In spreading the news of my recent short story publication to fellow employees at my so-called "real job", I was amazed at how many people asked, "Are you getting paid for it?" The answer, of course, is yes, to which the natural response was, "Great! Then you won't have to work here much longer."
Reality check. I will have to work there much longer. Most writers don't earn enough from their work for it to be the sole financial support.
One co-worker was bold enough to ask how much I made from that story sale, to which I answered, "Semi-pro payment, by the word."
"So...like a dollar per word?" she said.
(Ha! I wish! That would be three grand!)
"No," I said. "Enough to buy me a nice dinner. Once."
Her face scrunched up. "You better get to writing more stories then!"
Sadly, there isn't much money to be made for short story writers. Which is why most, if not all of us, eventually write novels. And only a small percentage of published novelists achieve the grandeur of household names like J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, Stephen King, Michael Crichton, Nora Roberts, Danielle Steele, Dean Koontz, etc. The list may seem long, but in comparison to how many "unknowns" are out there, it's really quite short.
The average advance for a new author's novel, specifically, in the science fiction genre, is only $7,000. You have to wait about a year, or more, before you see that book in print. Then wait even longer before you get any kind of return on the sales, if any. And don't forget about setting a chunk of that money aside for taxes.
Seven thousand dollars doesn't go as far as it used to. If that's the only money you've made for an entire year, consider yourself at poverty level.
So, while it might be tempting to say, "Take this job and shove it," once you can officially call yourself a "published author", remember that a regular paycheck, no matter how small, is still quite valuable.
Don't quit your day job, night job, second job, or third job. And in between all that, keep writing.