In the comment thread of yesterday’s What Book Publishers Want Most, But Can’t Have, a reader wrote, “John, this is probably really rude of me to ask, but how do you make a living writing? I know it’s what you spend your time doing– thank God—but who pays you? You blog for Huffington, right? I know, it’s not polite to ask people about their money. So if I’m being too obnoxious, just ignore me.”
So … I’m not sure how detailed anyone might want me to be with this stuff—but it can’t be very, because how boring would that be? But … well, let’s see, for eight or so years, starting in (I believe) 1997, I made here in San Diego first nothing, then scratch money, and finally a living writing for just about every publication in town. That work went like this:
Work: CD reviews, band profiles, and longer freelance pieces I originated
For: free, bi-weekly local music magazine called SLAMM (circulation: 40,000)
Time: 7 months.
Work: Freelance pieces and column I originated
For: free SD monthly tabloid called REVOLT
Time: 7 months.
Work: 100 or so 300-word descriptions of museums, neighborhoods, etc.
For: Microsoft’s now-defunct website Sidewalk San Diego.
Payment: $10 per description
Time: Four months.
For: SLAMM Magazine in San Diego
Payment: $750 per issue, no benefits.
Time: 3 months.
Work: Writer, Editor of “Music” and “Nightlife” sections
For: SignOnSanDiego.com, then-new website of The San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper.
Payment: $31,000 a year and great benefits.
Time: 1 year.
For:San Diego Magazine,San Diego Union-Tribune, AOL’s Digital City San Diego, etc.
Payment: Varied. (Made $300 a week writing 30 bar reviews a week for AOL.)
Time: Two months.
Work: Managing editor
For: of On Air Magazine, monthly four-color subscriber magazine of KPBS, San Diego’s public broadcasting station. (Circulation: 45,000)
Payment: $35K a year.
Time: 10 months.
For: Weekly tabloid newspaper covering downtown San Diego (circulation 10,000)
Pay: $42,000 a year
Time: Four months
For:Decor & Style, monthly glossy shelter magazine (circulation 55,000)
Pay: $45,000 a year
Time: 1 year
For:Downtown San Diego, a monthly magazine (circulation 10,000)
Pay: drawing blank. I think $3,000 per issue.
Time: 6 months
Through almost all of the above work I got to pretty much write whatever I wanted, however I wanted. So I loved that part. (And I love being the editor of a publication. Very exciting work.)
Anyway, five years ago, I transitioned into books.
Today, there are four main ways that I get paid to write:
1. Writing books of my own
2. Co-authoring books with others
3. Ghost writing books for private clients
4. Editing/doctoring books
In the past two or three years of doing 2 through 4 above, I’ve made enough to be able to afford to do only 1 for awhile. Hopefully, I’ll never again have to do 2, 3, or 4.
Oh: I don’t get paid to blog for The Huffington Post; I do it for the exposure.