I pulled the following statistics out from a report which was commissioned by the UK’s Society of Authors in 2000. They make pretty depressing reading.
Sales of more than 50,000 paperbacks a year should yield an income of about £20,000.
For most authors, average UK sales per title are in the region of 3,000 to 8,000 copies in paperback and 1,000 in hardback, which equates to an income of between £2,500 and £5,000 per book.
75% of authors earned under £20,000 in 1999. The average annual income was £16,000, while 5% (82) of authors polled earned more than £75,000. Only 3% (51) earned over £100,000.
Although the national average wage was £20,919 when the report was compiled, 61% of the writers polled earned under £10,000. 46% earned under £5,000, of whom 123 said that writing was their main source of income, while 14 had no other source of income at all.
One author who earned between £20,000 and £30,000 commented, "Although I earn a living wage, I have published more than 60 books, half of which are in print, some of which have sold more than 200,000 copies worldwide. I am considered highly successful. But I don't think my earnings reflect this."
The Society of Authors estimates that the number of full-time writers supporting families by their writing is very small—probably nearer 1,000 than 2,000.
The level of advances is dropping. The majority of advances are under £5,000. Only 51% of writers said that more than half their works earned out their advances.
Of those who had given up salaried employment to write, only 32% were better off.