I sold my first short story to the Darkover anthology The Keeper's Price in 1980. There have been twelve more Darkover anthologies since then, and I have a story in each of them as well as in #14, Stars of Darkover, which will be out next June. I sold four new short stories last year, and re-sold one previously-published story. My most recent published story is "Fire's Daughter" in Elementary, an anthology in Mercedes Lackey's Elemental Masters world. Advances against royalties for these stories came to $585, and I do expect to receive royalties.
I sold my first novel, Changing Fate, to DAW in 1994. It earned out its advance, paid royalties, and eventually went out of print. I got the rights back, and it served as the MZB Literary Works Trust's test volume for Kindle, so I'm still getting royalties on it in both eBook and print-on-demand formats. Actually, I'm still getting royalties on every story I've ever written, thanks to self-publishing--and a prospective reader knows that an editor liked the work enough to pay for it (and that it was copy-edited and should have decent spelling and grammar). Royalties came to $3,480.
In 2013 I also edited two anthologies and a story collection, The Complete Lythande, and co-edited another anthology with Deborah J. Ross. Advances from editing (I'll get royalties on these books, too) were $2,800.
So my writing income for 2013 totaled $6,865, broken out as follows:
- 50% from royalties for prior work
- 41% for editing
- 9% for new fiction sales
If that were my only income, I wouldn't have to worry about paying income tax--in fact, I believe I would qualify for the Earned Income Credit.
I suspect that there are a lot of writers in this "don't quit your day job" bracket. Comparatively few people make a living exclusively from writing.
While I love the TV show Castle, I don't know any writers who could afford (a) that much space in Manhattan--they had five people living in Castle's apartment earlier this season, (b) that many cool toys, and (c) that little time spent actually writing. It's a lovely fantasy, but it is fantasy, which is they call it fiction.