writing for money $$$$ confessions

My friend Karina thinks money confessions are the new taboo. So of course if something is taboo I need to write about it. Everything I list below, I did without an agent. There was no book advance for Legs Get Led Astray, and there haven’t been royalties for either Legs Get Led Astray or Women. The only times i really feel like I “sold out” for my writing was the GRAZIA interview and Men’s Health gig. But not even. I’m glad I did those things, they paid my rent. Everything else was written exactly the way i wanted to write it.

Age 25, pre-Legs Get Led Astray, 2011

  • Masturbating with Moxie, The Frisky, $75
  • Ortho-tricyclen ruined my relationship, The Frisky, $75
  • 7 Day Sex Plan, The Frisky: $50

(Jobs that year: Worked at my dad’s store, MUSICA, babysat)

Age 26, post Legs Get Led Astray, 2013

  • Heroin and Acne, Salon.com,  $150
  • Leaning To Sit Still, The Fix, $150
  • Five Senses of Sex, Men’s Health, $500
  • Audible (bought rights to LGLA), $900
  • The New Age Camp, an ebook by Thought Catalog (I get 40% of sale of this book, and this book doesn’t sell. I got a check from them for $2.35 once and something around $150 once.)
  • Reading at University of Southern Indiana, $500

(Jobs that year: Nannied/housesat/cat sat for Cheryl Strayed, worked part-time at Powell’s Books, Did some essay editing)

Age 27, pre WOMEN, 2013/2014

  • Sold WOMEN to SF/LD for $3000
  • Leaving My Groovy Lifestyle, anthologized in Goodbye To All That, $150

(Jobs that year: Worked at MUSICA, taught personal essay class through Litreactor.com, babysat)

Age 28, post WOMEN, 2014/2015

  • Interview with GRAZIA, $500
  • Audio rights to WOMEN, Audible, $500
  • Ebook rights to Emily Books, $500
  • Maggie and Me, Vice, $200
  • Behind The Till, Human Parts/Medium $150
  • Dyke Shopping, Human Parts/Medium, $150
  • Roommates, Human Parts/Medium, $150
  • Urban Eating, Human Parts/Medium, $150
  • Not My Cats, Human Parts/Medium, $150
  • Microphones, Thought Catalog, $1500
  • Soft Butch Blues, Thought Catalog, $175
  • Reading at The College of St. Rose, $750

(Jobs: Worked at Musica, worked for catering company, taught essay class for Litreactor.com, manuscript critiquing, essay editing, week-long nannying gigs in Portland for Cheryl, work at clothing boutique.)

Not included:

People that buy my books from me at readings or on my website. Random checks Amazon sent to Future Tense Books for my ebook that I would sometimes get part of.

For free since 2009:

The Rumpus, Poets & Writers, Jersey Devil Press, The Nervous Breakdown, Vol 1. Brooklyn, The Sun, Freerange Nonfiction, The Faster Times, Hobart, Everyday Genius, Gloom Cupboard, Smalldoggies, True Tales of Lust and Love anthology, Used Furniture Review, SMITH, Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood, NW Book Lovers.

I’ve been writing for publication since I was 24. 

So in five years I’ve made a grand total of:  $10,427.35 from writing. 

Which, if you’re a cup half empty or full person, this could either be incredibly dire or inspirational. I look at this list and think I’ve come a really long way. It’s obvious to say I would like more money.

The writing for free has led me to better opportunities, and I still write for free and think everyone should/has to at least for a little while. Writing for The Rumpus led me to so many friendships and paid gigs later. Etc.

I write often and whatever I want, but I am uncomfortable financially. Nothing I purchase is without panic and anxiety. Sometimes non-writers have seen some press I’ve gotten, and they say to me, “You’re doing so well, how do you feel?” And I begin to act strange, because I’m incredibly broke and unsure what they are implying. I have gotten LOTS of press and reviews, it’s completely true, and I’m eternally grateful for that.

Questions? Comments?

I was listening to James Frey on a podcast yesterday and he was saying he adamantly believes writers are like athletes, they peak and run out of steam in their fifties and sixties or earlier. I sort of agreed with him. He said it gets too exhausting, ambition runs out, and you don’t have it in you to sit at your desk eight hours a day anymore.

In the below photo I am twenty-five years old with my first check for writing–from The Frisky. It’s in my dad’s store, he took the photo.



6 thoughts on “writing for money $$$$ confessions

  1. Reblogged this on Samuel Snoek-Brown and commented:
    Simple but interested “confession” about how much — and how little — real writers really get paid for our work. “Which, if you’re a cup half empty or full person,” Chloe writes, “this could either be incredibly dire or inspirational. I look at this list and think I’ve come a really long way. It’s obvious to say I would like more money.”

    I think most of us who are working writers are nodding our heads at those lines!

  2. Hi Chloe-I was recently introduced to your work in my college writing class-I was so excited by your writing and so were a lot of other classmates-I wrote one paper on “That Was Called Love” and I am writing again about you- and one of the questions that I was suppose to answer-was “who is the intended audience?” I speculated that your work was so truthful that I had imagined that you wrote it for yourself first and then who ever likes it likes it- and that I felt people who create do it because they are passionate about it-and that “audience” and money- are secondary-
    I would like to say I adore your work-it has inspired me- a forty year old first time college student- get excited about writing and other classmates that were not going to take anymore writing classes change their mind-

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this. The idea that we “shouldn’t” talk about money is so weird, and destructive – especially for women & wage equality & the politics of it all.

    Your post prompted me to go find Miranda July’s interview w/ Lena Dunham (http://www.interviewmagazine.com/film/lena-dunham-february-2013/#_) b/c of what July said about Dunham’s advance for her memoir & how knowing about it positively impacted women artist:

    “…the fact that this really large amount of money was being spent essentially on a girl making art about her feelings. There was something kind of earth-shifting about that for people around me—you know, for women artists, and not in the way that it has been portrayed online or in the media, but in a real, like, “Wow, this is a shift that will somehow be good for me” way.”

    I think that if we were all more aware of what was being earned no matter what the work (or, gender of the person doing the work), we’d be a lot better at negotiating and, ultimately, defining our true value.

  4. I think 10 grand is fabulous. HOWEVER. Yeah. Being poor fucking sucks. Eating year old expired canned vegetables and ramen because it’s there sucks. Anxiety around money is the worst and I praise the gods every day I go to my easy day job because it pays well enough that I can buy food w/o worrying about how long it has to last me til. Good god it makes the long days worth it, which I forget sometimes. It is interesting though bc it begs the question of what success really looks like. And if it looks like the life you’ve fashioned for yourself and you are doing exactly what you want (even when you hate it) then I say you’re successful, and I’m hella jealous. I’m getting there, to a point where I’m doing exactly what I wanna be doing. Thanks for being honest as always

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