What Happens to Writers After They Debut? A Survey: 3 Years Out

Hand 3I asked my fellow YA and MG writers whose debut novels appeared in 2010 to answer a few questions about their publishing and writing lives today, three years after our books came out.  Of the original 72 writers who were eligible to reply (they were in The Tenners), 23 responded anonymously between May 20 and June 14, 2013, and all of the respondents reported themselves as actively writing still.  In case you’d like a hint to remember some of the new names from 2010, our year included Julie Kagawa (The Iron King), Leah Cypess (Mistwood), Kiersten White (Paranormalcy), Stephanie Perkins (Anna and the French Kiss), Jennifer Hubbard (The Secret Year), Teri Hall (The Line), and Becca Fitzpatrick (Hush, Hush).

While this survey admittedly captures a small sample and is not scientific, the results are still interesting.  For instance, the results suggest that the turnover of a writer’s editors is more common than the turnover of her agents, and that many of these writers are satisfied with their writing lives.  If you’ve ever thought that a writer doesn’t have to have a bestseller or earn a living writing to be satisfied with her writing, this small sample supports that theory.

My heartfelt thanks to the writers who completed my survey.  I appreciate their honesty and admire their tenacity.


1. Are you actively writing now (10+ hours per week)?

Yes: 23 (100%)

No: 0


2. Since your debut came out, how many more of your books have been released (not including the debut or any indie-pubbed books)?

Zero: 6 (26%)

1 or 2:  14 (61%)

3 or more: 3 (13%)


3. Do you currently have a contract for your next book?

Yes: 13 (57%)

No:10 (43%)


4. Are you still working with the same editor you had in 2010?

Yes: 5  (22%)

No: 18  (78%)


5. If you had an agent in 2010, are you still working with the same one?

Yes: 16 (69%)

No: 5 (22%)

Had no agent: 2  (9%)


6. Do you now earn a living by your writing?

Yes: 8 (35%)

No: 15  (65%)


7. Have you had a NYT bestseller?

Yes: 2 (9%)

No: 21 (91%)


8. Have you indie-published since 2010?

Yes: 2  (9%)

No: 21 (91%)


9. Are you satisfied with your publishing life?

Yes: 14 (64%)

No: 8 (36%)

Skipped: 1


10. Are you satisfied with your writing life?

Yes: 21 (91%)

No: 2 (9%)

4 Responses to What Happens to Writers After They Debut? A Survey: 3 Years Out

  • Great survey idea & heartening results…unless one equates publication with magic. Or, to quote my husband: “I thought we’d be rich by now.”

  • Thx for creating and sharing this survey! The question regarding success and longevity in this hobby/passion/career comes up often in my house too. (Love the quote, Terri!) To add to that, sometimes it’s not a quest to get rich but just a hope for “splurge money,” so I’d be curious to know about the income/revenue generated by these new authors. My WIP is nearly finished, and I hope to pursue the agent-publishing route, but my husband is convinced self-publishing is where the money is. Perhaps having dollar figures re: advances (minus commissions due to agents) would help put the expectations in perspective.

  • Terri ~ Thanks. Your husband’s line makes me laugh! It’s a winner.
    Diana ~ Georgia McBride recently tackled the issue of what debut YA writers earn and her piece has great links for more research:
    It’s not enough to consider deducting the 15% for an agent. A good agent is well worth that, incidentally. You also need to deduct self-employment taxes, weigh how to pay for health insurance, and budget around unpredictable paydays. 200,000+ people self-published last year, and the majority sold fewer than 100 copies of their books. Either way, publishing is not merely a game of odds, and you could have the next great book. Good luck!
    All best,

  • So interesting (and heartening, I agree). Thank you so much for doing this. I hope you do it again for 5 years, 10 etc.

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