Thursday, May 15, 2014

Alyson Hannigaan and the Semicolon Magnate of the Internet. (How much I'm making at writing.)

Writers don't give enough information about how much we are (not) making at writing, and this can create, I think, the impression that everyone is doing better than you are.  Or at least better than I am, which is almost certainly true.  So from time to time, I will give you a breakdown of where my money comes from in writing.

Keep in mind that I, like almost everyone, does this as a hobby, so if you are intending to work full-time as a writer, you may well do better than I do.

Anyway, here's how I'm doing in 2014.  The amounts earned are from January 1 to date.

Blog Revenues: $25.00.

I get paid for blogging, or at least I used to.  There are many services that will post ads on your blog, including Google Adsense (which I canceled because in 9+ years of blogging I've never actually received any money from Google) and Izea.  I go with Izea, which lets you monetize your tweets, blogs, Tumblrs, etcs.

This year, I have earned a total of $25.00 from "sponsored posts," which are posts where the advertiser pays me to discuss the product or service; there are no limits on what I can say, so I'm free to negatively review something if I choose.  A typical 'sponsored post' goes for $1-5. The highest I've ever received was $100 from a great advertiser (they even wrote the ad.)

I also have banner ads on my blogs that get paid by impressions -- so the more you go check out my blog, the more fractions of cents I make.  Those average, for Thinking The Lions (the highest paying one) $0.37 a month.

Twitter Revenues: $10.90.

Through Izea, I occasionally get the chance to post something on Twitter, earning either a CPC (Cost-per-click) payment or flat rate.  The current rate I get is $0.50 per tweet if it's a flat rate, which isn't too bad considering that I only have to write 140 characters to get that money.

Book Sales: $11.67.

I only sell books through Amazon.  By month, that figure above breaks down to:

January: $2.95.
February $1.40.
March: $2.36.
April: $2.26.
May: $2.70.

Earlier this year, I raised the prices of my books from $0.99 to $3.99, after taking my own advice from the IWM March 2014 issue (still available here!), which advice was that books priced at $3.99 sell better than $0.99 books.

That hasn't proven true yet; I would get about $0.35 per book (the odd amounts are accounting for conversion to US$, from overseas sales -- I'm an INTERNATIONAL author, thanks to Amazon!) prior to May, so I sold four whole books in February.  But having sold only two in May so far, I've already exceeded my profits from any other month except January, because if I'm getting four times the amount of profits, I need to sell fewer books to make more money.

Other Stuff: $16.70.

I tend to forget that I also used to make t-shirts and sell them online (or at least design t-shirts and then have someone else sell them online), something I do through Zazzle.  By far, the most popular t-shirt I ever designed was the "You've Been Punctuated" line of shirts, shirts with oversized punctuation on them, and the most popular of those was the semicolon:

Which you can get here for $20 or so.  I have a lot more like that if you're looking for, say, a great Father's Day gift; all of them can be viewed at this link and you can get them in a variety of colors/sizes!

Shameless self-promotion.

So that's a total, for 2014, of $64.27, to date.  Now, let's look at how that breaks down, expenses wise.


URL/Website costs: $30-60.

The biggest expense I typically have is blog-address payments.  If you want to get ads on your blogs, you'd best not have a "blogspot" address or other URL that announces you're just a blogger. Advertisers don't like it.  So for the past few years I have paid $10 per site to have .com addresses, something I've backed away from as I've dropped my blogs.  That cost $60 per year; this year it'll probably be $30.

Izea, if you sign up, has several 'tiers' of potential bloggers. To get ads, mostly you have to submit a bid (how much you want to get paid, where you'll put the ad, etc.).  The 'free' membership lets you submit 3 bids per month.  I have the next level, which costs $12 a year, and lets me submit unlimited bids.  (Izea has several associated sites like PayPerPost and SocialSpark; I am a member of all of them. PayPerPost and SocialSpark don't generate much business for me these days.)

So that's a cost of about $42 per year.  That's the only cost I have, really, because while I pay $45 a month for Internet access, I'd have that anyway.  One benefit of doing this as a business: Every year I deduct some of my Internet costs as a business expense.  So I'm one of those One Percenters taking advantage of fancy tax loopholes you read about.  *puts on monocle, sneers at the peasantry*

Time spent: About $100 per week.

