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How Much Are You Paying To Write Your Novel?

Take the survey. You'll return to this page when you're done.

Preliminary Survey Results

Here's the calculated data from 380 people who took the survey.

I'll leave the survey open, and recalculate from time to time.

Most recent RAW data is here.

Averaged Data

Average writing speed (WS): 250 words (1 page)/ 34 minutes
Average planned novel length (PN): 94075 words
Average completed novel length (CN): 90,000 words
Average number of revisions (#R): 3.58
Average time per revision (TR): 64.4 days
Average number of times submitted (TS): 4.37
Average number of unfinished novels (projects) per writer (UP) 8.245
Average length of unfinished novel (UNL) 125 pages
Average writer's hourly income (from day job) $21.98
Average weekly hours spent writing (HW): 11.4

The Formulas and Results

Cost Per Planned Novel

Planned Novel Length ÷ 250 words/page = Number Pages per Planned Novel (PPN)

PPN x Number of Minutes Per Page = Minutes Per Project (MP)

MP ÷ 60 = Hours Per Project (HP)

HP x Hourly Wage = Cost Per Planned Project

Cost Per Average Planned Novel $4686.93
Use the Cost Per Planned Novel formula to figure Cost Per Completed Novel. (Substitute Actual Novel Length for Planned Novel Length.)
Cost Per Average Completed Novel $4483.92

Cost Per Average Revision

Number of Days/Revision ÷ 7 = Number Of Weeks Per Revision (WR)

WR x Hours Worked Per Week = # Hours Per Revision (HR)

HR x Hourly Wage = Cost Per Revision (CR)

Average Cost Per Revision $2305.26

Cost Per Total Revisions

CR x Number of Revisions to Complete Project = Total Revision Cost (TRC)

Average Total Revision Cost $8252.83

Cost of Unfinished/Buried Project

Length of Unfinished Project in Pages x Writing Speed (WS) = Minutes Per Project (MP)

MP ÷ 60 minutes = Hours Per Project (HP)

WUP x Hours Spent Writing (HW) =

HW x Hourly Wage = Cost Per Unfinished Project (CUP)

Average Cost per Unfinished Project $1556.92

Cost Per Total Unfinished Projects

CUP x Number of Unfinished Projects = Total Cost Per Unfinished Projects

Average Total Cost of Unfinished Projects per Novelist $13,826.81


I've included the formulas so that you can figure your own cost of writing. You can be much more accurate than I can---these are averaged numbers.

There are a two stats I did not figure cost for.

The first is for Idea Generation.


I didn't report this statistic because a statistically huge portion of the writing population doen't sit down and generate ideas for projects, and the rest were all over the place.

I'll note that one of the things you need to be able to do if you plan to sustain a writing career is intentionally develop ideas.

The second statistic I didn't figure cost for is Project Planning.

Project Planning

Again, a statistically huge population of writers don't plan their projects at all. And again, the rest are all over the board.

If you want a professional writing career, project planning is a critical part of the process, and being able to do it in a predictable and timely manner can be the difference between making money and going broke.

If, following the weak areas of idea generation and project planning, you figure that the average writer spends $4483.92 to write the novel and $8252.83 to revise it, and has $13,826.81 worth of unfinished novels stashed in a drawer on a hard drive somewhere, that writer has spent an AVERAGE of $26,563.56 to get a novel out the door to the publisher. This very expensive project he then sends out an average of 4.37 times before selling it or writing it off and moving on to something else.

If he sells it, first advances are still pegged at about $5000.

To make a living as a writer (that is, to make a profit over the cost of your time plus easily-tracked costs of materials expenditures, postage, professional memberships, and so on[none of which I've included in this survey]), you need to be able to:

  • reliably generate ideas and only develop the good ones,
  • plan salable projects in a timely manner,
  • write your way through the book,
  • market your work in a compelling fashion to editors and agents,
  • write the book you planned to write (and perhaps pre-sold to a publisher),
  • revise it in a prompt and professional manner,
  • figure out what you did right and do that again the next time,
  • and deal with the occasional career crisis like an editor who changed houses, a genre that has gone flat, or numbers that are sinking your name,
  • and STILL love to write, and love the books you write, while you do it.

In How To Think Sideways, I'll teach you to do all of that. This has, after all, been my job description for the last nearly 18 years.

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Holly Lisle

Holly Lisle




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