The Body (and Life) You Want without the Suffering

Friday, September 24, 2010

How Money can Make You a Better Writer

Does anyone else approach their creative career with money in mind? I've approached every career move I've made with a threefold question, "Will I have fun, is there free food, and how much will I be paid?" This particular focus isn't popular, I've learned. It's always been difficult to have conversations with friends in the arts when I inevitably steer the conversation toward money, largely because artists are reticent to disclose how much (often how little) they are making. Yes, there is beauty in art, but there is ease in a comfortable, well-fed life.

I think of an anecdote about Colette being told her fee for writing a story was too high. She responded, and I paraphrase, that if a famous, desired writer did not charge high fees, how would a struggling writer ever get a penny for his/her work? Colette knew of what she spoke, she spent her early career ghostwriting best-selling novels for her first husband, who went on to leave her impoverished.

An excellent contemporary book on money and writers is The Secret Currency of Love, an excellent collection of essays by writers who discuss Money & Romance, Money & Family, and Money & Self. It is great read by authors across the spectrum who detail, in sometimes stunning particulars, the myriad mistakes they have made - often starting with the failure to ask how much they will be paid for work.

In fact, I'm such a stickler about my lifestyle that I never seriously entertained writing as a career choice until it was suggested I find out the top fees paid for short fiction. It never occurred to me, prior to that time, that short fiction or essay exchanged for currency any longer. I am a former journalist, I understand fees for articles; the fiction thing went right over my head. The top literary magazines - those paying for literary fiction - top out at $7,000 per story. $2500 seems to be the median with well-respected publications. Those are numbers worth paying attention to, though, and they provide inspiration for building a career as a writer.

I ask myself, where does one go with a MFA? In many fields, advanced education increases earning potential (EP). Do writing careers tend to trend differently?

Basic Career Options for MFA Grads

Here are some basic numbers and graphs regarding employment for "writers" - and the term is used broadly for comparison's sake:

Here is the average salary range as provided from
• Acquisitions Editor: $37,000 to $57,000
• Assistant Editor: $26,000 to $40,000
• Associate Editor: 33,000 to 44,000
• Blogger: $17,000 to $38,000
• Copy Editor: $21,000 to 42,000
• Copywriter: $41,000 to $63,000
• Editor: $37,000 to $54,000
• Editorial Assistant: $24,000 to $38,000
• Editor-in-Chief: $51,000 to $95,000
• E-learning Developer: $42,000 to 75,000
• Fact Checker / Researcher: $25,000 to $37,000
• Grant Writer: $35,000 to $47,000
• Junior Copywriter: $29,000 to $44,000
• Junior Technical Writer: $31,000 to $42,000
• Legal Editor: $36,000 to $45,000
• Managing Editor: $37,000 to 49,000
• Managing Editor: $40,000 to $64,000
• Medical Copy Editor: $29,000 to 44,000
• Medical Editor: $37,000 to 52,000
• News Editor: $25,000 to 35,000
• Newspaper Reporter: $24,000 to $51,000
• Online Editor: $31,000 to $50,000
• Proofreader: $29,000 to $41,000
• Proposal Writer: $41,000 to 69,000
• Public Relations Writer: $34,000 to $46,000
• Publications Assistant: $25,000 to $37,000
• Senior Copywriter: $54,000 to $80,000
• Senior Editor: $42,000 to $66,000
• Senior Technical Writer: $56,000 to $81,000
• Speech Writer: $51,000 to $73,000
• Technical Copy Editor: $36,000 to $52,000
• Technical Editor: $36,000 to $57,000
• Technical Writer: $42,000 to $63,000
• Web Editor: $22,000 to $44,000

Now we have a good idea where MFA graduates end up, next we'll look at how that compares to those with Bachelor degrees and what differences, if any, exist when a writer does not obtain an advanced degree in the Arts.

Continued in Part II

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