Why Florida is a great place to be as a writer

Tortuga Bay has been nominated in categories such as mainstream/literary, women’s fiction, YA historical fiction, YA fiction, and YA/New Adult/Coming of Age

Tortuga Bay has been doing very well in the literary competition race this year in Florida, which prompted a thought: How important is Florida as a center for writing?

This question can be sliced a lot of different ways, but as a social scientist and economist, I thought one way would be to look at employment. Presumably writers tend to locate in places where opportunities to flourish would be greatest. We would naturally expect places such as Los Angeles and New York to be havens because of the concentration of the entertainment industry. But what about states like Texas, or Florida, which are large states but where our industries are perhaps less developed?

So, I went to the U.S. Department of Labor and dug up labor force data by occupation (May 2015, the most recent available right now). For those that are data hounds, the classification is Writers & Authors OES code 27-3043 under the larger classification of Independent Artists, Writers & Performers.

As expected Florida does well.

Overall, the nation employed 43,380 people who listed writers & authors as their primary occupation. The top two states–California and New York–employed one third of the nation’s writers and and authors. Florida ranked fourth, just below Texas. The top six states employ half of the nation’s authors & writers.

State Employment % of Nation
1 California 7,890 18.30%
2 New York 6,710 15.56%
3 Texas 2,340 5.43%
4 Florida 1,770 4.10%
5 Pennsylvania 1,550 3.59%
6 Illinois 1,460 3.39%
7 Ohio 1,250 2.90%
8 Virginia 1,190 2.76%
9 Massachussetts 1,180 2.74%
10 District of Columbia 1,170 2.71%

When broken down by metropolitan area, the dominance of New York and Los Angeles are clear. The New York City metropolitan area alone employs 15% of the nation’s writers and authors. The Los Angeles metro area employs another 12%. Chicago has the next highest concentration with 5.5%. Thus, the top three metro areas employ one third of the nation’s writers and authors. Miami, with 510 writers and authors, ranks well outside the top 10 among metropolitan areas.

This raises an important question: Even though Florida does not have a dominant metro area, what explains the state’s ranking? Quite simply, Florida writers are distributed across several metropolitan areas as the table below shows.

Metropolitan Area Authors & Writers % of State
Cape Coral-Ft Myers 40 2.26%
Deltona-Daytona Beach 50 2.82%
Jacksonville 120 6.78%
Miami-Ft Lauderdale 510 28.81%
Orlando-Kissimmee 350 19.77%
Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titsuville 30 1.69%
Port St. Lucie 50 2.82%
Tampa-St. Petersburg 350 19.77%

More than half of our states writers and authors are employed in Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Orlando-Kissimmee, or Tampa-St. Petersburg metropolitan area. We are spread out over the state. Unfortunately, data for Gainesville and Tallahassee were unavailable because of their small size, but the pattern is pretty clear: Florida’s authors are spread out geographically, suggesting no metropolitan area has a defined competitive advantage within the state.

In short, Florida is a good place to be a writer. We have one of the  nation’s highest concentrations of writers yet geography does not see to play as important a role in where we live and work.


Author: SR Staley
SR Staley has one more than 11 literary awards for his fiction and nonfiction writing. He is on the full-time faculty of the College and Social Sciences and Public Policy at Florida State University as well as a film critic and research fellow at the Independent Institute in Oakland, California. His award-winning Pirate of Panther Bay series (syppublishing.com) has won awards in historical fiction, mainstream & literary fiction, young adult fiction, and reached the finals in women's fiction. His most recent book is "The Beatles and Economics: Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and the Making of a Cultural Revolution" due out in April 2020 (Routledge).