Budding authors might struggle to get rich, or even get by, from a writing career

Budding authors might struggle to get rich, or even get by, from a writing career

Making a living from writing is a dream for many people around the world, but it is a lot more difficult than it used to be

A new study carried out by the Copyright and Creative Economy Research Centre (CREATe), based at the University of Glasgow, and commissioned by the UK’s Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS), shows that writing is not as lucrative as it used to be.

The research surveyed 60,000 professional authors on their living conditions, in order to monitor the socio-demographic evolution of a sector that’s facing many difficulties. The researchers received 2,759 responses, most of which were from individuals who can no longer make a living from their writing.

Indeed, the majority of writers have to pursue multiple professional activities to make ends meet, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic. This precariousness of the profession is reflected in the figures. Professional writers – those who devote at least 50% of their time to writing – have seen their annual earnings drop, on average, from £17,608 (about US$21,500) to £7,000 (approx. US$8,570) between 2006 and 2022.

This dramatic drop is causing many authors to give up writing, even after years in the business. “Writing feels, now more than ever, a luxury that I can’t afford. My books earn a pitifully small amount of annual revenue for me and so whilst it’s my passion, I’m having to think of putting it aside for the moment so I can afford my home,” said one writer surveyed, speaking anonymously.

Some turn to more lucrative writing-related activities, such as journalism and copywriting, to make ends meet, or change careers entirely. “I’ve been in publishing since 1993. I have written more than a hundred books for traditional publication, and edited three hundred more. Next week, I am taking a job in insurance, thanks to a friend. It’s heartbreaking,” said one participant in the study.

Increasingly ‘hostile’ contracts

As is the case in many creative industries, there can be large disparities between writers’ incomes. The CREATe report found that the top 10% of authors earn almost half of total individual earnings (47%). Unsurprisingly, these income inequalities affect certain social groups, such as women and ethnic minorities, more than others.

Young people are also affected, as are writers between the ages of 55 and 64. Their colleagues of retirement age are better off than those under 25, earning an average of £25,000 (about US$30,600) compared to £7,500 (about US$9,200).

As the profession becomes increasingly impoverished, it is crucial that professional writers become familiar with their rights. This is a legal blind spot for many writers, especially since many now have to manage rights for their digital works as well as traditional author’s royalties.

In addition, many publishers have been facing financial difficulties in recent years. As a result, they are much less generous with the authors they publish. “Every year, the contracts get more hostile, more punitive and more unreasonable,” explained one study participant.

For CREATe researcher Amy Thomas, the results of this survey raise serious questions about the sustainability of the writing profession in the UK. “Consistently, we find that earnings from writing are decreasing and creative labor is becoming devalued. While many of our respondents talked about their love of creating, and passion for writing, relying on their altruism has been used to justify an increasingly unlivable wage,” she told The Bookseller.

source – ETX Daily Up


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