If you're going to run your writing like a business, you've got to think of it as a business.  I read an article once about a guy who started a coffeeshop, and to save on employee expenses, he worked 40 hours a week at the counter, and he wrote that one day, he realized that he'd gone to college, gotten a degree, and taken out a business loan all so that he could work an $8 an hour job at a coffeeshop.

For me, writing is a hobby that I like that sometimes gets me extra money, unlike my other hobbies (drawing, playing guitar, eating pizza, having weird medical complications), but if I'm treating it like a business I can't think that way.

I typically spend at least an hour a day on writing-related stuff, usually first thing in the morning, from about 6-7, when I read emails, write stories, write blog posts, check out possible publishers or magazines, and look for reviewers.  Weekends, I do a little more.  That's 7-10 hours a week.  I peg my time as being worth $10 per hour, because that's probably what I'd have to pay someone to do those things.  For example, I could probably hire a college kid to send query letters and submissions for short stories to every publisher in the world, for $10 per hour, or a kid to do my Twitter account every day, posting funny things and links there and following people to get followed back.  I've thought about doing that, too -- hiring a publicist, someone who would generate tons of queries or ads or simply Tweets and emails and comments on blogs about my book.  I may do that someday, so if you start getting comments from some stranger on your blog and he also mentions that Eclipse by Briane Pagel is a masterpiece of speculative fiction, you'll know what's going on.

Page Views: 

I wasn't sure where to put this or even whether to include it, but I'm going to, so that you can see the effect of various changes in my habits and methods.

I used to put way more time into blogging than I am currently; that's because blogging used to pay way better than it does now, and while I didn't necessarily like it better, I liked it enough and I enjoyed the extra money, so I was for several years a blogger-who-writes.

The ads slowed down with the great recession, and about that time I got bored with many of my blogs, so I began experimenting with different blogs and consolidating them up into fewer blogs, and focusing more on writing.  (I'm currently at work revising a novel I wrote, and focusing on short stories; that's where the bulk of my time goes, other than editing our magazine here.)

One thing I always heard from people was that my blog posts were too long and that turned people off.  My blog posts (up 'til this one) have been a lot shorter recently, and I haven't seen an uptick in blog visitors, even though many posts are just a paragraph and a picture or so.

Here's a snapshot of pageviews on a few of my blogs:

"Once, there were:" Pageviews today: 128.  All-time high pageviews: January 2010, 51,442. Most popular post: "ESPN Is Not Paying Erin Andrews Enough Money," 73,418 page views, all time.

This blog, which I haven't posted to in several months, was mostly a sports blog for a long time and then became my literary/story blog for a while.  It generates a ton of page views, still, because there were posts about Tebow, Favre, and Erin Andrews.  Why do you think ESPN mentioned Tebow so much last year? I learned, with this blog, that putting a picture of Alyson Hannigan at the top of a post generates page views.  That's literally all it takes. That's why Alyson Hannigan is at the top of this post.

Thinking The Lions: pageviews today: 151. All-time high: July, 2013, 95,908. (WHAT SERIOUSLY?) Most popular post: "Soon, I'll Go Back and Review OTHER Riddles from when I was a kid and figure THEM out." 19,958 views.

This is my personal blog, where all my other ideas start out, so it has stories of me, my kids, pictures, essays, politics, songs, sports, stories, etc.  I had no idea what I posted last July to be so popular, so I went and looked and my July posts were (a) ALMOST ALL REALLY LONG and (b) mostly about stuff like one of my kids learning to swim or my decision that I would try to listen to a song 10,000 times in my life.  So much for conventional wisdom.  That most popular post listed is simply a revelation I had one day about a punchline to a joke I heard when I was a kid.  God only knows what people like about that.

I will say this: If I write a blog post I'm not crazy about, that one tends to be very popular. The ones I like the best are the ones people like the least. I am a terrible judge of taste.

lit, a place for stories: Pageviews today: 5.  Sounds about right. All-time high: January 2012, 55,514.  Most popular post: The Best Spoken Word Song, 109,939 pageviews.

