The Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society—an august body of writers (if that isn’t a contradiction in terms) based in the U.K.—have produced their annual report on the dismal state of affairs for professional writers. (Thank you, Kim Stallwood, for sending it to me.) I reproduce here, for your inspection and circumspection, the salient details from the report:
THE WRITING LIFE AND EARNINGS
- The career of a typical professional author begins in the late 20s/30s. The optimum ‘earning age’ for most is the mid-40s to 50s, with incomes beginning to decline thereafter.
- The earnings picture is very top heavy: the top 5% earned 42.3% of all the money earned by professional authors.
- The bottom 50% (those earning £10,432 or less) earned only 7% of all the money earned by all writers cumulatively.
- Since 2005 the typical author has become poorer against society as a whole and now (from self-employed writing) earns only 87% of the present minimum wage.
- Nearly 90% of professional authors need to earn money from sources other than writing.
- 17% of all writers did not earn any money from writing in 2013, despite 98% of these having had a work published or exploited in each year from 2010 to 2013. Therefore, at least 17% of writers work without any expectation of earnings.
- A quarter of authors have self-published a book.
- Among authors who have self-published, the top 10% of earners made a profit of £7,000 or more.
- The top 20% of earners among authors who have self-published made a profit of almost £3,000.
- The bottom 20% of authors who have self-published made losses of at least £400.
PUBLISHING ADVANCES & CONTRACTS
- 44% of authors stated that the size of the advances they had received from publishers had declined over the past five years.
- 46% of authors said they had signed a buy-out contract (where there is a single payment for use of their work without the further payment of royalties), with 30% stating that the prevalence of such contracts was on the increase.