Bollocks to the Society of Authors

Horribly low pay is pushing out my fellow authors – and yes, that really does matter
Joanne Harris

Ghastly twattishness.

Yes, the pay for writing a book is lousy. Think the top I’ve had for one was £1500 and that was in part because the publisher forgot they’d paid me an advance and didn’t deduct the first royalty payment from that advance as they should have done. They also went bust before they got around to correcting that.

Bread and butter freelancing can be horribly paid. People out there trying to get stuff for 1 cent a word and all that. The more difficult to land stuff like newspaper pieces – freelance rates there don’t seem to have risen in even nominal terms in the past 25 years. I think of several places where the £xxx per thousand words is the same xxx now as it was in the late 1990s.

OK, so, pay for writers is lousy, on average:

When the ALCS first ran its survey of author incomes in 2006 it found that the median self-employed income of a full-time author was £12,330. In 2022 – a year in which multiple publishers have posted record profits while freelancers in all professions are still reeling from the impact of Covid-19, Brexit and rising living costs – the median full-time income has fallen to £7,000. That’s a drop of more than 60% when accounting for inflation.

It’s also possible to earn 10x those sorts of numbers. Thankfully, and my bank manager agrees.

However, prices in markets:

Number of books published each year per country
Rank Country Titles
1 United States 275,232
2 China 208,418
3 United Kingdom 188,000

Nope, we’ve plenty of writers, pay for writers is not too low.

29 thoughts on “Bollocks to the Society of Authors”

  1. I am a self published author (ebooks only) see here in case people are interested
    https://books2read.com/u/bQyjED
    Sadly I don’t earn very much (it is a hobby I am not going to starve).
    It is the nature of such a business I can always stop.
    There is a danger that I might stop writing – but if fans of a new author like his or her books they need to promote them to friends so enough they keep writing.
    It is a very free market anyone can try and if people like their books they succeed.

  2. Reginald

    “There is a danger that I might stop writing – but if fans of a new author like his or her books they need to promote them to friends so enough they keep writing”

    Reg mate, I’m prepared to offer my services as an editor (for a suitable fee)?

  3. Surely the Guardian supports writing “becoming a career for the elite few.” Perhaps if I could be bothered to read the article I’d see how they square this particular circle.

  4. @BraveFart
    Thanks but unlike my postings here my books have been professionally edited
    @”Reginald – are you the author of “Captured by the Sexy Billionaire Vampire Fireman”?

    If not, why not?”
    Well sadly I can only write books that I would like to read. Although that might be a great success – it would make ill reading it – let alone writing it.

  5. That’s an interesting list of number of books published, why is the UK so high? or are the USA and China numbers low?

  6. Joanne “Chocolat” Harris is having a torrid time at the Soc of Authors due to wokeness alienating women authors who have unfashionably restricted opinions about what constitutes being a woman (original plumbing) so perhaps she needs to be seen to be doing something for authors.

    She ought to try her hand at something sinewy like Captured by the Trans Billionaire Vampire Flamethrower to re-establish her credentials as a pioneering creative writer.

  7. Steve, is Sandi Toksvig a vampire ? She akways struck me as being a bit of a veggie.

    She probably has to carry some steps around to reach peoples’ necks.

  8. Must confess I’ve never really been attracted to vampires. But since all you blokes seem to be recommending them, maybe I should give them a go one of these days.

  9. Steve,

    “I think the lesson here is: write about sexy vampires.”

    You know what people should write? “Cosy” murder mysteries. Basically, doing an Agatha Christie, Colin Dexter etc. Murder, but without detailed descriptions of the blade entering the body. No swearing, either. Preferably find a pleasant environment for it with upper class people: Poirot going to country houses, Lord Peter Wimsey, Morse in Oxford. NOT SWINDON.

    The reason to write this is that it’s considered as the most uncool stuff to write. It’s what your nan reads, not the cool kids. No-one wins Bookers for it. But there are lots of grans who have lots of time. And if you ever want to make money, you go for the uncool/large audience intersection (see also prostitutes, working for Philip Morris and corporate IT).

  10. Pendantly, number of books published is not equal to number of writers as, e.g. Harry Potter in Chinese.

    Reginald,
    There have been a few writers I was following on kindle who gave it up because of poor RoI. Presumably they could earn more doing something else. I hate it when that happens.

  11. Do a search for ‘Chuck Tingle’ on Amazon if you want to find an author who has a very ‘particular’ niche. Not quite sexy vampires, mind, butt there must be a market for it?

