Monday, 16 June 2008

What Writers Earn

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.


Anonymous said...

Hollow laugh. My advances have been well below £5000 and I mean REALLY well below. It's not a good idea to think you can make a lot of money from writing. Most of us make a loss on our Income Tax returns.
But there's always the Holy Grail tantalisingly up ahead - the film, the telly, the book club. Keeps us going...

Dora xx

Jane Smith said...

Dora, you're in the same boat as lots of other writers, me included. I make as much money upfront from a 1,000 word article as I make on a 10,000 word gift-book: the gift-book might go on to sell foreign rights, while I sometimes sell my articles for a second or third time.

I've found a newer piece of research into writers' incomes, which I hope to summarise here in the next week or so. I don't think it'll be any more cheery, and I suspect that if I compare the two reports I might spot a downward trend.

If it weren't for the glory I'd have no reason to continue (and there you can insert another hollow laugh).

Anonymous said...

And here's the third hollow laugh ))))))
Do try to find that more recent survey Jane. I'm actually amazed that as many as 35% claimed they were better off. One shudders to think of their degree of poverty beforehand. I also make more money from selling articles but not every writer can turn their hand to different genre or media - we're the lucky ones.