Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Authors’ incomes

The Guardian reports:
Will Self's lament for the death of the novel earlier this summer has been cast into stark relief by “shocking” new statistics which show that the number of authors able to make a living from their writing has plummeted dramatically over the last eight years, and that the average professional author is now making well below the salary required to achieve the minimum acceptable living standard in the UK.
 According to a survey of almost 2,500 working writers – the first comprehensive study of author earnings in the UK since 2005 – the median income of the professional author in 2013 was just £11,000, a drop of 29% since 2005 when the figure was £12,330 (£15,450 if adjusted for inflation), and well below the £16,850 figure the Joseph Rowntree Foundation says is needed to achieve a minimum standard of living. The typical median income of all writers was even less: £4,000 in 2013, compared to £5,012 in real terms in 2005, and £8,810 in 2000.
Commissioned by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society and carried out by Queen Mary, University of London, the survey also 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. This compares with 2005, when 40% of professional authors said that they did so.

The ALCS statistics will be, as they say, “robust". CEO Owen Atkinson has a PhD in mathematics. We bonded in Ljubljana over maths. (Which is a sentence few people could truthfully write, not because of Ljubljana but because of maths.)

Presumably the same plummeting of authors’ incomes applies in New Zealand as well as other countries. Why should we be different? But what are we seeing here? There are international megasellers who make megabucks, and good on them. There are local artisan authors who are happy to sell out an edition of 100 copies. But. . .

Centuries ago ago the incomes of coopers collapsed, as did those of fletchers and thatchers. More recently, so did those of blacksmiths. A friend here in Cambridge is a farrier, in fact used to be the Queen’s farrier, but there can’t be many farriers left standing either outside horsey towns like ours. Sunset industry.

I wonder if authoring below megaseller and above local artisan levels is a sunset industry too. That whole mid-range area. So I emailed the text above to an internationally published NZ author friend who is in that zone. He replied: “Why did you send me this shit? Life is hard enough.”

So here is Joe Walsh with “Life’s Been Good”:

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