  12. “Horribly low pay is pushing out my fellow authors – and yes, that really does matter
    Joanne Harris”

    Yah, its supposed to. Horribly low pay is telling us that we have too many writers. Especially since 90 percent of them can’t be distinguished from a not very good chatbot.

  13. “Steve
    December 8, 2022 at 11:44 am
    I think the lesson here is: write about sexy vampires”

    I disagree – it’s gay sex with dinosaurs that sells. People are weird nowadays.

  14. Dear God she’s stupid.

    Books are a luxury good (except, of course, for Hennessy and Patterson and equivalents).If writing books for publication is of importance to the public, they will happily pay for them.

    So if not enough revenues accrue from the publication of books these days to keep their authors in comfort, then either
    – the books being offered are not of interest to the public, which could be because of subject matter or of style or of general competence in writing
    or
    – book prices must rise 3-10x.

    Which idea does she hew to?

    My view is the obvious one – too many authors are writing stuff that’s of little or no interest to the public, and so they don’t attract sufficient revenues. The obvious thing to do is – don’t become a full-time author. Keep it as a side-hustle until and unless you strike it rich.

  15. I think I’ve earned about twenty quid or so in royalties this year. I do it for the fun of it, not the money. Writing is a poorly paid profession for the vast majority due largely to it being a massive market. Which is why the big publishing houses are reluctant to take a punt on new talent. They are interested in what sells and if they don’t think it will sell, then too bad. The rise of the Internet has swept those gatekeepers aside and the market is awash with indy and self published works. The downside is that there is probably a lot of poor stuff out there, but you are free to give it a try. If you want to get rich, going into writing is a waste of time. As for the society of authors, who actually needs them?

  16. Being a writer is like being an actor. The vast majority get a tiny bit of money but need to have another real job to live. Only a tiny tiny percentage of the field actually make money. Tons of money. There is nothing in between.

  17. Getting the book filmed is the key.

    Jane Austen’s Trans Vampires v The Dinosaurs sounds like a surefire hit.

  18. @Ottokring
    “Getting the book filmed is the key.”
    Surely a book has to be a bit successful before that happens? I would guess that no books selling less than 1K copies have ever been filmed.
    @SadButMadLad
    “Being a writer is like being an actor. The vast majority get a tiny bit of money but need to have another real job to live. Only a tiny tiny percentage of the field actually make money. Tons of money. There is nothing in between.”
    Very true – much easier to write in your spare time whilst having another job than to act whilst having another job.

  19. When my chum was a freelance writer she did three wise things.

    (i) She self-published her first book, having written it to appeal to a particular geographically-concentrated market so that she could do the marketing and distribution aspects of publishing herself.

    (ii) Her book established her reputation locally as a connoisseur of food. She was then commissioned to write lots of restaurant reviews. She was not only paid in hard cash but also got free dinners for two. Admittedly there was a cap on the cost of dinner, and no alcohol was paid for, but still. Untaxed free dinners are especially delish.

    (iii) After the second edition of her first book she decided not to write a third edition because by then the contents would be stolen and put up on the internet.

  20. I think it’s a mistake to stray too far from Jane Austen’s original work with trans vampires, dinosaurs and zombies. By all means introduce a bit of action (and talk to Rocco Siffredi about film rights) and knock out Mansfield Pork.

  21. An acquaintance (David Lister by name) has three very good books out with Pen and Sword; they’re (like much of P&S’s output) of niche interest, but for those of us interested in the development and service of the spigot mortar (Blacker Bombard, PIAT, Hedgehog…) they’re very good indeed.

    But, Listy wrote them for satisfaction and as a labour of love, and cheerfully admits that he probably lost money just from what archive fees and getting picture rights cost him.

    On the other hand, when I was trying to get him to do a presentation at ISMOR (International Symposium for Military Operational Research) he was reluctant, saying he was a dyslexic with few formal qualifications; I pointed out that he’d researched and published more books, than I have Masters’ degrees, and ISMOR would rip his arm off to get someone who’d dug into the details and done practical spadework (overturning a fair few lazy myths and legends in the process) rather than airy-fairy theorists…

  22. “Dyslexic writes book” has a nice ring to it. Not as much fun as the one “PIAF” which mentions not one single French singer at all but still…..

  23. Both the P&P&Zombies book and film are pretty clever and very funny.

    I sometimes review P&S books for a pal’s magazine ( for free ). They have a pretty eclectic range from straight battle and tactical studies to very academic obscure works. The last one I did was a history of the British Army in the 18thC and was very good. Often though their editing really is terrible !

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *