Today I set down to setup an accounting system for my story sales. You know because I've just sold so many stories. (I'm being a touch sarcastic in case that isn't clear.)Before 2011 writing income was zero.
In 2011 it jumped to just shy of $200.00
In 2012 it's dropped to $35.00
I stand my ground firmly that anything is better than zero. However, if you calculate the hours of each story took to write and revise, I made .00001 per hour on each of the stories. Think it gets better when you sell a book. Nope. Lets say you spend 20 hours a week x 51 weeks. ( You took a week off , you probably invested more than 20 hours but you have a day job so it wasn't 40.) That's 10,200 hours. You snare an agent. The agent asks for revisions. The revisions take 5000 hours. Now your at 15,200 hours. You snare a publisher who is willing to give you a $10,o00.00 advance. It feels like you won the lottery. You happily pay your agent her 15%.
You are asked to revise more. You spend another 5000 hours. You are now at 20,200 hours on this book. But there's book signings and a lot of stuff. You can add another 20,000 hours of work. You're now at 40,200 hours. But thanks to all your hard work, your book has sold a gazillion copies, for which you get a 25% royalty. You're agent takes her 15% of your 25%. In other words your actually royalty is closer to 1.6%. ( I haven't studied math for years so I Googled the answer. Google might be wrong =)
You sold 1 million titles at $10.00. In other words you sold 10 million dollars worth of books. Your royalty check isn't $16,000 dollars. You got the advance remember. You get a check for $6,000.
On this book you made about 30 cents an hour. Now all you have to do is pay Uncle Sam his share and deduct your travel expenses. Of course if you could find a minimum wage job that you loved as much as writing, you would have made $281, 400 before taxes for your 40,200 hours.
"That's why I'm going Indie," you say.
Indie authors aren't doing any better than agented authors. They make a high royalty of up to 70% but selling volume is troublesome. And unless you can edit like a pro, you'll have to hire somebody. Minus cover art, marketing, etc. it comes down to about the same. Few people get rich writing. Hell unless you can live off .30 an hour one should never look at writing as financial decision. Do it because you love it.