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.