How much do authors earn?
In the UK, CREATe (UK Copyright and Creative Economy Centre, based at the University of Glasgow) published a report ‘UK Authors’ Earnings and Contracts 2018’ on the declining trend of Author’s pay. The survey included responses from 50,000 writers. The report identified there is a large gap between the earnings of successful writers and the rest. This has increased since 2006 but the pattern has remained similar. The top 10 percent of writers still earn about 70% of total earnings in the profession.
The survey found a dramatic drop in average and median earnings. The nominal average (mean) earnings stagnated, changing from £16,531 in 2006 to £16,809 in 2014 to £16,096 in 2018. Accounting for inflation, this is a drop over 12 years of 49 percent over a period of time in which the UK creative industries reached £100bn GVA and have grown at nearly twice the rate of the economy since 2010.
The article states ‘The earnings of authors show a typical life time curve, peaking in the 35-44 age group when primary occupation writers earn £37,000 (mean) or £17,000 (median) per annum, then declining to £24,000 (mean) or £6,000 (median) at age 65 and above. Since 2006, successful writers have become younger. In the 2006 survey, earnings peaked at age 55-64. Interestingly, the level of education (e.g. if writers are educated to GCSE, A-level, degree or postgraduate level) does not predict higher earnings. The earning power of writers appears to peak for those who are educated to just under degree level.’
Therefore based on the above, try to temper your expectations of making a load of income from writing. The mean earnings for an author is £37,000. If you are one of the lucky ones, you might be able to earn more. Just do not be too disappointed if you earn less.
The Author's Guild Income Survey
The position of earnings are in a similar range as identified in the survey conducted by the Authors Guild’s in their 2018 Author Income Survey. This report of writing-related earnings by American authors found incomes falling to historic lows to a median of $6,080 in 2017, down 42 percent from 2009.
Surveyed of its members involved 14 other writer’s organisations in 2018, encompassing detailed responses from 5,067 authors. This included traditionally, hybrid and self-published authors who have commercially published one or more books. When discussing median incomes, the survey looked at both full-time and part-time authors.
The respondents reported a median author income of $6,080, continuing a sharp decline over the last decade: $8,000 in 2014 and $10,500 in 2009 (per the Authors Guild’s 2015 Survey), down again from $12,850 in 2007, as reported in a joint Authors Guild/PEN survey.? Earnings from book income alone fell even more, declining 21 percent to $3,100 in 2017 from $3,900 in 2013 and just over 50 percent from 2009’s median book earnings of $6,250.
In other words, the survey showed a shift in book earnings to other writing-related activities, such as speaking engagements, book reviewing or teaching. Including those sources, respondents who identified themselves as full-time book authors still only earned a median income of $20,300, well below the federal poverty line for a family of three or more.