Posted by: nancyisanders | November 22, 2013

Welcome to My World: Time + Work = Income


So many of you have purchased one or both of my how-to-books for children’s writers. Thank you so much! Without the enthusiasm and support of our readers, where would we be as authors? We’d all be shut away in obscurity like Emily Dickenson…or worse we’d give up the joy of writing altogether for more gratifying projects.

The main reason I wrote both books was to share with you the strategies that have worked for me. My hope and prayer is that you’ll find nuggets and treasures that will work for you, too, on your own personal journey as a writer.

Recently an online writer friend has been reading my first book, Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career. She e-mailed me with a question about it, and I thought it was such a great question I wanted to share it here on my blog.

The question in a nutshell was:
How do you make your equation “Time + Work = Income” (Section 1.4: page 29) work for you so you earn a steady income each year?

And here’s the nitty gritty answer:
Every year around this time of year, I plan for my income level that I want to earn in the year ahead. This projected income level is based on two things:

1) New royalty book contracts I sign and write in the year ahead.
2) New work-for-hire book contracts I sign and write in the year ahead.

I don’t include royalties from past books in this equation because, frankly, royalties are unpredictable. I might have a book that sells lousy one year (I think the smallest royalty check I ever received was for seven cents). I might have a book that sells great one year (I think one of my books sold over $50,000 in royalties one year). But there’s simply no way I can predict this.

So I plan for my year ahead and try to line up new book contracts so that the income from advances or work-for-hire flat fees all adds up to $20,000 to $30,000 a year. Any royalties I earn on top of that is icing on the cake.

This means that for the past 15 years or so, I’ve landed contracts to write 4-6 new books each year.

I did this as a beginning writer without an agent and I still do that today. Right now I have 3 books lined up for the year ahead. My agent is still waiting to hear what the advance will be for the one, and when we hear that, I’ll do some more calculating to see how many more contracts I need to line up to meet the income level I want to maintain.

It means I spend a lot of time studying catalogs of book publishers and submitting queries to editors I know as well as editors I’ve never worked with before. I still try to be a Piggyback Writer (see Section 4.2 on page 200 of my book) to break into new markets and I still sign work-for-hire contracts to help pad my yearly income as well as sign royalty contracts with bigger publishers that will bring in income for a few more years.

I wanted to share this with you because I want to encourage you that you CAN earn an income from writing. I do, so I know you can too. Plus, I have writer friends who earn more than I do each year, too! Always remember:

If one can, anyone can.
If two can, you can, too!


  1. Thanks for this encouraging yet practical post. For an unknown author with few published works, it can seem impossible to break into the publishing market. I appreciate your reminder that the tried and true combination of work+time is still the best recipe for success.

    • Glad you’re encouraged, Kathleen. And I was just chatting with another new writer today and he was shocked to hear that many publishers LIKE to work with firsttime authors. More experienced authors can be too expensive and too demanding to work with at times. We all have to start somewhere! I’m glad you’re moving forward in your writing goals.

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