Herman Melville earned shit as a writer.
Mind you, that’s (I’m going to guess) in about 1857 dollars (1857 was when The Confidence Man was published and was the last novel and nail in his career’s coffin.
Now, a lot has happened since 1857 and 10,000 bucks then is not the same as 10,000 bucks today. What would it be worth today? I tried this calculator, and then checked it against math I did on the back of an envelope and then some more math with a calculator and got about the same number.
270,000.00 dollars in contemporary dollars. Much better, but still, this was earned over about twelve to fifteen years (Typee was published in 1945.) So he was earning about 20,000 a year, contemporary dollars. It’s still crap. And the guy was, unequivocally, one of the greatest writers ever to come out of America.