Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Author Earnings Make the News...

As the headline results of the latest author income survey (done for the ALCS) has shown what we all suspected- writers are not earning as much money as they were during the first decade of the new century.

You'll find details and a few initial income breakdowns on the articles in the Guardian, and on the online version of The Bookseller.

The full details of the research will not be available until the autumn, and I'm sure there will be quite a few interesting facts revealed when various elements are looked at in more detail.

As you'll see from the pictorial charts in the Guardian article, only 11.5 % earn their income from full-time writing; this is a big drop from the 40% who did so in 2005.

Now we need to bear in mind that statistics can be read in a number of ways. Some of those who contributed to the stats in 2005 may no longer be alive, nor actively writing for any number of reasons, but I'm sure we've all heard of writers who have been getting smaller advances, or none at all, which can make a big dent in your finances, and could mean the difference between writing full-time, or having to go to part-time.

There was a good piece of news within the statistics. 69% said their contracts allowed them to retain their copyright all or most of the time. But that could mean 31% don't have that option.

So putting all writers together:  full-time, part-time and occasional, the typical income was £4,000. The median income for professional writers was £11,000. According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation a single person needs to earn £16,850 before tax to achieve a "minimum acceptable standard of living", so it shows how poorly paid most writers are- little wonder the number writing full time has dropped...

The figures also show that a quarter of the 2,454 writers who filled in the survey, self published, and 86% of that quarter, would do it again.

Some critics claim that self-publishing has contributed to the downturn in incomes, but personally I don't believe that is a valid reason. It has enabled a lot of good writers to get their work out to readers and give them what they want, not just what the publishers decide readers can choose from.

Big name publishers want instant best-sellers (profits), so they pay big advances to celebrities who already have a following who will buy the book at whatever price- that's the readers choice.

Meanwhile the ordinary writer has to do all that work, publicise their book- get out and sell it to the reading public who may never have heard of them before, and write the next book too.

Too many magazines and newspapers want a writers' hard work for nothing, some will pay, but take all your rights for it. Others understand that without their writers they wouldn't have a product to sell and pay a reasonable amount.

Writers write because they have to; yes, they can give up, but it won't be for long.

Sadly unless there's a change in attitude toward fair remuneration of writers- and the important role they play in commerce and society- the world is going to become a much poorer place...

Billions contributed to the UK by
creatives, including writers

  • Did you know that "the creative industries are now worth £71.4 billion per year" to the economy in the UK? 
Every writer is a part of those billions... 

Image from PinkBlue at www.freedigitalphotos.net


Rosemary Gemmell said...

Excellent post, Carol - no wonder so many take control of their own publishing careers now!

Carolb said...

Thanks, Rosemary.

I agree with you. Self-publishing is a lot of work, but you you do have control and can maximise your income- however small it may be.