Living on $500,000 a Year

What can be learned from Fitzgerald’s tax returns? To start with, his
popular reputation as a careless spendthrift is untrue. Fitzgerald was
always trying to follow conservative financial principles. Until 1937
he kept a ledger–as if he were a grocer–a meticulous record of his
earnings from each short story, play, and novel he sold. The 1929
ledger recorded items as small as royalties of $5.10 from the American
edition of The Great Gatsby and $0.34 from the English
edition. No one could call Fitzgerald frugal, but he was always trying
to save money–at least until his wife Zelda’s illness, starting in
1929, put any idea of saving out of the question. The ordinary person
saves to protect against some distant rainy day. Fitzgerald had no
interest in that. To him saving meant freedom to work on his novels
without interruptions caused by the economic necessity of writing short
stories. The short stories were his main source of revenue. —William J. Quirk, The American Scholar