Multiple studies have suggested that authors’ earnings are in decline around the world. In 2018, the Authors Guild surveyed its membership and the members of 14 other writers’ organisations for its 2018 Author Income Survey, receiving detailed responses from 5,067 authors including traditionally, hybrid and self-published authors who have commercially published one or more book. The results of this survey found that median incomes have fallen to a historic low of US$6,080 in 2017, down 42% from 2009.
The Guild notes that the findings are particularly concerning, as they could have a detrimental effect on the ability of a diverse range of authors to properly invest in creating with full-time and mid-list literary writers, who experienced a 46% drop in their book-related income in the last five years, hit the hardest.
Moreover, the survey points out that 50% of full-time authors earn less than the federal poverty level of $12,488 (figure of 2019). Other data shows that 80% of all authors earn less than what most people would consider a living wage. The report suggests that despite falling earnings, authors are also expected to work more than before, including spending a full day a week marketing their own books. As well as this, it highlights the particularly troubling finding that authors of colour earn half the median income of white authors and that 85% of editors are white, emphasising the lack of diversity in publishing.
These findings reflect similar declines in authors’ income around the world. In Canada, a survey conducted by The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC), revealed a 27% decrease in writers’ income over the past three years and a 78% decrease over the last twenty years. In the UK, the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society’s (ALCS) recent study showed authors’ earnings have fallen by 42% in real terms since 2005, despite the continued growth of the creative industries being valued at approximately £111.7 billion in 2019. In France, La Scam conducted a similar survey which found that French screenwriters of films and documentaries are facing a similar decline.
Read the full Authors Guild report here.