37 % Tutoring
33 % Editorial Services
14 % University Lecturer
6 % School visits, festivals and workshops
6 % Journalism
5 % Royalties, Foreign Rights & PLR
These are based on figures without expenses taken out. 2017-2018 was not quite a typical year in terms of income from actual books, as I had a trilogy out in 2014-16, as well as a stand-alone in 2016, so this pie chart does not include any advances. It does show however that in a “fallow” year - ie one in which no book is out - income from school visits, royalties and so on can slump dramatically. You need to be visible in order to sell books; in order to be visible you need to be out there (whether it’s on Twitter or Facebook or in real life); if you’re doing all of that, then you’re not writing. PLR (Public Lending Right) this year was the worst it has ever been: with six books out, I had expected it to go up year on year; instead the reverse has been true, as libraries sell off old stock and close down.
My main source of income has always been private tutoring, teaching Latin, Greek and English, which I find a stimulating and interesting way to keep revisiting the languages and texts I love. I’ve also recently been employed as a lecturer in the English Department of a university, on a part time basis. You can see however that a large chunk of income derives from Editorial Services. This is a growing field: published writers provide considered and lengthy editorial advice on manuscripts by emerging writers. It is an irony of my writing life, however, that I spend more time reading other people’s manuscripts than working on my own.
The other figure that may surprise is that for journalism. I am a regular reviewer and feature writer for the national newspapers and magazines, and usually have at least one or two current commissions; sometimes three. There was a point last year when I was filing one piece, on children’s fiction, with one hand, and one on pyjamas for a glossy magazine with the other. The tiny 6 % it accounts for is a reflection of the enormous lowering of freelance fees in the last few years. Whereas even 10 years ago I could hope to make a decent living from the amount of journalistic work that I do, now it barely covers the expenses.
Philip Womack is the author of six novels for children, including The Broken King, the first in The Darkening Path trilogy, and The Double Axe, a re-imagining of the Minotaur myth.