Diversify to Make a Living as a Children's Book Author

Today, we’re going to talk about money. Money can be tricky when you’re a freelance artist and/or writer, so I’m sharing a fantastic response that Jim Averbeck gave a student who asked how long he’d been making a living as a writer and illustrator of children’s books.

I think that sometimes there’s this illusion that as soon as we reach whatever goal we’re working toward, we’ll automatically have more time to make stories. For example, when I get an agent, I can focus on my writing because my agent will sell my stories. When my agent sells my book, I’ll be able to quit my day job and just make stories all day. I will have so much more time when . . . (you can fill in the blank).

Do you ever do this? I have to rein myself back in because I know better.

In reality, the agent I work with has me help write the submission letters she sends to editors, and she’s smart to do it that way. I’m still getting rejections. The truth is that if you’re sending your work out into the world, you’re getting rejections. Jane Yolen has sold somewhere between 300 and 400 books. I don’t know the exact number, but it’s A LOT OF BOOKS. And she still gets rejections.

A friend of mine had an agent for three years before the agent sold anything of hers, and then it was a multiple-book deal. Yay! But neither of them saw any income for three years.

Hopefully, you will eventually be able to quit your day job so that making books IS your main focus and job. Arree, Jim, and Vanessa make it work for them. A lot of people do. But a lot of writers and illustrators have another job. You want to make sure you have enough income coming in before you quit your job.

Arree talks about how important it is to make books that will keep selling. He’s still getting royalties every year for his first picture book. And when you start getting $10,000 a year in royalties for multiple books, it gives you a bit of an income cushion.

But as Jim points out, there’s no guarantee that you’re going to sell books every year, so it’s smart to diversify your income. In addition to making great children’s books, Arree, Jim, and Vanessa teach for Storyteller Academy and speak at conferences, book festivals, and schools.

Your other streams of income don’t have to depend on the book industry. Jim has a rental in San Francisco. Having assets that make you money without a lot of effort on your part will give you peace of mind and freedom to create.

Personally, I'm sold on the rental idea. It's a solution that I can work toward now.

How will you diversify your income?

Blog Contributors

Instructor Photo: Myrna Foster

Myrna Foster writes and edits content for Storyteller Academy and the WriteRiders Newsletter for SCBWI Nevada. She has spent a lot of time teaching and coaching children, including five years as a preschool teacher. She's also worked as a journalist, and Highlights High Five has published six of her poems. 

Arree Chung is an author/illustrator and the founder of Storyteller Academy. Arree’s Ninja! series has received starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal. Kirkus also gave a starred review to Mixed, which recently won the FCGB award. 

Today Arree lives a creative life, making stories for children. Arree spends most of his time making picture books, writing middle grade novels, and sharing his love for art, design, and storytelling with kids and dreamers everywhere.

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