Oh well, we can’t all be Joe Konrath or Amanda Hocking.
If I take the perspective of wanting to be a full-time writer, it's fairly terrible. There's no way I'd ever be able to live off that.
Thankfully, I don't have to take to take that perspective. I'm fortunate enough to already have a full-time job, one I enjoy and is relatively well paid. I can take the other perspective. I'm doing something I like (writing stories) and receiving money for it.
$84 is still $84. That's the second half of the kindle I already bought with money from a Literotica contest plus some books to load it up with. It's more than I ever picked up trying to slog through the old fashioned route of submitting to horror/sci fi magazines and certainly $84 more than the manuscript would have got languishing forgotten on a slush pile somewhere.
It's not all. My first book is still out there, still picking up the same trickle of sales. That means in another three months I'm going to get another $84 or so. Actually, there's two months of the second book's sales on top of that, so it's probably going to be more than eighty bucks. And then later in the year I have a third book coming out. It's easy to see how it can start to mount up. I can't live off it, but on top of my regular salary it's a nice extra to put towards a vacation, or a new TV.
One of the points I've seen raised is the current explosion of self publishing and 'race to the bottom' in terms of pricing will kill writing as a viable profession for all but the already wealthy. I don't really see this. A lot of authors had to start off juggling other jobs with their writing until they made enough to leave the day job behind. An advance can help with this sure, but it can backfire horribly if the first book tanks and they aren't picked up for a second. This is even assuming they make it through the gatekeepers. The vast majority don't and won't ever see a single dime for the manuscript they spent a year or two lovingly putting together.
With self publishing a writer can start to see a return as soon as the book is finished and use this to tailor their life accordingly. I go into work every morning and I write on my spare time. I won't need to think about changing this unless my income from book sales starts to outweigh my regular salary, or my spare time suddenly becomes a lot less spare. And of course, even being comparatively unsuccessful in the meantime still generates a bit of extra cash for a few luxuries.
I enjoy writing and it makes me a bit of extra money. Can't really complain about that.