I am currently working full time hours in a dead end job, I began writing a novel with a friend about five months ago now. It began really as a sort of 'bucket list' idea, something we had both always wanted to do. But now five months in, I suppose you could say I have become addicted to writing. It was a secret love, waiting to be discovered.

However (and to the point), working 10 hour days and then writing for 5 or 6 hours after work is really impacting other aspects of my life, on top of loosing sleep and forgetting to eat.

I would like to know if there is enough money in writing to quit my job and write full time.

I know that the question may seem subjective but I would just like at least some indication of what an average novel (if there is such a thing) can expect to earn in a year.

  • 3
    Quit right now? For something you've been practising for 5 months? I suppose it would light a fire up your behind, although I'd don't like your odds of being able to outrun the flames.
    – Matt Ellen
    Oct 1, 2013 at 21:25
  • 7
    FIRST test your skill. Horrible beginners frequently have a very high opinion about quality of their writing. If you're a poor writer, there is no money in writing for you, period.
    – SF.
    Oct 2, 2013 at 7:09
  • 1
    '10 hours days' is the problem. If you're single and don't have a family, do you think you could simplify your life and manage on a part-time job - or at least one that confines itself to an 8 hour day?
    – micapam
    Oct 2, 2013 at 23:29
  • 3
    Write longhand, during your commute, with a pen on a legal pad. That's TWO 1-HOUR sessions of writing per day! Then transfer your chicken scratch to a computer at night, editing it while you go. Do the math: 2hr/day * 5day/week * 52week/year = 520hr/year. Divide that by 8hr/workday, and you get 65 workday/year or 13workweek/year. All spent on writing, and that's just your bus ride, which you have to spend time on regardless. MORAL (for you): Learn to write fast in longhand, if you want to be a writer.
    – dmm
    Dec 20, 2013 at 19:54
  • 1
    @Jay: I was addressing OP's comment above my comment. But you are right that such a solution is not universal.
    – dmm
    Feb 3, 2014 at 18:05

10 Answers 10


Download a random ebook from Amazon, or read a random blog, and you will see that most writers are not ready for prime time. (In the old days, they got screened out by agents and publishers, so this wasn't so obvious.)

It's not that most writers are awful (although some are), but they fall short in critical areas. Their writing is charming, but hokey. Or maybe their grammar/spelling/typing is atrocious. (That's deadly for self-publishing). Maybe their basic idea is great, but they just can't pull it off. The plot is interesting, but the characters are all flat -- even the protagonist.

My point is, most people who enjoy writing are like most artists (painters, musicians, film makers, etc.). They've got talent, but nobody is going to pay money for their stuff. It's just not good enough. Everyone thinks (hopes?) they're not one of those sad people, but truthfully most people are.

Therefore, you shouldn't judge your chance of success by that of the average writer. If you truly are good, then your chances are much better than average.

The aggravating thing peculiar to artistry, though, is that you might not be able to earn a living at it, even if you're really good. So, don't get discouraged if financial success is slow to come (or never comes). And, as they say, don't quit your day job.


Writing is mostly a long-term profession. For most professional writers, writing is a long-term prospect. You are unlikely to make much money from one book, or five. Of course, unlikely is not the same as impossible.

What makes a professional career work: A reader reads one of your books, enjoys it, searches for another one, and finds one. So to make a steady, livable income, you (probably) have to write a bunch of books that readers enjoy.

Skill. It is possible that your first book will bring in enough money to live on. The likelihood depends on:

  • Your skill at writing books that readers enjoy
  • Your skill at reaching readers who would enjoy your books
  • Your skill at negotiating a publishing contract

You have not demonstrated any of those yet.

On the other hand, nobody ever demonstrated those skills before their first successful book.

The average novel. As for the earning potential of the average novel, the answer likely depends on which average you have in mind. I think median income from a novel is zero. Most novels are never published.

I suspect that the median income from a published novel is also zero. Rumor has it that seven out of ten never earn out the full advance. So for most traditionally published novels, the advance is the only income you will receive.

Alternatives to quitting your day job. Of course, quitting your current unpleasant job in order to write full time is just one option. Some others:

  • Get a job that you like. Or at least a job that you hate less.
  • Get a job that gives you more time to write, as long as it provides sufficient income.

