In 2005, the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society commissioned a study of authors’ earnings. Its findings* make depressing reading, as did those from a similar study carried out by the Society of Authors in 2000. The ALCS study established the following statistics for UK writers.
The top 10% of UK authors earned more than 50% of total reported income, while the bottom 50% earned less than 10% of total reported income. Which means that for every £100 earned through writing in the UK, the top-earning 10% shared out £50 between them, while the lowest-earning half of all writers had to make do with sharing out just £10 between them all. The remaining £40 was shared between the 40% of writers who occupied that relatively middle-to-high-end income bracket.
60% of people who considered themselves “professional authors” cannot support themselves from writing alone.
If you want to earn a living wage you’d be better off working as an electrician: their average earnings (mean/median) were £23,985/£23,251 compared to writers average earnings of £16,531/£4,000 for the same period.
In the five years from 2000 to 2005, the average reported income for writers dropped from £16,600/£6,333 to £16,531/£4,000.
Only 20.3% of UK writers earn all their living from writing—which is just as well when you consider the annual average income levels.
I think I’m going to retrain to be an electrician.
*The link takes you to a page where you can download a PDF of the study's findings.