According to a survey of almost 2,500 working writers – the first comprehensive study of author earnings in the UK since 2005 – the median income of the professional author in 2013 was just £11,000, a drop of 29% since 2005 when the figure was £12,330 (£15,450 if adjusted for inflation), and well below the £16,850 figure the Joseph Rowntree Foundation says is needed to achieve a minimum standard of living. The typical median income of all writers was even less: £4,000 in 2013, compared to £5,012 in real terms in 2005, and £8,810 in 2000.
I agree that “books” for the average author don’t make money. My royalty cheque this year was £60. However, to say that “book earnings” equals “writing earnings” seems most strange. As an example, my best month of the past 12 beat that annual median they quote handily.
And there’s also the point that why the hell should authors make a specific level of living? We’re all, rightly, subject to the test of the market: what are people willing to pay for the output of our labours?
And this grates too:
The ALCS described the new figures as “shocking”. “These are concerning times for writers,” said chief executive Owen Atkinson. “This rapid decline in both author incomes and in the numbers of those writing full-time could have serious implications for the economic success of the creative industries in the UK.”
Smythe said that many blame the numbers of books published for the decline in author earnings, “and it’s true, shelf space is at a premium”.
If there’s many more books being published then that must mean more are being written (or at the very least, that a greater portion of those written are being published) which makes it rather difficult for there to be fewer writers about.
Don’t these people do numbers?