How to assess the risk. For risky ideas like quitting your day job, I like to ask myself three questions:

  • What is the worst thing that could happen?
  • What is the best thing that could happen?
  • What is most likely to happen?

Then pay attention to your answers. Heck, if you can survive the worst thing that could happen, maybe it ain't such a huge risk for you after all.

And revisit the questions as you learn more about the possibilities.

  • Yup. Furthermore, for practice, lessen the time you write everyday, commit yourself to one project, work on it for a year or so (reading about writing, rewriting, reviewing at critique circles, etc) and then try it at Amazon Direct Publishing or something similar. If you feel up to it, you could even try first-hand marketing through open social networks (twitter, Reddit, G+, etc) or tailored forums (sorry, can't remember any ATM).
    – Mussri
    Oct 2, 2013 at 7:18

You've gotten plenty of negative answers here, which, I am sad to say, are accurate. The unfortunate truth is that writing is a horribly unrewarding profession. The fact of the matter is that, no matter how you slice it, most writers do not make enough money to support themselves from their writing.

And when I say most writers, I mean literally ALMOST ALL WRITERS do not make enough money from writing to make what you might call an honest living. You look at all the published books and think, wait a minute, that can't be true, but when you look at the numbers, it still works out that way. In the first place, all of those published books represent a small percentage of everything that is written, and then you have to remember that for each of those books, the writer is likely a person who might be lucky to have published a few books, making a few thousand dollars from each one, and is that a living when spread over any number of years? No.

Let me give you one concrete example. I was married to a woman who was a very successful professional writer. She did nothing but write full-time. In sixteen years, she published almost thirty books. She even sold one of her books to Disney and it was made into a Disney television movie. Her career was far more successful than the average writer. And even in her very best year, she didn't even earn thirty thousand dollars. Her average income was about fifteen thousand dollars a year. Could you live on that? She couldn't. Who could? And let me reiterate. She did far, far better than the average writer. And the only reason she was able to do what she did as a writer was that she had someone else to support her so she didn't have to work at another job.

So there you have it. You can't expect success as a writer. Even some of the most famous writers the world has ever known never in their entire lives were able to quit their day jobs. So write for the joy of it, but don't expect to make a living at it, and if you do get lucky and make it big as a writer, then we will all take off our hats to you.

  • 2
    +1 If you look at the mini bio for many writers you'll see that they maintain other careers at the same time as writing
    – CLockeWork
    Oct 3, 2013 at 8:50
  • Modern update: there are writers on Patreon, which is basically a site for crowd-based patronage. N.K. Jemisen decided she didn't actually need that income after she got her second straight Hugo award (one of the two most prestigious awards in science fiction). You do have to have a fair number of fans to make money there. Jul 13, 2018 at 16:08

Short answer: No.

There are, of course, some people who become millionaires from their writing: JK Rowling, Stephen King, etc. But the vast majority of writers do not make anywhere near what you could make by devoting the same amount of energy to something really lucrative, like, say, flipping burgers at a fast-food place.

If your goal is to make money, you have a much better chance of making a nice living if you become, say, a programmer, pharmacist, stock broker, etc. You'll get a much better return on your investment going to school to learn such a profession than practicing writing.

My advice would be to write because you want to write, and if you make a few thousand dollars out of over the course of your lifetime, great. I suppose if you're someone who likes to take a big, all-or-nothing gamble, then writing is one of those professions where a small number of people make big bucks, so yeah, it could pay off. But the vast majority make little or nothing. Like acting and music and gambling. For every big rock star who makes a billion dollars, there are a thousand wanna bees still struggling to get their first paying gig. If you're looking for a decent-paying steady job, you're in the wrong place.

I write because I like to write. I've been writing on and off for 20+ years, and my total earnings to date are probably on the order of $3,000. (Ballpark guess. I haven't actually added it up. It would be too depressing.) I'm sure there are people out there and on this forum who have done better than that, but I'm sure there are plenty who have been plugging away for 20+ years and have yet to make a dime, too.

I'm not trying to discourage you from writing. I think it's a fun and worthy pursuit. I do discourage you from approaching it as a business venture.

