Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Grim Picture for U.K. Writers

The only true thing about publishing these days is that nothing ever stays the same. I’m not sure that it should. Some changes are for the better, but based on a study by the Authors’ Licensing & Collection Society (ALCS), income for U.K. writers has dropped significantly over recent years.

2,454 authors took part in the study, 56% men, and 44% women. By the way, 17% of respondents were age 44 or under, 54% were 45 to 64, and 29% were over 65. Whether age has any bearings on findings, I don’t know. Based on the three articles I’ve read about the study, it seems that a significant portion of the writers who took part were writing literary or mainstream novels, however science fiction and children’s writers were also quoted.

The study showed that many full-time, professional writers are earning less money than they were eight years ago. For the study’s purpose, a professional writer is someone who spends the majority of their time writing and whose primary income comes from writing. The typical income was about £11,000, yet in 2005 it was £12,330; a significant drop if you’re depending on every penny to feed and house yourself. One development and research foundation states that an individual needs about £16,850 to maintain a socially acceptable standard of living in the U.K.

It’s no surprise, therefore, that the study also showed that the majority of writers who made their living from writing dropped about 40% from 2005 to only 11.5% .in 2013. In others words, many more writers are supplementing their incomes through other means.

There are many more comments and stats which you can read about through the links below. Discussion also refers to the 25% of self-published respondents. Hugh Howey’s name and his AuthorsEarnings report was also mentioned in one of the pieces. What was missing for me was detailed discussion about why this was happening. Certainly, there were references to the worsening contracts for writers, and how the literary novel is apparently dying. But any detailed analysis about changes in buying and reading habits was lacking. What do book buyers have to say about all this? Incidentally, the ALCS,  will release a more detailed report in the fall and hopefully that will generate more discussion as to why incomes have declined so much.

You know, In the 30+ plus years I’ve been writing and reading about these issues, a writer’s income has always been significantly lower than the national average. That they are dropping even lower at a time when publishing options have never been better for writers is perplexing on one hand, but not so much on the other.

Given the many articles, blogs, and forums discussing the rise in income for a growing number of independent authors, lots of us believe that there’s hope for the future. But the highest money earners these days seem to be writing romance, erotica, and fantasy. Will that change? Is the reason for dropped incomes really as simple as genre writers increasingly outselling their literary counterparts? On the other hand, there are more books being released than ever, more competition than ever, and more free books being given away than ever. It’s a complicated issue. Anyway, read the articles. I’d like to hear your take on all this.

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