The Business End of a Pen

2016 U.S. Trade Publishing by the Numbers

2016 U.S. Trade Publishing title slide at DBW2017

Ever wonder what your prospects really look like if you’re an aspiring author? Wonder no more. The Data Guy presented a look at the 2016 U.S. Trade Publishing industry by the numbers at DBW 2017, and the data is glorious.

I attended a conference session in late 2016, in which the presenting author went through a “by the numbers” look at the financials of a writing career. (It was definitely not a lecture for the faint of heart.)

Beyond that, however, the author-presenter mentioned how closely guarded the numbers can be in the industry. His slides were well done, but sparsely populated by data, which he readily caveated. He even extrapolated some data based on his own experiences as a successfully published hybrid author. I wasn’t surprised by the holes in his data, but I appreciated the legwork he’d done. It was, after all, more data than many of us in the room had seen before. So I’m doubly grateful when folks like the Data Guy are willing to share the data they have.

If you’re a writer looking to break into the publishing industry — either in trad or indie format, or anything in between — you need to check out this report. It’s not just because it’s a smartly presented grouping of data on the industry as a whole. It’s ammunition to arm yourself when it comes to conversations with your friends and family when they ask you, “But aren’t people reading less these days?” (the first question my mother asked me when I told her I wanted to write novels), or “But how much money do you really think you can earn?” (another question some friends have asked me, often inferred against a contrasting, unsaid comment of, “Because you made a metric crap-ton more money before you quit the corporate world for this writing thing.”)

There is nothing that will get you off-track on your road to becoming published than the well-meaning doubters and cautioners in your life, particularly those in your inner circle.

It’s a way to say, “Look, I know I’m not in this to earn riches (although one can always dream), but this is a viable career. It’s the one I chose. If I work hard enough at it to improve my craft, and entertain or inspire others enough that they’ll pay for my craft, I can earn a good living. A modest living, yes, but you know what? It’s my living. It’s my choice to pursue this path. And that is good enough for me.”

Dream on, fellow writers. Keep writing the good fight, and know that there is a readership out there growing and waiting for you.

Data source:

C.H. Hung grew up among the musty book stacks of public libraries, where she found a lifelong love for good stories and lost 20/20 vision for good. Her stories have appeared in Analog SF&F, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and khōréō magazines, as well as anthologies edited by Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch, among others. She was a third-place winner of the Baen Fantasy Adventure Award in 2023.