Friday, 23 January 2009

What Writers Earn (Part II)

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.


Sue Guiney said...

Call me a pollyanna, but I've decided that all this horrible economic news has allowed me, once and for all, to give up any hope of making any money from my books (I have 1 poetry collection and 1 novel published and am finishing up a 2nd novel). This way I can continue to write what I want/need, content in the knowledge that I am relieved from all financial goals. My earnings will come from other sources, just as they always have done, but now I can stop feeling bad about it! Thanks.

Jane Smith said...

Sue, I do hope I've not made you miserable by my postings--but at least you're forewarned. I find non-fiction far more lucrative than fiction, and easier to sell, too: but I know it's not easy for many writers to make a living at the job, and you have my sympathy. Sounds like you've got a good attitude towards it all, anyway.

Sally Zigmond said...

Can you imagine me with a mega-volt cable in my hands? At least when I write something bad, it doesn't kill anyone--or me.

Jane Smith said...

I don't know--I've seen some of your first drafts, and they're pretty lethal....

Anonymous said...

As always, a necessary reality check. Worth mentioning, mind you, that the figures do include, for example, academics, for whom writing books is just one part of their professional activity (indeed, essential to it), but who don't depend on it for paying the mortgage or their whole professional identity.

But even 'earn all their living from writing' covers a multitude of things apart from writing the novel/poetry you were born to write. I wonder what proportion of writers can earn a reasonable living purely from writing the fiction (poetry's without hope) they yearn to write, without journalism/ghosting/writing category or magazine fiction. I'd put money on it being very few indeed - a couple of hundred?


DOT said...

Thanks for the figures. Depressing they maybe but not unexpected.

It is interesting what you have to say about the value of non-fiction versus fiction in terms of income. I have mostly paid my way through commercial work, not journalistic, but with age my sources have dried up - or I have, one of the two.

That said, I feel impelled to write something original, i.e. a work of fiction, for irrational reasons but also with the hope that it may open new doors to non-fiction work. I have no idea if this is realistic or not; however, as I have my fingers crossed while writing this - so forgive any typos - I am sure it will happen.

Colette McCormick said...

It's just as well that I do it for the love and not the money. Thanks for confirming what I already suspected.