Writing Jobs I’ve Had (And What They Paid)

Writing Jobs I’ve Had (And What They Paid) July 8, 2010

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)
Payment: none.
Time: 7 months.

Work: Freelance pieces and column I originated
For: free SD monthly tabloid called REVOLT
Payment: none.
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.

Work: Editor
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.

Work: Freelance writer
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.

Work: Editor
For: Weekly tabloid newspaper covering downtown San Diego (circulation 10,000)
Pay: $42,000 a year
Time: Four months

Work: Editor
For:Decor & Style, monthly glossy shelter magazine (circulation 55,000)
Pay: $45,000 a year
Time: 1 year

Work: Editor
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.

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