I am a – very proud – member of the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society, which was set up in 1977 to collect and distribute to authors the money they are due from “secondary uses” of their work (such as when schools photocopy books, or libraries lend books). Apart from this sterling work, the ALCS also works as a campaigning organisation to promote the right of authors to be treated – and paid – as professionals. And they have recently published the findings of their survey “Authors’ Earnings 2018: A survey of UK writers”. Although I am only a part-time writer I submitted my information – and awaited the results with trepidation (as, of course, I hope one day to become a full-time author). This may be an unrealistic dream…
Some highlights – or rather, lowlights:
- the median annual income of a professional writer in the UK is now less than £10,500 [in 2017, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation declared that the income level considered to be a socially acceptable standard of living for a single person, was £17,900]
- based on a standard 35-hour week, this works out at £5.73 per hour [the current UK minimum wage for those over 25 is £7.83]
- if you take into account all writers – part-time and occasional as well as professional – the median annual income is a measly £3,000
- in 2005, 40% of professional writers earned their income solely from writing – in 2017, it was just 13.7% [as earnings from writing fall, professional writers need to supplement their income with other activities such as teaching, editing, etc.]
- but the creative industries in the UK are now valued at £92 billion and are growing at twice the rate of the UK economy as a whole – which suggests that the contribution of writers is being significantly undervalued.
Rather depressing, isn’t it? I’m very lucky in that I can afford to do my writing as a rather expensive and time-consuming hobby, but can you imagine a society where no-one can afford to be a writer? So come on: buy those books, go to those readings, write those reviews – and hug an author!