The other night I was hanging out with a group of writers and would-be writers. One of them was a self-published novelist who is making a living that way. And she was talking about how it's pretty amazing to see these "self-published midlisters, who are making $10,000 a month, while a traditionally-published midlister...."
"Would be making $10,000 a year," I finished. (I wasn't interrupting, I swear. She had trailed off.)
Anyway, the majority of the other people there had little to no experience in publishing, and they were all shocked by what I said. A published author! Making $10,000 a year! A pittance!
And it is, of course, but that's not an unrealistically low number. Between my work background and the fact that I have befriended a lot of literary types over the years, I know quite a number of people who have had books traditionally published, in many different genre. Romances, memoirs, journalism, fiction, nonfiction--you name it. Good books, too!
None of those people have been able to quit their day job and write books for a living. None of them.
It's one thing for someone with a huge backlist and an established fan base to become successful. It's one thing for someone to get lucky and hit the jackpot with a runaway bestseller. But for people who have no big hits, and who aren't coming into this business with a big infrastructure behind them, to be able to make a living, oh, a year or so after publishing their very first book--that is amazing.