The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) has released the results of its 2018 income survey report, Diminishing Returns: Creative Culture at Risk, which revealed an increasingly common downward trend in authors’ earnings. Figures from this survey showed a 27% decrease in writers’ income over the past three years and a 78% decrease over the last twenty years (taking inflation into account). Despite book publishing being a nearly $2 billion industry in Canada, it is now almost impossible for professional writers to make a living solely from their writing.
“These numbers show a domestic industry in extreme crisis,” said TWUC Chair Eric Enno Tamm. “There are many factors at play but, clearly, the educational copying mess of the last few years in this country has pushed author incomes to the point where writing for a living is no longer viable for all but a few.”
TWUC’s survey asked union members and other writers to share income realities from the last taxation year, and is a follow-up on a similar survey from 2015. Despite having invested heavily in post-secondary education (53% of respondents indicated they have a Master’s degree or a PhD), Canada’s writers have seen their professional incomes drop drastically as a result of free copying by universities, colleges, and school boards.
Similar studies in the UK and France have indicated a similar trend of writers’ earnings. Earlier this year the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society released figures that showed the median earnings of professional writers in the UK have fallen by 42% in real terms since 2005, and by 15% since 2013. Meanwhile, French organisation La Scam conducted a similar survey whose findings found that French screenwriters of films and documentaries are facing a similar decline.
“We delivered these distressing findings in a presentation at the European Parliament last month,” John Degen, Chair of IAF and TWUC Executive Director, noted. “Europe is right now drawing up strong copyright legislation with a direct focus on strengthening creator rights and improving the incomes of its cultural workers. TWUC expects that through the ongoing Copyright Review in Ottawa, Canada will follow Europe’s lead in addressing this crisis.”
The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) is Canada’s national organisation representing approximately 2,100 professional authors. The Union is dedicated to fostering writing in Canada, and promoting the rights, freedoms, and economic well-being of all writers.