A new survey commissioned by the Authors’ Licensing & Collecting Society has found that increasingly few professional authors are able to earn a living from their writing.
The survey, What Are Words Worth Now?, of almost 2,500 working writers, was carried out by Queen Mary University of London. It found that in 2013 just 11.5% of professional authors (those who dedicate the majority of their time to writing) earned their incomes solely from writing, compared with 40% in 2005.
The typical (median) income of the professional author has also fallen dramatically, both in real and actual terms. In 2013, the median income of the professional author was just £11,000, a drop of 29% since 2005 when the figure was £12,330 (£15,450 in real terms). According to Joseph Rowntree Foundation figures, single people in the UK need to earn at least £16,850 before tax to achieve a Minimum Income Standard.
In contrast to the sharp decline in earnings of professional authors, the wealth generated by the UK creative industries is on the increase. Statistics produced by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in 2014 show that the creative industries are now worth £71.4 billion per year to the UK economy (over £8 million per hour) and the UK is reported as having “the largest creative sector of the European Union”, and being “the most successful exporter of cultural good and services in the world”, according to UNESCO.
Owen Atkinson, chief executive of ALCS, commented: “This rapid decline in both author incomes and in the numbers of those writing full time could have serious implications for the economic success of the creative industries in the UK. If writers are to continue making their irreplaceable contribution to the UK economy, they need to be paid fairly for their work. This means ensuring clear, fair contracts with equitable terms and a copyright regime that support creators and their ability to earn a living from their creations.”