  • 1
    And even King became millionaire not immediately. And he could leave his primary job only after 14 years from the moment, when hi started writer's career.
    – gorodezkiy
    Dec 3, 2015 at 15:09

I quit a job at one point to write full-time, and ended up writing far less when I had more time. Since then, my general advice to anyone is to establish the new career BEFORE leaving the old one. Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert) was already making millions off his strip before he left his former job as a cubicle-dweller (laid off, fwiw).

As mentioned here, very few people make a living exclusively off writing. Quite a number of people use a successful book chiefly as the foundation of a speaking or teaching career.

If you are an excellent and indefatigable salesperson, you can make quite a lot of money on a self-published book, but you'll be spending more time selling than writing.

  • 3
    "...ended up writing far less when I had more time." There is a ton of wisdom in that statement. Writers really need to take a step back and think about it. I have wasted many years writing and not writing. I've always written more when I was terribly busy. Great post. Thanks for sharing.
    – raddevus
    Dec 1, 2015 at 20:43
  • "If you are an excellent and indefatigable salesperson, you can make quite a lot of money on a self-published book, but you'll be spending more time selling than writing." ... and you'd probably earn more money getting a job on commission.
    – Jules
    Jul 16, 2018 at 11:15

I don't have the problem of a daytime job. I've been out of work for FIVE years and, as such, I have plenty of time to write non-fiction books. I've written three books and all three have gotten a contract offer. Two of the books are in publication and the third will be published later this year. Since no employer will hire me (I'm over 50 and age prejudice has destroyed my employability) I'm FORCED to write. The only way to earn enough money to even approach a lower-middle class income is to write three, four, five, six, seven books over the same number of years.

  • Great post. Thanks for commenting. Very interesting and it's inspiring to see someone making all they can of their circumstances. I am sorry you are going through those challenges. Are your books available on amazon? Or somewhere online? I'd like to check them out if you'll post links. Thanks.
    – raddevus
    Dec 1, 2015 at 20:46

Most of the answers mentioned here are accurate. I would like to add my 2 cents. If you have financial commitments, then don't risk losing out on your current job. That's your bread and butter. Assuming you have a five day week, focus 100% on your job in the weekdays. On the weekends, put work aside, find a nice quite time of the day and start your word processor, think of a nice story and start typing. It will seem sticky at first. Write for an hour, then write some more before you get the hang of it and become confident. Keep writing part time and make sure it does not affect your current job. Both are two different worlds. Make sure they don't collide. If your current job sucks, just hang in there. It might get better. But if not then find another job with a better pay and hopefully, something you enjoy doing. But if you do have the fire in you, don't ever give up on your dream.


Writing books isn't the only way to write professionally.

If your goal is simply to write and earn a living from it rather than to produce a book, business writing can be a lucrative option. You don't have as much freedom to choose what you write, but you are guaranteed a paycheck for what you produce. I know one woman who does this in the financial sector working part time. She isn't getting rich, but she earns a reasonable income at it. I've also worked for businesses who hired freelancers to write annual reports or articles for a newsletter. It's another way to look at the writing market.

There are drawbacks. You have learn to market yourself and run a business, rather than simply write, but these are also skills that can make the difference between success and failure in writing your own books. When you start out, you will have very little control over what you are hired to write, although if you become successful enough, you can market yourself towards a favorite niche, and turn away unappealing jobs..


I think this answers the question best. :)

Jame's Michener quote


Maybe, if you are writing web serial fiction rather than novels.

There's a number of web serials whose authors' Patreons make them on the order of $50-60k per year; you can check out the Writing and Adult Writing categories on Graphtreon to see that this is the case. While these represent the most popular and highest-earning authors of web serials, it's still entirely possible for a new author to break into this space; for instance, Beware of Chicken posted its first chapter 5 months ago and its author is now making about $60k (at the time of writing this post).

You say that you spend hours every day writing, and that's very good if you want to become a writer of serial fiction. One of the big factors that will assist you breaking into the category of professional web fiction is consistently writing and posting a competently-written chapter every single day. A lot of these stories are posted on creating writing forums or serial fiction archives like Royal Road where regular posting will assist you in visibility and in the site's algorithms.

Of course, unlike writing novels, you probably won't become famous, and you definitely won't become rich; even the very top earners only make a hundred thousand dollars a year or so. However, it's entirely possible to earn a living.

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