Average Salary: $35,000
Expected Lifetime Earnings: $1,500,000
You think someone's going to pay you for writing poetry? Ha!
Wow, good one. Thank you, we can always use a good laugh. Wait, you're serious? You want to know how much poets make? Yikes, well okay, but you might want to sit down for this one. On the floor, because you may not be able to afford furniture.
Poets do not generally make any money. Like, at all. Many of the most successful poets these days are poetry professors, so they make their money that way, but a university salary doesn't really count. Sure, there are poets like John Ashbery and Billy Collins who have been incredibly successful, but aside from those two and maybe about five others, poets can't expect to live off of their royalties alone. First-time novelists can pull in an advance of anything between $10k-$100k if they've got a good agent and a solid story. Poets, on the other hand, don't usually make money—sort of a sticking point for most agents. Sure, there are first book prizes that publish poetry collections and dole out prize money of up to $5,000, but once you've published your first book, you can't exactly submit to another first book prize.
There are grants and writer-in-residency programs that help poets looking for the time and money to perfect their craft, but you have to be good to get one of those. Really good. Published in dozens of literary magazines across the country good. Hey, you never know, maybe you're the reincarnated soul of Emily Dickinson. If you are, however, you might not want to hole yourself up in an attic like she did. Get out every once in a while. There are so many other rooms to explore.