For a long time, this was my pop culture blog where I wrote lengthy meandering essays about stuff like what kind of pizza topping was the best, and I enjoyed it for a great long time before switching it over to what it is now, which is my online literary magazine where I will pay you for your stories click that link to go to the site.

It has been a disappointment as a literary magazine; pretty much only Andrew Leon reads it regularly and I am somewhat convinced that he is only doing so as a condition of his parole.  (What he's on on parole for is a state secret.)

Then again, literary magazines are a hard-sell.  Before you complain that nobody reads your blog, ask yourself how many blogs you read? Same goes for online literary magazines, of which I read... one.  (That one is not mine, mind you: I read one of someone else's.)

Pro-Tip:  A while back, I did an experiment. I had a blog I called "Me, Annotated," which was just old blog posts that I reposted with snarky comments about myself.  The experiment was this: every blog post title began with the word "Sexy" and had a three-word title. This was because I'd heard that Google indexes the first three words of the title, so putting "Sexy Something Something" into your post title would help move it up in page rank.
I last posted on that blog on March 12, two months ago.  Despite that, that blog had 208 page views today, making it currently my most popular blog.  It got 10,358 page views in March, 2014, and has been steadily climbing all year.  So really, every single post I do on any blog should simply be titled "Sexy ..." with two other words.

So there you go.  That's my life as a hobbyist writer: I net about $30 a year (maybe more! *crosses fingers, crosses toes, realizes that is really uncomfortable, wonders briefly about people who can cross their toes comfortably, how weird are they?*), and people pay the most attention to me when I am talking about old jokes, my kids, or Erin Andrews.

Speaking of which:

Feel like upping my profits? Why not check out my collection of horror stories, The Scariest Things, You CAN'T Imagine, attractively priced at $3.99, a price I'm told is like honey to the bee.  Do bees like honey? I don't know. Just click that link and check out the book. 


  1. Apparently I need to start using hot girls in my posts. The most popular post was Superhero Trivia Question #2 back in June of 2012 with 1101 page views. The most popular search phrase is "Sean Connery" and a post referencing him got 846 views. So maybe post pictures of scantily clad Sean Connery.

  2. I need to start with the Sexy naming of all my blog posts. That could be entertaining for at least a short while.

    My most popular posts were one about a Cyborg Weasel (complete with a photo of one I made that seems to be catchy in Google searches), one about my son wanting to buy an $8 pet and a long craft post I did about making book page roses. The book page roses wins by far because it got linked on a friends popular craft blog. It seems the answer to more traffic is to get your post linked on someone else's coattails and ride along for all it's worth....which is nothing for me, because I wasn't selling anything in that post.

    FWIW, I'm inclined to agree with sweetie on this one, but that might be kind of weird for you.

  3. Jean:

    First, I spent an entire year posting "Sweetie's Hunk Of The Week," so anything is less weird than weekly asking my wife who she thinks is hot.

    Second, Google actually does factor in links to other websites, so long as they don't appear manufactured or fake in some way. How they tell, I don't know, but getting your post linked on a popular site in an organic way is a big deal.


    Can't go wrong with that.

    1. Jeez, I don't think I could come up with a year's worth of guys I thought were hot. In fact, I'd probably have a hard time coming up with 10. I like my hot guys fictional. Not that this stops me from taking a look at guys other people consider hot. ;)

  4. So what you're saying is that I need my blog to grow into other people's blogs like, say, a mushroom. Or mushrooms.
    My most viewed post is about how to become a werewolf, and it has nowhere near the number of views any of yours have.
    As for my book sales, I have noticed a decline since the Spinner serialization ended, which actually generated very steady sales. I will probably serialize again.

  5. Great stuff. My most popular post ever was one I did on gigantism - then shoehorned something about writing in there at the end, I think. I haven't actually read the thing in a long time - but I do recall that it had over 20k views at some point.

    And I haven't checked my sales numbers in a few months, but based on the money Amazon sends me, I'm not going to impress anyone.

  6. @Rusty: If Amazon is sending you money, I'm impressed, because Amazon isn't sending me any money.

  7. I like reading posts with hard data like this. I guess the moral is "Don't quit your day job". Still I like to dream and hope that one day I will find the magic formula.

    Tossing It Out