, and whose posts were an inspiration for this.1

With that out of the way, let’s dive in to my traditional breakdown of income in 2020.

As in previous years, I won’t be sharing exact dollar amounts, but I will say that my gross income this year was down a bit from last year, and that number remains under six figures.2

Takeaways! Well, 2020 was…a year. Here’s how it shook out for me. After a meager decline in the percentage of my revenue that came from tech writing, that number went up somewhat surprisingly in 2020, due to a few factors. First, eagle-eyed readers might have noticed that the number of Macworld columns I write every month decreased this past year3; that was slightly offset by a very small raise I managed to secure way back in January, though it still meant a significant drop. Fortunately, one thing that did compensate for that was that I negotiated a rearrangement of my pay structure with another of my regular tech writing gigs, which resulted in a nice bump.

Podcasting dipped a bit in the overall revenue mix this year: notably, for the first time since 2017, it wasn’t the biggest chunk of my revenue. That’s in large part because one of my regular podcasts saw a significant tail-off in advertising back at the beginning of 2020; another show, meanwhile, experienced a dip in the summer/early fall, though it had already bounced back a bit by the last quarter of 2020. Membership has become a more significant revenue generator in my tech podcasts, with Clockwise Unwound now providing weekly bootleg episodes to paying subscribers and the modestly successful Rebound Prime. Those both helped soften the ups and downs of podcast ads, though they don’t entirely compensate.

And then there’s fiction writing. Last year, I was very pleased in the upward trend I saw, which went from 5 percent in 2018 to 11 percent in 2019. That made me—ah, foolish early 2020 me!—bullish on the future, though I did inject a caveat:

Going into this year, I have The Aleph Extraction coming out in May, and…that’s it. Currently, I’ve got no other books under contract, though I’m hoping one or two other projects might hit maturity in the not too distant future. But barring a substantial increase in the value of my deals, I’m not confident that it will bolster the bottom line that much.

Aleph did indeed come out in May, and that was great, though it ended up looking kind of different to my previous releases: no launch events, no book signings, and no cons to attend made it a mostly solitary affair. I did, however, dip a toe into self-publishing by putting out ebooks of two Galactic Cold War short stories, which was a fascinating experiment, though not particularly a profitable one.4

In better news, I did manage to pull in some royalty payments from The Caledonian Gambit and The Bayern Agenda, which have both earned out their advances, and I’m hopeful that Aleph will follow suit. But I didn’t realize any revenue from new deals in 2020, which is the big reason that the fiction percentage went down this year, to pre-2019 numbers.

As ever, the most important takeaway from being a freelancer is that your income is generally not predictable. Here’s what that looks like for me over the last several years.

Change in income

What I said last year largely holds true: I’m very privileged to be in a position where I can deal with the ups and downs of freelancing. My income remains diversified, I still have savings, and my partner’s job remains stable—or at least, as stable as anything can be in the time of COVID. One silver lining to the pandemic: my business expenses were way down, thanks to a lack of any travel whatsoever, which will likely continue to be a theme for the first two-thirds of 2021, at least.5

Heck, in the middle of this, we were able to actually buy a house, which was an exciting and terrifying adult-like decision.6

But 2021 is a big question mark right now. We’re still deep in this pandemic for the better part of the year, probably, and even after that, some of the effects are likely to linger. Book sales have tended to be up, but as my own agency pointed out on Twitter, the impact is not necessarily evenly distributed.

I’m choosing to remain hopeful for 2021. I’ve got a few projects that I’m hoping might finally get off the ground, and I’m looking for new opportunities as well. We’ll see how the year goes! Just remember: be good to one another.

  1. I’ve also in the past linked to similar posts from writers Kameron Hurley and John Scalzi, though I haven’t seen any from them this year; if I do, I’ll update this post with links. If you see similar posts from others, please let me know, I’ll add them too!

  2. Exact figures left as an exercise for the reader.

  3. I’m now writing one fewer a month, at their behest, with a commensurate drop in income, but I’m happy to still have the income.

  4. The long and short of it was that though they were mostly free, Amazon doesn’t let you make ebooks free by default. Instead, you have to request a price-match once you’ve listed books as free on other stores. And you have to do it for each region you’re selling in. As a result, some of those places fell through the gaps and the stories were listed on those local Amazon stores as 99 cents, which pays out a royalty of roughly 35 cents a sale, and I don’t mind telling you that I made just under $40. So lesson learned: next time, maybe I charge a dollar.

  5. Healthcare costs were down too, thanks to finally getting on my partner’s insurance after being on an individual plan for many, many years.

  6. Of course, we don’t yet live in said house, thanks to the pandemic spurring a glut of home improvement, meaning we’re going to be waiting a while to do our renovations. But we are very fortunate to be able to continue living in our apartment while that happens.

Posted in Business, Writing | Tagged | Comments Off on My writing finances, 2020

Giveaway for a good cause

The Aleph Extraction

Friends, it’s rough out there right now. You all know this. But even as the darkness is encroaching, we can fight back by bringing light to the world. I’m always in awe of my pals over at Relay FM for the work they do every fall to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. This year is no exception: as of this writing, they’ve already raised more than $170,000, and that’s even before they kick off what’s sure to be a legendary livestream for this year’s Podcastathon.

If you’re not familiar with St. Jude, its mission is to provide treatment and care for children with cancer. Most importantly, it doesn’t send bills to the families of those kids it treats, which is why donations are so important.

As a host of Clockwise over at Relay FM, I wanted to lend my support, so in honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, I’m giving away five signed paperback copies of my latest book, The Aleph Extraction, to people who have donated. Here’s how it’s going to work.

To enter, all you need to do is send a receipt (screenshot or photo) of your donation to St. Jude for the Relay FM fundraiser to contest [at] with the subject “Contest Entry”. Make sure you send it from, or supply, an email address at which you can be reached.

On September 18th, at 9 a.m. Eastern, I’ll do a random drawing from those who have entered. Each winner will get a signed and—if desired—personalized copy of The Aleph Extraction paperback.

Official Rules

  • Entrants must be over 18 and live in the US. (Sorry, international folks, but that’s the way it is. You can always request a free signed bookplate though!)
  • If you’re a family member or personal friend of the author, you’re ineligible for this giveaway.
  • This giveaway is not directly affiliated with or supported by St. Jude or Relay FM.
  • Enter by sending a copy of the receipt for your donation to contest [at] with the subject “Contest Entry”. One entry per person! Your email will be used only for notification purposes related to the giveaway and will be discarded after the giveaway has concluded, unless you have opted to subscribe to my newsletter.
  • Giveaway begins at 9:00 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, Friday September 11 and runs until 8:59 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, Friday September 18th.
  • At the close of the giveaway, random numbers will be generated by for each prize to be given away. The corresponding number in the spreadsheet of entries will be declared the winner. Only one prize per person, so if the same number comes up again, a new number will be generated.
  • Odds of winning depends on the number of entries.
  • Once contacted, winners have 48 hours to claim their prizes or a replacement winner will be picked. And so on, until winners are found for all the prizes.
Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Giveaway for a good cause