Monday, 20 April 2015

Writers' Earnings - Not Good News...

Still not quite over the recent late spring bug, but my head is now clear enough to put some thoughts together on the news reports about writers' earnings that came out today.

You may remember that last summer the initial findings of the ALCS's survey on author earnings revealed that for professional authors- those who earn their income from writing rather than another job- their 2013 income was just £11,000. (In 2005 this figure was £12,330.)

The full research has now detailed how the income is spread, and for the average writer it is not good news.

The top 10% of professional authors (defined as those who spend more than 50% of their time self-employed writing) earn 58% of all the money that's earned by professional authors.

Now I'm not going to begrudge any writer for all the years of hard work they've put in, they've earned it. But would they be able to get to that same level of income if they were just making that leap into full-time writing now? In the current climate facing writers I very much doubt it.

One of the panels I attended at the recent Writers Conference was about earning a living as a writer. While few of the audience were shocked at how difficult it was to do so, it was probably the insights into how varied the other means of earning an income have become: teaching, mentoring, workshops, and other creative writing opportunities were sited as other income sources.

Back to the results:
As for the bottom 50% of writers (professional and those for whom writing is not their primary occupation- which will be most) they only earn 7% of all the money earned by writers put together...

The worrying figure is that 17% of all writers did not earn anything during 2013. Also 90% needed to earn money from other sources. Bills still need to be paid and food bought...

While these headline figures are worrying, there's a lot more to be concerned about for many writers who are emerging in the current world.

  • Too many expect writers to work for nothing, whilst claiming it will help your profile (!!!! I stopped believing that a long time ago. It's not that I wouldn't do something for free, but that would be my choice because I supported a cause or was happy to help in some way, or a particular writing credit would be useful...)

  • Contracts that demand more, or all rights (including moral rights) in any media with no additional recompense- an issue with a number of magazines. 

  • No reversion clauses. Admittedly many publishers will have them, but others won't, and how can any contract be fair if all the advantages are on one side? Yes, you can turn the contract down, but regrettably you lose out.

It will be interesting to read the full report, as it also looked at copyright, contracts and the authors' bargaining positions.

To read the various articles here are a few links you might like: Bookseller; and the Guardian.


  1. Strange isn't it? A job that 60% of people aspire to pays less than minimum wage.

    1. Yes, and no one says that it's disgraceful that we don't have a minimum wage, Ana.

  2. Times are changing that's for sure. Interesting post, Carol xx

    1. I agree, Teresa, times certainly are changing.

      Sadly it just seems that the creative talent in the UK is not appreciated, even though it brings in a lot of money to the country.

  3. In many minds, the word creative seems to conjure up the idea of people who practise their art for little recompense. Shame on the publishers who are not looking after their authors.

  4. It does appear that way at the moment, sadly, Rosemary.

    There are good publishers out there I'm sure, but I believe that the accountants now have the final decisions, and I don't think they see beyond the black and white figures. :(

  5. It would certainly be wonderful to write for a living (a decent living) but writing is as much a need as a pleasure for me. I can't imagine not doing it no matter whether I was paid a lot or a little. Good luck with your future comp entries and writing, Carol. xx

    1. Isn't that part of the problem though, Angela. We have an innate need to write. It's almost as if we put ourselves in a position to be taken advantage of - and there will always be those ready to do that.

    2. I doubt many of us could give up writing, Angela. It's part of our DNA, and we'll carry on whatever.

      You're right that there are always going to be people who will take advantage of our need to write, Natalie.

      We all need to value the work we do, and not just accept bad contracts...


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