Literary Arts Careers Outlook
The financial outlook for virtually all members of the literary arts community is poor. Competition among writers who wish to be published is fierce, and all but a tiny minority of those who do publish must find another way to make a living.
Academic writers, for example, are usually not paid by academic journals. When they are paid, they receive a token payment, an amount of money that would be rejected as a bad joke by skilled workers in other professions. What they gain from publishing is the prestige of placing their work in a well-known journal in their field. In a recent survey of academic writers conducted by the National Writers Union (NWU), almost 50 percent of academic writers stated that they made less than $2,000 per year for their writing.
The financial outlook for poets is extremely poor. Even the most famous poets rarely make a living from their writing. Most poetry publications do not pay at all, pay in copies of their publications, or pay minuscule amounts of money that are akin to those paid by some academic journals. Roughly three-fourths of those who read literary magazines are writers.
The situation is little better for writers of fiction. Some commercial book publishers and magazines pay well for literary fiction, but many good writers compete for a few places in those publications. An excellent writer is likely to find a publisher but is not likely to make much money. Many of the top magazines and book houses favor known writers, although it is true that almost all acquisitions editors are on the lookout for outstanding new writers. Many publishers will not even talk with authors who are not represented by a literary agent.
People write literary works because they love the act of creating and cannot be happy if they are not doing what they think they are meant to do, not because they expect to become wealthy. The fact is that almost all literary writers must find another way to make a living. Of course, there are exceptions, but even most writers with famous names must teach at universities, teach writing workshops, and sometimes publish nonliterary work such as commercial magazine articles in order to pay their bills and support their families. In spite of the difficulties, however, many writers love the work they do and would not give it up for something more financially rewarding.
Related Career Fields:
- Book Editors
- Diet and Fitness Writers
- Magazine Editors
- Newspaper Editors
- Science and Medical Writers
- Technical Writers and Editors
For More Information:
- The Authors Guild
- National Writers Association (NWA)
- Writers Guild of America (WGA)
- Writer’s Resource Center